Book review on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

How to develop Emotional Intelligence

Hey Everyone, it feels like ages since I have read something, perhaps finished a good read and got the time to write my thoughts! After my leaves I have joined back my work and a part of me really feel rejuvenated watching projects allocated in my name and people from all teams giving me a warm welcome! Last six months just flew by especially the last month, which was the crucible of all functions. You see when a woman tells you, we have to work twice as hard as the men in the room we aren’t joking! We women have to dedicate major part of our life manging all the relationships, little one, family, relatives, friends along with our career. Well, within the last one month I have travelled so much with my little baby in order to manage various the stakeholders in the family and ensured that majority of them are happy. Certainly, it was nothing less than a roller-coaster ride with huge spectrum of emotions just flowing in the process – overwhelmed from the journey of motherhood, apprehension of infection from raging pandemic, stressed-out of working 24*7, managing work were just to name a few! Nearly continuing this for the month and returning back home I realised I might have consumed myself managing these emotions. Without a doubt we human are emotional being, more we try to hide it, greater are the chances it surfaces back perhaps with stronger intensity. Returning back home, not only helped me to get Anaisha’s diet back on track but also propelled me to get better at my craft. As I find time, I dedicate my time to create decks for the team, presentations for new projects and reading a book that can help find answers to life. Therefore, this time in book review series, I am bringing one of the most thought-provoking and insightful reads that has helped me channelizing my emotions in right direction. We are going to review today Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and I believe it absolutely essential to help anyone build a strong EQ. As cliché as it might sound, I truly believe that emotional intelligence or EQ is far greater than IQ. If one isn’t able to manage how one feels or has no control on their emotions then one will always find trapped in them. The bottom line of penning my thoughts is to draw your attention to most important part in your life which often ignored or rather put on the back-burner.

Essence of the Book

Understanding emotions can really help you to contribute more and help you to understand other people. You may be able to appreciate more in life as well as create kind of connection that can help find solutions to many social challenges in life. In the book, Goleman offers many evidences derived from the research offering us specific scientific explanations to how and why emotions affect our mind and body. How these emotions change our behavioural characteristics.  For instance, Amygdala is a part of the brain, perhaps the centre of emotions and controls our emotional behaviour.  Goleman provides many individual examples explaining about cases about people who have damaged amygdala hence aren’t able to read emotional cues or perhaps feel any emotion. This read shed lights on multiple aspects why sometimes emotion hijacks our intellect and how we react in an unanticipated manner. Probably that is why I love the book because I have a curiosity in this genre of developing emotional intelligence and strongly believe emotion drives actions. First section of the book talks about brain and biological setting that is wired in us. If you want you can also skip this part to further chapters! Nevertheless, science in the book is by no means complicated and author does a great job in explaining any complicated scientific topics that he talks about. So, if you don’t have any idea or you are somewhat apprehensive that the science might be too complicated really don’t worry! It is beautifully explained in the book. Truly, before I read this book, I didn’t realise that people can have control over their emotions when it came to biologically interpreting their emotions before they happened but in the book the Goldman gives basic understanding of the triggers that happen when you feel certain emotions. 

So, when you feel anger, love or any other strong emotion then you become more reactive to that emotion. There can be time, when these sudden jolts of emotions hit you hard. What it teaches you in the book is that you can somewhat pre-empt your emotion. This implies when the emotion hits you instead of reacting to it one is able to think rather pre-empt that and base the decision how to act and offer better response. I really believe that after reading the book it gave me route to map my triggers. I know what are those factors which influence me to react and think about triggers behind the emotions and how our body deals with them.

One of the primary reasons you should pick this book as your next read is because it provides you a key insights and framework to develop your own emotional intelligence. Here are my key takeaways and application of the book

Key Takeaway 1 – 5 Components of Emotional Intelligence

We are going to focus on 5 key components and focus on the actionable ideas on how to actually apply emotional intelligence in life. Perhaps, how to get the benefit and how to develop emotional intelligence (EQ). Let’s break down 5 components of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

1.     Self-Awareness – It forms the bases of EQ also referred as metacognition. It’s about being able know one’s emotions and to recognize one’s feelings. The fact of the matter is if you can’t really notice or understand your own emotions then you are at the mercy of those feelings! As per the psychologist John Mayer, self-awareness means being aware about both our mood and our thoughts about that mood. If a person has high EQ it means that s/he is able to identify and name the emotions s/he is feeling at any given moment.

