The Naked Truth about Emotional Intelligence
By Margaret Altman
Nancy came to work the other day in a pretty good mood. It ended when her boss suddenly threw a fit over a simple typo in the first draft of a letter that he had dictated
Red-faced and irate her boss flung the letter on her desk and said; “What kind of stupidity is this, Nancy? Do you have any idea how important this client is? I can’t afford this kind of careless mistake in my correspondence and you know that!”
In a fit of desperation, Nancy pushed her chair back, stood up and left the office in tears. She felt completely naked and violated. She was flooded with anger and the pain of being belittled in front of other employees.
Does this situation feel familiar? It is quite common for explosions and implosions to occur at work, at home, on the road and at times when you least expect it. This kind of situation is just one example of what of what we refer to as an example of emotional unintelligence. And it can be a damaging, life altering event in a person’s life that cannot be changed. Especially when the people who are involved are those you love.
The words emotional intelligence ring a bell in most of our minds. It’s a commodity that we’ve all yearned for without really knowing what it is or how it develops. These days we tend to think of emotional intelligence as a set of qualities that make us successful and popular with other people. The qualities or “hot attributes” that we associate with emotional intelligence are; optimistic, persistent, warm, team player, goal oriented etc. etc. It’s a good list but these qualities are difficult to achieve and to maintain for any amount of time in the real world and in real relationships. How does one get these qualities? There are training courses for business people and for students to learn how to try and be these wonderful things.
When we look closely at Nancy’s experience we can see that she was probably most of these things when she came into work on that fateful day. But these qualities faded fast when she was confronted with the emotional explosion of her boss. If we buy into the idea that emotional intelligence is a list of optimal attributes then we can understand why people give up quickly on the grueling job of pretending that they have these shining qualities.
The bare truth about emotional intelligence is that it is more than a hot list of admirable qualities. Emotional intelligence is a group of mental abilities that develop over time from infancy through adulthood. These mental abilities enable you to delay impulsive responding to strong emotional stimuli and use your intelligent mind to cope with the situation. Emotional intelligence doesn’t happen overnight or in a training course. In most cases adults have to consistently work at strengthening and exercising the key mental abilities that lead to emotional intelligence. We are all works in progress in the domain of emotional intelligence. The mental abilities that have to be exercised and that develop from infancy are the most important “attributes” of all in terms of coping with the constant emotional rollercoaster of life.
The beauty of emotional intelligence lies in watching the growth of four key abilities in the infant and young child. Before an infant can toddle around or talk that baby will have developed skills that will, for example, empower him to delay his impulsive responses. A milestone in this process is the infant’s growing skills in recognizing and appreciating the importance of human face and voice expressions. Looking at faces and listening to the tones in voices seems like such a natural capacity. But this skill like so many others has to be encouraged by parents and it develops into a monumental blocker of impulses. When the child gazes at faces and listens to voices he is taking that split second to process the emotional information.
As adults we can see how, when we take the time to look at the emotional expressions on someone’s face and hear the emotional tone in their voice we have that nanosecond in which to use that information before behaving or responding.
In this distracting and anxiety-provoking world we need all the nanoseconds we can get so that we don’t explode or implode. When we let this face and voice recognition skill set become rusty then we are more prone to lash out or cave in when our buttons are pushed.
Emotional Intelligence in its developmental form is what we need to learn and to teach our youngsters. There is much more to learn about the abilities that empower emotional intelligence and a great deal of research has been done on this subject. In the journals of Neurology, Psychology, Rehabilitative Medicine, Pediatrics and Geriatrics, the relevant studies are available to those with degrees and the patience to wade through volumes of statistics.
The author of this article is part of a team of experts in Developmental Emotional Intelligence and our goal is to make this vital data available to the rest of the population. We have published one book, Developing Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence and we are in the process of writing two books for Adolescent and Adult readers.
We invite you to begin the process of learning about and developing your own wonderful abilities in the domain of emotional intelligence.

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Author's Bio: 

M.Altman is a licensed therapist and author of Developing Your Child's Emotional Intelligence.