Methods for mastering EI

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In the decades since my own research in psychobiology, I have been tracking cutting-edge findings in neuroscience. This has allowed me to propose a foundation in brain science for the emotional intelligence model. Many businesspeople are traditionally sceptical of “soft” psychology and wary of the pop theories that come and go, but neuroscience makes crystal clear why emotional intelligence matters so much. The ancient brain centres for emotion also harbour the skills needed for managing ourselves effectively and for social adeptness. Thus these skills are grounded in our evolutionary heritage for survival and adaptation. This emotional part of the brain, neuroscience tells us, learns differently from the thinking brain.

To be sure, these ideas are not new to the workplace; how people manage themselves and relate to those around them is central to much classic management theory. What’s new is the data: We now have twenty-five years’ worth of empirical studies that tell us with a previously unknown precision just how much emotional intelligence matters for success.

It is time to stop lumping all training together

For cognitive and technical competence, declarative knowledge may be sufficient—but not for emotional intelligence. It is time to stop lumping all training together; we need to use our new understanding of the brain’s workings to make meaningful—and practical—distinctions and promote the real learning of emotional competence.

Having a cognitive realization about what to do says nothing about someone’s readiness to begin to act differently, nor about their motivation or capacity to do so, nor about the method by which they can gain a new level of mastery of the new capability.

Helping people master an emotional competence demands a new understanding of how we learn. As one of the most frequently cited sources on training and development puts it, those who study training “have tended to consider all training the same, without regard to the purpose of the training or the type of learning involved.” For cognitive and technical competence, declarative knowledge may be sufficient—but not for emotional intelligence. It is time to stop lumping all training together; we need to use our new understanding of the brain’s workings to make meaningful—and practical—distinctions and promote the real learning of emotional competence.

The Ultimate Test

Teaching about a competence—that is, having workers get an intellectual grasp of the concepts involved—may offer the easiest training approach, but compared to other approaches I’ll discuss shortly, it has the least effect on actually changing performance. Intellectual understanding is a threshold process, necessary for learning, but not sufficient for lasting improvement. Deep change requires the retooling of ingrained habits of thought, feeling, and behaviour.

Extract from Working with Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

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