Be Nice, but also be Kind

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Developing empathy, compassion and well-being for others is a skill that we all need to have but growing that skill is not easy. And one of the reasons why it’s not is that it those things were not taught to us in school at an early age. We learn much faster in our formative years when our brains are developing and forming new neural connections. Take learning language as an example. You probably use about 5000 words in your speech and most of them you would have learnt by the age of 7. Contrast that with trying to learn 100 to 200 words for an advanced language exam as an adult!

Given this backdrop, it is heartening to note that there is a global movement to teach emotional intelligence in schools. Approaches vary and different schools are adopting different models. One interesting model and more interestingly named one is ‘The Kindness curriculum’, thanks to a challenge by the Dalai Lama. (https://nyti.ms/2ksr9fo)

It is developed by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in which preschoolers are taught to pay closer attention to their emotions through games and stories. Some of the core principles of the program are:

a.      We can’t always control what is happening outside us. But the children learn that they can control how they respond. Not react but respond.

b.      Parents and teachers are always telling their children to be “nice.” Small children understand what “nice” is but often do not understand what “kind” is. They learn to define it not so much in words as through behaviours.

c.      The more aware children are of their own emotions, the better they are able to empathize with the feelings of others and to respond to them in a helpful manner.

d.      When a child is unkind to another child in the class, they learn that it’s usually about themselves and how they are feeling. They learn to be mindful through simple acts such as ‘take a moment and just breathe’ and thereby avoid acting out against others.

e.      Kindness to oneself or self-compassion is a key - When let’s say you do poorly in a test, you change your inner voice from ‘I’m stupid,’ to ‘I have more to learn’. This way the children start believing in themselves.”

All of the above skills are central to the concept of Emotional Intelligence. These skills are life skills which when learnt early will help those kids become more responsible adults when they grow up and lead more enjoyable and fulfilling lives.

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights

What do you feel?

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Each of us have two distinct sides – a rational side and an emotional side. The rational sides deals with thoughts while the emotional side deals with feelings. Let me ask you a question – ‘What are you feeling right now?’ Simple question, right? But many, in fact I would say most of us, struggle to give a proper response.

As part of a check-out process in our workshops, we often ask this question. And the responses often are ‘It was a good session’ or ‘We should do these sessions more often’. When pointed out that we are seeking feelings, the responses change to very standard ones such as ‘good’ or ‘happy’.  Interestingly, thoughts are sometimes disguised as feelings – ‘I feel I have learnt a lot today!!’ or ‘I feel I will practice this regularly’!

If you are one of those workshop participants, known to you or otherwise, various emotions are going through your body during the wrap-up as you reflect back to answer that question . Maybe you feel engaged or excited with what you learnt. Maybe you feel more confident to apply the learnings. Maybe the training inspired you and you are more hopeful of the future. Or you could be grateful to your manager for sending you for this training. You could also be feeling calm or rejuvenated.

Equally natural would be for you to feel certain negative feelings. You may be confused after the training about next steps. Or apprehensive whether the learnings will work in real-life. Or tense about an escalation that happened while you were attending the workshop. Or just plain tired or exhausted. 

Human beings are emotional by nature. While all those above emotions are very much present in each one of us, we have conditioned ourselves to suppress the feelings. Hence, we are often not in touch with them. Recognizing our emotions is not something that we are taught growing up. Worse, emotions are given a low second place below the rational. It earns a bad name. At work, if a co-worker is upset over something, we try to calm him down by saying – ‘Don’t get emotional’ or ‘Get a grip on yourself’.

Thanks to all of those reasons, we struggle to name what we feel. It is only when we are mindful and reflective and take a moment to recognize what we are feeling; will those start surfacing again. But you might ask - why is it important to be in touch with our feelings? It is because only when we are more aware of our own emotions, are we able to empathize with the feelings of others and thereby build more meaningful relationships.

So, here’s a small exercise for you - just take a brief pause from what you are doing and think what you are feeling, right now. Feels good?

What else are you feeling?

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights

Story of the 3 Masons

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It’s an old story. It goes something like this – “Once there were 3 masons. Each one of them was asked what they were doing. The first man shot back - ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second man said, ‘I am building a wall’. But the third man, brimming with energy, replied with pride ‘I’m building a cathedral’.

I just love this story. Hidden in its simplicity is a very powerful message of attitude, purpose and the ability to see the big picture.

Three men, three different attitudes. It was determining the level of enthusiasm and pride they took in their job. Being able to see the end result, rather than just the task as hand creates a strong sense of purpose and motivation to excel. Purpose has the power to transform not only the attitude about the work we do, but the quality of our work as well.

The other interesting thing I like about this story is that all the three men were doing the same job! They were, at the end of the day, laying bricks. We often hear people at work complain about their jobs saying they are looking for ‘interesting’ work. Maybe this story will help them see that everyone is aligned to the same end goal and essentially doing similar work – i.e. tirelessly building the organization brick-by-brick, one day at a time.

#SumanInsights

Educating the Heart

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This morning, I was at my daughter’s school and noticed written in big letters in the reception area – “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. While I liked the quote, I did not quite grasp it fully. Isn’t all our education especially in our schools all to do with our head? It’s about facts of science, history etc. and being able to answer the questions in the question paper. Where is the place of the heart in all this?

I promptly googled it once I was home. Various interpretations exist for this quote from Aristotle.

Educating the heart entails an understanding of the meaning and use of the knowledge gained through educating the mind. It requires grasping a wide array of knowledge and the subtle ways they are connected.

It can also be interpreted that the cognitive part of education is as important as the affective (or emotional) part of education. The cognitive domain, as we all know, is more about reasoning, knowledge, analytical and tangible. The affective domain is intangible, unmeasurable and intuitive. It deals with meaning and values. 

In other words, it is the balance of IQ and EQ. While EQ as a concept has emerged only in recent times, Aristotle was giving us that message over 2000 years ago!

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights

Emotional Contagion

It’s 9am on a Monday morning. You’ve had a nice relaxing weekend and are fully charged for the day and week ahead. You walk into the conference room for the weekly staff meeting and find everyone is smiling, joking and talking about how their weekend went. As others stroll in, they instantly feel the energy in the room.

Then, the inevitable happens. The boss walks into the meeting looking down and tense, and even before he says a word, his body language itself is enough to suck the life out of the room. The conversation that was in progress comes to an abrupt halt. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of emotional contagion.

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of having one person's emotions and related behaviours directly trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people. Neurologically speaking, emotional contagion is explained by means of mirror neurons which are involved in empathy. It is as though this neuron adopts the other person’s point of view.

Emotional contagion has huge implications in the world of business. We often come across managers who complain that their teams have all the resources, tools and database, but appear to lack energy. What they fail to realize is that the team’s energy is a direct reflection of the manager’s energy, thanks to emotional contagion. And leaders, because of the position they hold, exert a disproportionate impact on the moods and feelings of their team members.

So, if you are a leader or in a leadership position, remember, your emotions and behaviours can lead to tangible ripple effects in your teams and organizations.

#FC2E #EQ #EmotionalIntelligence #SumanInsights