Clearly Blue’s #Gaggle is proud to feature our interaction with Veena Ramagopalan, an inspirational leader who translated her defense experience into a successful career in coaching and mentoring leaders.
As we were growing up, somewhere along the way, we learnt to keep our emotions in check. We learnt to be rational and practical. Emotions were not seen as helping the rational brain but rather interfering with it. If on that rare occasion you got emotional at work, you were told by your boss and peers “Don’t be emotional”, “Think logically”. No wonder emotions got a raw deal.
But whether we like it or not, we humans are driven by our emotions. In fact, that’s what makes us human and not robots. Research in Neuroscience is uncovering how emotions play a significant role in how we behave, interact and take decisions. This could explain why the last time you went to buy a phone - you invested a lot of time researching online the latest Android phone for features and price, only to end up buying an iPhone! Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business school puts it aptly – “What it’s good at (the rational brain) is to rationalize what the emotional brain has already decided”.
Well, does that mean the next time you are angry with someone, you lash out because that’s the emotion you feel? Definitely not! What this situation demands is Emotional Intelligence in the form of higher Self-Regulation.
#FC2E #EQ #emotionalintelligence #Sumaninsights
One of my favourite TED talks is one called “How to speak so that people want to listen” by Julian Moore. Obviously, people do want to listen to him considering its been watched almost 17 million times! He starts by talking about things which we should always avoid when speaking – things like gossip, negativity and excuses. He lists 7 such things which he terms as the “7 deadly sins of speaking”. Nicely done. But what he does next is even more interesting – to convert these ‘negative’ traits into a framework which allows us to look at this in a positive way. I think there is a learning for all of us in just this reframing – it would help to keep that in mind in all our interactions in order to build better relationships.
So, what does this framework look like? He lists 4 cornerstones which we can stand on which can make our speech more impactful. They spell a word and the word is HAIL. H for Honesty, A for Authenticity, I for Integrity and L for Love. So simple and yet so powerful. To be clear and straight, to be ourselves, to be our word and wishing others well.
I would argue that HAIL goes well beyond speech characteristics and ultimately goes to the core of what leadership and EQ is about. These traits help create trust which in turn builds a culture of empathy with mutual understanding and respect. And if I have to pick one of those four traits, my favourite is Love. People are willing to be led by someone only if they believe their leader is their well-wisher and has their best interest in mind. As Roosevelt once said “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
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.
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?