Every other skill of EQ basically manifests on self-awareness and metacognition. Primarily when one is able to identify and name the emotions, we are feeling without being reactive or judgmental. That’s when we truly have metacognition and self-awareness! This is because as soon we are able to identify the emotions we are feeling, our neo-cortex or language part of the brain that gets involved. This helps the ability to observe the emotions that helps to get away the grip of amygdala or lizard part of the brain which generally stimulates fight or flight response. This is especially true in the case of really charged conditions. Essentially, self-awareness and metacognition truly boil down to people who are able to rise above the experience and at a meta level of consciousness being aware of the experience as it is happening rather than being completely immersed in that experience. Self-awareness also forms the essence of mindfulness meditation which is a meta level awareness, being able to see your emotions and being able to act on the emotions without judgment and without being reactive.

2. Managing Emotions – Second component of Emotional intelligence is to manage those emotions especially the one which are negatively charged. Fundamentally, it’s all about the ability to handle emotions and not to suppress the emotions actively or not to numb the emotions. EQ is not about nullifying your negative emotions and just feeling the positive emotions. I remember of the powerful quotes said by Aristotle, “Key is to have emotions appropriate to the circumstances – no too much, not too little”. I would like to clarify that EQ doesn’t mean to numb negative emotions and only feel positive emotions. In reality we selectively can’t numb our emotions. We are bound to feel both! Therefore, we have to develop the ability to diffuse the challenging emotions to feel the emotion and not let them run our lives. There are a lot of specific thing we can do to manage our emotions and we are going to talk about that.

3. Self- Motivation – This forms the third component of EQ which primarily means harnessing the power from within. Being able to use our emotions in order to achieve the desired objective is crucial. In fact, it is key to high performance in the highest level of pursuits being able to use your emotions in face of obstacles and difficulties. This will always keep one enthusiastic and persistent even when things are hard that is a requirement to give your very best. Emotions when they are out of control especially negative emotions are always very charged and they have the potential to literally bring us down. However, if we are able to learn to manage them and harness them instead then we can truly motivate ourselves. I would like to explain one research that Goleman had explained in the book the Marshmallow Test

This test was conducted with bunch of 4-year-olds. Each kid was given one marshmallow and instructed that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow for 20 minutes, they would get another marshmallow. As you can expect some kids couldn’t wait and ate the marshmallow given to them. Researcher actually followed these kids for 14 years and checked their SAT scores. Kids who couldn’t wait for second marshmallow had scored 1052 in their SAT whiles kids who waited for the second marshmallow and control their impulses their SAT score was 1262. In retrospective, kids who waited for the second marshmallow and were able to delay gratification had score more than 20% higher than the other kids which is a big difference! Just by having that control over the impulse, kids had a huge advantage which was reflected later in their career as they went on to become much more successful, socially adjusted as well as they had much better relationships. If you are wondering, how you can develop that impulse control and will power. You can check out reading few great books like Willpower Instinct by Keyy McGonigal. Another aspect of self-motivation is to harness the power of optimism! One of my next read is Optimism by Martin Seligman. According to Seligman, Optimists are the ones who see the reason for failure something within their control while Pessimists see the reason for failures as something that are fixed and things that can’t be changed. Pessimists are of the attitude that can’t do anything to make things better. As per Seligman optimism can be learned. We can develop certain self-efficacy in order to learn optimism. Another way to harness the power of emotion is to get into the flow zone. Flow can be defined as peak of exercising the emotional intelligence, because if you go into the flow zone you are literally performing at your highest level. Essentially, flow is that point in time when you are utterly absorbed in the task and nothing else matters and you are paying the complete attention to that task. It requires you to give your very best! It’s like you are at the edge of your competence. You are not really concerned about how well you are performing, it’s like playing the sport! Being able to realise the flow experiences and being able to harness them is crucial. It’s one of the great skills to have, to be able to get in the flow as well as harness the power of flow. This is because it’s in that moment you are performing your very best and you are at the peak of emotional intelligence as Daniel Goleman talks about. Another masterpiece is the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that talks about Flow state and how to develop this skill. You can visit my review on the book Flow in order grasp the crux and comprehend the key takeaways from this book

