What is emotional intelligence?
What role does it play in business, and why is it important for managers to develop it?
How can it be used?
What role can emotional intelligence play in business?
Emotions, both at school and in the workplace, still don’t get much press in the 21st century, even if they have become more acceptable in recent years.
Education has taught us not to say too much about our emotions, and not to show them too much: “Don’t cry” – “Don’t be afraid” – “You’re not going to get angry, are you?
Emotions versus emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a tool, and a great management resource. In fact, emotional intelligence is one of the key indicators assessed in the MANAG-ER Assess Manager management test, alongside leadership and traditional managerial skills (ability to delegate, manage conflict, etc.).
Why has emotional intelligence become so important, when only 10 years ago emotions were virtually outlawed in the workplace and still are in some companies?
How can emotional intelligence be a resource for managers and employees?
To answer this question, we’ll explain a little more about emotional intelligence….
A 2022 study shows that emotional intelligence develops with managerial practice. The higher the level of responsibility, the higher the level of emotional intelligence – study details.
Where does emotional intelligence come from, in its mechanical and technical explanation?
Our world is a world of acceleration. Our brains are like muscles, needing oxygen, time to meditate in the midst of the turmoil..
From emotions to emotional intelligence
Our emotions are our allies, our gifts; they are the starting point for everything. And even if, from an educational point of view, emotions are not encouraged to express themselves too loudly, that doesn’t mean we should stop listening to them. Indeed, when we learn to ignore our emotions, one of our reflexes could be to learn to stop listening to them.
Emotion means “to set in motion”. In other words, emotions alert us to the need to take action. Emotions are essential to life in our modern world. They are our safeguards.
For example, fear teaches us positive caution, to avoid making mistakes or putting ourselves in danger, and is useful to our survival by alerting us. I’m crossing the road, I hear a noise and suddenly I’m afraid. I stop, or even step back. Emotion stopped me in my tracks and saved me from being run over by a dazed driver.
Emotions pass into the amygdala and trigger the testosterone that helps us in our actions and decisions, in a similar way to stress, which is initially developed in humans to ensure their survival.
So emotional intelligence is the positive management of emotions. Let’s go a little further..
Emotional intelligence and Proust’s madeleine
Emotional intelligence shows us that we never forget anything.
Emotions are associated with memories.
When we experience something that reactivates a memory, for example because of its contextual similarity, the first thing that comes back to us is the associated emotion.
The process can be conscious or unconscious. For example, we may experience an emotion of happiness, sadness, fear, anger or disgust, but the triggering event may be anecdotal and have no apparent connection with the emotional reaction that “comes”.
Let’s take an example: you had a girlfriend when you were 18, and you were very much in love. But when the summer came, each of you went off to your respective occupations and commitments and you were separated for 1 month. When you got back from your holidays, full of joy at seeing your girlfriend again, she left you without any explanation. Very much in love, you were devastated by this news.
15 years later, having been married for more than 10 years, your wife tells you that she has been invited by some girlfriends to go trekking for 10 days in the Moroccan desert. It’s the first time you’ve been on holiday apart. When your wife consults you about this holiday project, while your head is thinking that it’s a nice idea, your emotions catch up with you and you feel distraught, even devastated. And you’re looking for any excuse to ensure that your wife doesn’t go on the trek – that’s your first reaction.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but its meetings do Gabriel de Broglie
Your brain has made an association of ideas and is sending you a fear signal. It alerts you to a danger. You could lose your wife, she could leave you. You don’t know intellectually that this is a signal being sent to you if you don’t have the memory of the event.
Emotional intelligence in this situation means knowing how to detect and listen to the emotion: “I’m afraid, I feel sad”. This immediate reaction needs to be put to rest before it becomes information that can be used in a positive way, emotional intelligence. For example, you could then tell your wife that this is the first time you’ve left each other to plan a holiday, and that you’re not reassured, even though you trust her completely. If you don’t remember what happened when you were 18, you won’t be able to explain it. On the other hand, your emotional intelligence alerts you to the fact that you have a stored history that gives you fear, and alerts you… The idea of a holiday reactivates a memory that you have forgotten, but that your body has stored.
Emotional intelligence can go so far as to seek out and find the link with the somatic marker that triggers your feelings.
Emotional intelligence means moving from a state where emotion is the boss to a state where emotion is a resource.
There’s a proverb that says “When you’ve driven a nail into a plank and you take the nail out, what’s left is the hole”
So there’s no guarantee that even with the memory of the event of your 18th birthday you’ll be fully reassured, because the hole will persist. Emotional intelligence will enable you to react coldly to an event that made you feel something important, whether pleasant or unpleasant, so that you can take an appropriate decision. In this case, removing the toxic part of a painful memory: my wife is not abandoning me, she’s coming back. A physical separation is not necessarily synonymous with a definitive separation.
Emotional intelligence is energy hygiene.
This is what Bernard FLAVIEN explains in a conference on emotional intelligence.
If we react hot, we are in the pure emotional register. If we react cold, we can process the emotions, clarify the exchanges or the situation, and carry out a form of cleansing.
When faced with a strong emotion, cleansing should ideally take place between 1 and 21 days after the event, and not in the heat of the moment, under the influence of the emotion.
- “I need to talk to you, we need to go over what happened” When you go to the other person cold to talk about a problematic exchange, you are carrying out an emotional clean-up.
- If you don’t clean up the problematic actions and exchanges, you will store the event in long-term memory and transform it into a negative somatic marker.
A negative somatic marker stored in long-term memory will take much longer and require much more energy to clear. Negative somatic markers remain in the body as cognitive overloads that can lead to overflow effects.
For a problematic situation that has generated negative emotions in you to be cleared and not become a negative somatic marker, you need to talk about it in order to transform the situation and clear it.
Any situation that is similar or reminiscent of the uncleaned situation will revive the somatic marker and the stored emotions, generating potentially disproportionate hot reactions.
When we say of someone that“he/she has flipped out”, it is because a somatic marker has been revived, provoking an immediate emotional reaction out of all proportion to the content of the event itself.
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Emotional intelligence in a nutshell
Emotional intelligence is developed :
- By learning to listen to and feel your emotions
- Letting emotions pass without overflowing, giving them time to cool down
- By learning to express emotional discomfort, to share once the emotion has cooled, in order to understand each other and clarify a situation.
- It promotes understanding of the other person’s world by integrating the fact that they too are experiencing emotions and may have somatic markers.
Without sharing within 21 days of a “problematic” emotional experience, the emotional experience will be stored as a somatic marker, a sort of conditioned reflex, like Pavlov’s reflex.
Emotional intelligence as a management resource
Emotional intelligence is an essential component of leadership development. It also provides a solid foundation for managerial courage, and is one of the tools to be developed when giving feedback to employees.
Other useful links related to the theme of emotional intelligence:
- Managerial situations
- Management white paper
- Managerial skills reference framework
- Decision-making in situations of uncertainty and complexity
If you liked this page, you will also like “Le management à porter demain” published by EMS Coach.
Other useful links
To go further with Assess Manager