Developing Emotional Intelligence
Believe it or not, our first experience of developing emotional intelligence begins in the earliest moments of our life, when we experience loving attention from care givers.
This experience, because the baby has no words, is totally non-verbal, based on tone of voice, touch, and facial expressions.
According to Allan Schore, author to a couple of exceptional books on emotion and attachment, attachment involves an attunement of care giver and child, and the more the two folks in this dyad can establish an emotional harmony, the better the babies brain develops, and the richer the connection between the folks in the relationship. However, both individuals are constantly changing internally (baby content, mommy tired, ect)which means attachment and its intelligence are constantly being tweaked by all parties to the communication.
Mom is the primary care giver in year one, and room for an attachment with Dad, although he is never out of the picture as far as the child's brain is concerned, really becomes available in year two of the child's life. The child is now developing two separate blue prints for relationships.
Dad has a particular job in the attachment process, according to Schore, which is the regulation of aggression, with boys and girls, but this particular part of Dad's job is incredibly important for boys, who have the greater aggressive endowment.
So we can see that the earliest seeds of developing emotional intelligence are in the first two years of our life, in a continual and constantly varying series of interpersonal interactions with mom and dad, based on non-verbal communication, until the child has language that is.
Those interactions, according to Schore can be as frequent as 20 times per minute, or every three seconds in linear time.
Just like in adult relationships though, those interactions are not linear and involve a constant flux of feelings and thoughts demonstrated, observed, and interpreted through a number of brains and processes.
If that sounds confusing, just remember that you have been doing this all your life with some measure of success.
However, we can all get better if we pay attention to the core skills of what we have learned to call emotional intelligence.
Developing Emotional Intelligence in Adulthood
We see that our survival through infancy is something we work on with great diligence. A baby communicates very effectively to its care givers what its needs are, and learns quickly how to impact the environment.
(However, that response must be consistently and quick for the child's attachment to grow best. If the attachment process is not attended to, adult emotional intelligence can be minimal at best).
One of the things Schore talks about in his work is how the baby will relax itself if its Central Nervous System is over stimulated.
Although babies are very good at deep breathing, they are not doing that to handle stress.
A baby who is overstimulated will look away from the care giver, and without the stimulation of the visual cortex, the CNS of the baby can relax.
A wise parent will recognize that the baby is overstimulated and back off the play until the child returns its gaze to your face or eyes.
Ever had your baby stiffen up, scowl, and try to move away? That means no more of those strained beats, or it could mean something is seriously amiss in the attachment process.
Those are some of the roots on developing emotional intelligence.
Developing Emotional Intelligence Means....
learning to pay attention to and practice choosing behaviors in four or five areas, depending on whose model you are learning.
Emotional intelligence involves five key skills: being able to quickly calm yourself, recognize and manage your emotions; respond appropriately to others, meet challenges in creative ways, and face difficulties with confidence and self assurance.
Quickly Calm Yourself....
Before you can calm yourself, you need to know that you are stressed or aroused. Awareness gives me choice.
Stress is the physiology in my body that happens when I perceive a danger, like being surprised by a loud noise. The physiology seems like it is instant, and may happen in 1/18th second, and emotional intelligence needs to happen as quickly after that surprise as possible.
In a personal relationship, I may be surprised by an unexpected expression of contempt, or anger, and I need to quickly attend to my inside world and relax, if I am not in danger of great bodily harm.
I can relax using deep breathing, or a quick visualization of my favorite beach, for example, with one caveat. Guys who experience this physiology may take up to 20 minutes to calm down, so be sure to attend to it as soon as possible.
I have always liked biofeedback tools, including Open Focus language, so I see my "feeling" with lots of space around it, or I use my HeartMath skills to create a relaxed feeling inside my body in the proverbial heartbeat. That means I can learn to manage or direct my physiology heart beat by heart beat, and it feels good to boot.
Why is HeartMath an excellent emotional intelligence to develop?
The heart has a very sophisticated nervous system all of its own, which is affiliative and cooperative.
So doing HeartMath is a key stress management and developing emotional intelligence skill all rolled into one.
Recognize and Manage Your Emotions
Emotions are vital to learning. One of the things Daniel Goleman talks about in his book "Emotional Intelligence" is the importance of emotions for learning. The emotional brain came before the pre-frontal cortex, and emotion is vital to learning, so the value we in the west place on thinking and rationality may hinder learning.
However, emotion needs to be proportional to the chore at hand, as too strong an emotion hinders learning and relationship.
So the recognition of feeling (emotion) and management of it is a key developing emotional intelligence skill.
You can do that by managing your thoughts, (remember your Transcendental Meditation mantra, which is an example of managing thoughts for two 20 minute periods per day), or your breathing, for example, but remember I can stress myself in 1/18th second. If I am managing my thinking, I can remember that others who are telling me about their problem with me or my work are simply needing to be heard. The loudness of their expression is directly proportional to their trust that they will be heard.
If I use my reflective listening and HeartMath skills, loud speakers frequently relax and the other areas of emotional intelligence can begin, so the key skills in developing emotional intelligence are HeartMath and reflective listening.
Once my physiology is calm, I can renew my commitment to problem solving thoughts, and invite the others around me to help out with problem solving.
Another Key Skill....
As we have illustrated above, developing emotional intelligence is a dynamic and constantly changing process and skill, utilizing a specific kind of intelligence called fluid intelligence.
Broadly speaking fluid intelligence is the intelligence I bring to novel situations for problem solving. Crystallized intelligence is my old skills, the ones that are habitual. For example, if I use my counseling skills in a parenting situation, there is some overlap absolutely, however counseling relationships are more equal than parenting relationships. (I do not send clients to time out!) But to rely only on counseling skills in all parenting situations is an invitation to disaster for moms, kids, dads, siblings, and even pets. I need new skills as a parent, because the tools I used yesterday no lnoger work today.
Well, here is an excellent tool to use for training fluid intelligence. It is called Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro.
There is even a version for kids. Try it, you will like it.
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