Schools and EI

Q: Is it possible to boost students’ EI through teaching them skills in social and emotional learning, and if so, how are schools today doing this? Or how should they be doing this?

A: Yes, definitely. It’s called “social-emotional learning (SEL),” and teaches the gamut of EI skills.  The lessons are, for example, simulations of everyday childhood crises (He stole my crayon! They won’t play with me!) with kids brainstorming what works and what does not. Or reflecting on their feelings and what caused them. Or, say, remembering to pause and think about consequences before your act when you’re upset.

These curricula are designed to embed seamlessly in standard courses, from gym and English to math, as well as stand-alone weekly modules that might last 15 minutes. »

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Emotional intelligence and leadership

Q: Why are highly emotionally intelligent individuals are effective leaders ?

A: No matter what a leader’s strategy or vision may be, it can only be achieved through the combined efforts of everyone involved–never by the leader alone. The leader needs to communicate, inspire, listen, dialogue, motivate. And all those require emotional intelligence.»

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EI and keeping in line with one’s goals

Q: What would be the one thing you would suggest so one could be aware on the spot that her emotions are activated against her will and pulling her into a direction that is not aligned with her goals?

A: Mindfulness. This attentional training enhances what cognitive scientists call meta-awareness, the ability to monitor your own mind and emotions moment by moment. This lets you see an emotion build and manage it so your actions align with your goals»

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Emotional intelligence and stress

Q: Does emotional intelligence cause stress? I am a student and practitioner of EI and also your admirer for your extensive work on this comprehensive behavioral system. However, I have experienced stress occasionally for not being able to speak my mind candidly in order to be emotionally intelligent in dealing with others.

A: Emotional intelligence should help you handle stress better, for several reasons. There are four parts to EI: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill.  Self-awareness  can help you notice when you are becoming stressed, which in turn make you better able to calm down before your reaction builds to an unmanageable level.»

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Money is emotional

Q:   I work with my wife. I am a psychologist, financial analyst and family business consultant. She is a financial planner. I have been struck by the need for emotional intelligence regarding money and finance, but have not seen any writings specifically directed at that area. Any resources or ideas that you would recommend as helpful?

A: If there’s any topic that arouses the amygdala – the brain’s center for hope and fear – it’s money.  The connection between emotions and thinking about financial decisions is the focus of the relatively new field of neuroeconomics. These brain scans typically show how irrational we really are while making what we think are rational decisions – especially about money.»

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What is leadership?

Q: My question for you: If you had to write a definition of leadership what would it be?

A: Leadership is Influencing people to take action.  In the workplace, leadership is the art of getting work done through other people.  Leadership can be widely distributed within an organization – most everyone leads at some time or other, if not all the time.  And it’s highly situational: anyone might step forward to lead, given the right circumstances.»

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Chess, anyone?

Q: I have a chess school for young kids (from 4 years old) and our great challenge is how to deal with their emotions and feelings related to winning and losing, i.e., how to face the results. Our principal goal is to improve thought habits through chess and pre-chess, but it is not easy when kids have to face competition. How can we improve our work in this way? (We are a professional chess player and a neurobiologist.)

A: This sounds like a wonderful way to help kids develop both their analytic skills and some key emotional intelligence abilities, like self-management. »

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Growth stages of EI

Q: Are there growth stages defined regarding emotional intelligence? I’m thinking about Erikson, Maslow, Kohlberg and so on. The question therefore looks to understanding how early parenting and education might impact the development of mature emotional intelligence and what might lead us to a better understanding/development of creative emotional qualities.

A: Yes, the stages are well-defined, and have been known to developmental psychologists for many years.  So an EI ability like empathy begins with early roots in infancy, grows among toddlers, and develops further as a child brain matures throughout childhood and the teen years. This is the basis of social-emotional learning, which uses school-based programs to ensure that every child gets the EI lessons they need at the right time and in the right way to foster their emotional and social development.»

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Positive vs. negative work environments

Q: I ran across a site citing you as saying “positive work environments outperform negative work environments.” Do you have any research or studies that support this?

A. I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. You need to be more specific about what you mean by “positive” and “negative”. For example, in my books I’ve reviewed much research on workplace climate that shows a more positive emotional atmosphere fosters better performance, and so does positive mood on teams. And then there’s the crucial emotional impact of an emotionally intelligent leader in creating that positive emotional climate.   Much of this research is reviewed in the new collection of my writings, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence.»

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A successful virtual office

Q: My industry has a severe shortage of engineers, especially locally. Our recruiting difficulties have caused me to consider making my company a “virtual office,” so that I can recruit the top engineers from around the country without having to overcome the large hurdle of relocation. I’ve read what you’ve written about the emotional barrenness of emails and about the improvements seen in work effectiveness seen when people communicated in-person, even as informally as a “hello” over the water cooler. Can you provide some guidance on how to set up a successful “virtual office” or point me towards some recommended reading?


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