If you’ve read my articles, you know I sometimes talk about knowing your time zones. Sometimes we can get stuck in the past, or treat current situations as if they were like something from the past, or spend all our time dreaming about the future and miss the opportunity that would get us the future we want.

For example, if you’re stuck in the past, you’ll automatically despise the new red-haired male in the accounting dept because the last red-haired male that worked there caused you a lot of trouble, and you’ll read all sorts of negative things into anything the poor guy does or says, condemning him without a trial!

Well three’s a magic number in another respect: in addition to three time zones to deal with, we have three brains to deal with. You could call the first one the “past” brain because it’s ancient, and focusing on survival. Called the reptilian brain, because it’s the only brain reptiles have, it deals with very basic drives such as hunger, reproduction, basic fear, and protection of territory. This is the former department head who fell in lust with his secretary and, without regard to consequences or corporate policy, had to pursue his urges.

The second brain (limbic) is in the present because it deals with feelings – love, compassion, jealousy, frustration, etc. It’s also here that we can remember the past, which allows us to learn from it. We share this brain with mammals, and you know how you train your dog. It can remember that the last time he did that, he got a swat on the nose, so he can learn.

The third brain is the thinking brain., the neocortex, which only humans have and accounts for about 80% of our brain. The neocortex allow s us to use foresight – looking into the future. We can feel anger but not act upon it because we know there will be negative consequences. Let’s say the new marketing head insults you. With this brain you can consider alternatives – hitting, talking it out, ignoring it, verbal abuse, seeking revenge, or resolving the incident like intelligent adults (smile).

When you study emotional intelligence, you learn some neuro-affective science (brain and emotions) and this gives you reality coordinates, like on a map. A way to find your way through the complicated territory of emotions.

How so?

Let’s say you’ve got an excellent employee, Marilyn, who’s apparently being “mobbed” by other members of the department. You aren’t sure what’s going on but your instincts tell you something’s going on. The facts, what you get at brain level 3 are: There’s been tension in the department. Then an employee, Natalie, complained to you about Marilyn, saying she was cheating on the time clock, abusing cell phone use on company time, and purposely sabotaging Natalie’s work.

EEOC being what it is these days, you know you must investigate, so you go in and ask Marilyn who denies everything and demands what proof there is. You have know. It’s she says, she says.
Where do you go from there?

Well, your gut tells you you’ve never liked Natalie, that she’s a hostile person and a trouble-maker, in a passive and sneaky way. On the other hand, Marilyn has an excellent work record and is a responsible, pleasant, conforming employee whom you have always liked.

Back up to the third level, the neocortex, you consider alternatives, and possible consequences. You don’t want to lose Marilyn, and many people when so-confronted will leave. You’d like to fire Natalie, which is possible in your employment-at-will state, as long as it doesn’t violate federal laws, and as luck would have it, Natalie’s in a protect minority … but then so is Marilyn.
Back to the limbic brain, you recall how people like Marilyn act when confronted. Hyper-responsible people often appear “guilty” because they’re so upset at being accused of wrong-doing. That you’ve learned from years of being a manager, and you aren’t going to misread that one again. You know the non-verbals are similar – squirming, twisting, fidgeting, wincing – but they mean something entirely different.

Furthermore, you suspect it’s an incidence of “mobbing” because of closed doors, whispering, and other indications you’ve come to recognize as malicious gossip and bullying. You know who goes to lunch together, and who is ever-so-slightly insulted in meetings. You’ve been watching it (neocortex) and following your instincts (reptilian) but remaining open-minded (limbic) until you have more facts (neocortex).

Emotional intelligence training helps you learn what comes from which brain, and how it works. It allows you to understand and manage your own emotions and those of others. It allows you to read between the lines and not get sabotaged by your own feelings. You’re careful with this one, for instance, because you really like Marilyn and really dislike Natalie, and in fairness you must evaluate the facts without emotion.

Who to believe? About 7% of a message is communicated verbally, 35% through intonation and style, and over half through nonverbals. You’ll expect Marilyn to appear agitated, but Natalie, who is cold and calculating, will probably be “closed” and “hard to read.”

You also have to factor in the fact that Marilyn has an IQ of about 140, while Natalie’s is much lower. If there is going to be retaliation (a normal human reaction), Marilyn will be right-on when she does it, marshaling her evidence and presenting it in a timely and intelligent manner.
Of course no names can be revealed to Marilyn, but anyone who’s attacked knows by whom. And Natalie, who may be mean, is not very bright, and will probably tip her own hat if you don’t fire Marilyn which is what she wants and she wants what she wants like a two year old (very low brain).

Meanwhile you go over what you learned in a diversity EQ workshop and try to figure out what you learned about the Natalie’s ethnicity, without being stereotypical. You try and anticipate reactions for the second round – who will cry, who will shout, who will “hide”.
Whew! That’s why managing is so challenging and why you need EQ. You have to try and figure out “the truth,” follow state and federal law, do what’s best for the company despite your personal preferences, make sure you aren’t influenced by indigestion or a foul mood, and take the information from your own emotions without being prejudiced in your final decision.

The neocortex part is easy – you know the law – if you can mange the emotional part. Negative emotions, such as being sick of seeing this sort of thing happen to good employees, cloud thinking and perception. In your last EQ workshop you learned some tricks like putting yourself in a pleasant mood before dealing with something like this. It allows for clearer perception and more constructive problem-solving. And you learned to breathe and count to ten when assaulted by angry words, tears, or derision.

Emotional intelligence is theory that allows you to apply principles to various real-life situations. After all, this is today’s problem. There will be a totally different sort of one tomorrow, but the same meta-theory will apply – taking the information from the emotions but using the neocortex to make decisions about responses (if any); reading nonverbals; trusting your gut feelings; not indulging in favoritism or diversity stereotyping, and so forth.

It’s no wonder so many HR personnel and managers are taking EQ training.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc, mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc. Offering a wide range of EQ programs, Internet courses and ebooks for individuals and businesses, tailored to your needs. EQ Alive! program – training and certifying EQ coaches internationally. Find out why EQ is a global phenomenon and what it can do for your business. It can give your organization the leading edge. Available on-site and long distance