Improve Emotional Intelligence

Improve emotional intelligence is everywhere, it seems, since Daniel Goleman wrote his best seller, "Emotional Intelligence".

My son is going through a training about bullying in his fourth grade class, along with a puberty video, which is a little disconcerting for his father.

For better or worse, when I was his age, and there was a tussle on the playground, we just threw down the gloves and threw some punches and wrestled until someone "gave" and then we all went back to the game, including the combatants, who often ended up better friends afterwards.

This fall my son was in one of those altercations and got kicked in the side of his left knee, and we almost had to have surgery on his ten year old knee. I think there are too many kids these days who think they are a junior version of Bruce Lee, which makes the point that improving emotional intelligence is important.

When I look at the programs available for improving emotional intelligence, I am routinely amazed that not one of them deals with how fast the Central Nervous System works, or how we respond physiologically to facial expressions.

They all speak to emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, but none of them says that the minimum amount of time available for one to improve emotional intelligence is 1/18th of a second, so my self-awareness needs to be very quick, or I will be moving in a fight-freeze-flee behavior, flooded with stress hormones, faster than my brain can create words, like, "Oh, that is the boss!"

Improve Emotional Intelligence and Facial Expressions

Paul Ekman in his work on categorizing facial expressions says that we respond to facial expressions in perhaps 1/25th second, which is 2 and 1/2 times as fast as I can blink my eyes.

But yet improve emotional intelligence programs imply that cognitions, or words I can say to myself, like, "Mike, do not yell at the landlord", can be operational and moderate stress hormones when the cognitions (or self-talk) come after the physiology.

I think with practice I can learn to be more cognitively or emotionally self-aware, but I do not see improve emotional intelligence programs teach self-awareness utilizing physiological tools like biofeedback, or breathing tools, for example.

EEG or brainwave biofeedback teaches clients to work with EEG activity which might be cycling at 15-45 cycles per second, and HeartMath teaches clients to be aware of changes in heart rate variability, which could mean being aware of your heart rate in beats per minute.

If your heart beats at 60 beats per minute, then you could be managing emotional and physiological intelligence every second.

To me, that is an emotional and physiological competency, and leads us to Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's concept of FLOW.

If I am going to improve emotional intelligence, then I want to manage it routinely, by the heart beat or by the brain wave cycle, rather than only when I have reached an emotional extreme. 

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