December 11, 2014
Here at Playbook, we have previously discussed the merits of emotional intelligence. How do you achieve a high level of EI? Paul Kimmerling offers his insights on mindfulness—a building block of emotional intelligence—and what it means to be self-aware.
Imagine these scenarios:
Emotions—when unacknowledged and unchecked—undermine the interpersonal aspect of our business relationships, bringing undesirable or unintended consequences. They affect our ability to negotiate, motivate, and empathize—key skills in the domain of emotional intelligence. Such skills can be fortified, or derailed, based on our degree of self-awareness.
Self-awareness makes the difference between reacting in a knee-jerk fashion—at the mercy of our emotional states—or responding more cogently and consistently. We can build self-awareness through mindfulness. As described by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, in The Body Keeps the Score, mindfulness is the ability to “hover calmly and objectively over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions…”
Other EI thought leaders have discussed the utility of mindfulness as well. Daniel Goleman, a renowned expert on emotional intelligence, advocated self-awareness as an integral component of success. When asked how to develop greater self-awareness, he answered: “Self-awareness means the ability to monitor our inner world—our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is one method for enhancing this essential capacity…to see thoughts as they arise rather than just being swept away by them.”
In the opening scenarios, unfortunate consequences flowed from “being swept away.” We cannot manage what we’re unaware of. If we want to communicate, collaborate, influence, or lead effectively, our ability to monitor and manage inner states is central to our success.
Many experts suggest the first step to building awareness involves simply noticing what’s happening. Often one starts by focusing on breathing to ground attention. Next, acknowledge interior states—thoughts, emotions, and sensations—as they arise. The trick is not to attach to them (and lose focus on the breathing) or allow them to sweep us away, but to allow them to pass. You can learn more about how to use these practices for your own benefit.
Goleman refers us to the work of Mirabai Bush, a founder of the Google course on Mindfulness. She says, “Negative emotions can be very destructive in the workplace.” Her recipe for dealing with anger can be interpreted as yet another testament to the necessity of emotional intelligence.