4. Empathy – Fourth pillar of Emotional Intelligence is Empathy, which is the ability to recognize the ability in others. It actually builds on the first component of EQ which is self-awareness. More we can understand our emotions, more we can read and feel them in others. All the rapport actually begins with empathy and research has now displayed that empathy is very powerful aspect in managing any relationships be it personal or professional.

5. Handling Relationships – Fifth pillar of Emotional Intelligence is handling relationships. The key is being able to manage the emotions in others and in order to be able to manage emotions in others we need to master skills to manage not only our emotions but also to have empathy for others. We have to be able to tune into other’s people’s emotions and we have to be able to drive their emotional state.

Key Takeaway 2- The Ventilation Fallacy

Goleman says venting when you are frustrated and angry prolongs your mood instead of reducing it. Let me explain this with a recent incident, after a long day of work as I laid down on the bed looking at my daughter, suddenly I heard a voice, “where is Anaisha’s sock?” You see, my naughty princess has the tendency to remove her sock without breaking a sweat! The voice intensified saying “Did you even lose the sock again!” At that point of time, I wanted to shout and tell the gentlemen, I just sat down instead of asking how was my back , all the person could say did I lose the sock again?

At that point of time, I wanted to shout and say I might have lost the sock but I bathed, fed and cleaned her along with managing my calls. However, very calmly I said I will find it, went to other room and handed over the missing sock. Now, what could have resulted into massive emotional meltdown was clearly transformed just another activity of the day. Truly, if I would have vented out my anger neither it would have helped the other person understand about my state of mind nor would it make my anger any less. Hence, in such situation its always better to calm oneself and reflect on situation. I am sure every working mother must have faced this emotional rollercoaster in some phase in their life. But how to react to it can make all the difference. However, this should not be confused venting while you are sad, which can be a great way to let your feelings be heard and validated.

Key Takeaway 3 – When you’re Sad distract yourself and avoid rumination

Let me explain this with an example of sales representative who always have to deal with targets and numbers. Well let’s just say Kevin gets depressed and keeps thinking about how he isn’t able to get around the important sales call. His sales further declines making him feel like a failure which feeds his depression. However, if he reacted to depression by distracting himself, he might as well plunge into few sales call as a method to get his mind off the sadness. Now, in this case sales would less probable to decline and the very experience to make sales might strengthen the self-confidence.

What Goleman implies if we continue to ponder over the negative thoughts it will result into deeper level of depression and despair. Distraction while you are sad can break the chain of negative thoughts that can help one to shift one’s mood. For instance, try watch a funny series on Netflix, indulging yourself in an inspiring book or playing an exciting sport. Goleman professes that distractions are more effective than crying since it prolongs misery and reinforces rumination.

Key Takeaway 4 – Strategies to develop Emotional Intelligence

1. Change your Physiological State – When you feel it is too much for you to take would like venting out try taking few deep breaths. This would help you relax as well as slow the heart rate. This helps the body to go from a high arousal to low arousal. In worst case, go for a walk and try to distract yourself from anger inducing thoughts.

2. Reflect & Re-frame your Thoughts – As negative thoughts come to you write them down and re-frame it. For instance, when a baby comes in your life there are some hard-core responsibilities to be taken up. It not always playful right! More than feeding, what are we feeding is more important, analysing small but important milestones are some of the crucial aspects. Now, just think about my state where I am expected to do all this and along with my work. Therefore, take a note of all the sad thoughts that comes to you and see them in positive aspects. I can resonate with this and has helped to bounce back! Being a mother is a massive turning point in my life and instead of thinking others pitching their part of work it’s better to learn from actions and move on in life.

This book really teaches how to use our emotions intelligence in order to get the very best out of ourselves. One can comprehend how to manage our emotion and how to harness the power of emotion and how to work with others! I hope you liked my reflections and would love to hear from you.

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