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Incomplete Business Article

Here is an article I started writing back in May of 2001. I found it when cleaning out an old folder. It was written for a business audience, but most of the ideas are pretty universal. It is also kind of interesting from a "history of Steve" standpoint. I'd say it is about 90% complete. I may finish someday. Who knows!

BTW this was written before I realized there was a difference between a person's innate level of emotional intelligence and their level of emotional health or emotional skills later in life. So what that means is that I was talking about high and low EQ in this writing. It is much better to think of high EQ as well-developed emotional intelligence, not "high" emotional intelligence because a person could have high "EI" but low "EQ" as I use it here. You can read more about the idea of innate emotional intelligence in the page on definitions of EI

S. Hein
Dec 2005

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Using and developing your emotional intelligence

In this article I offer you a few thoughts on developing and using your natural emotional intelligence (EI). My suggestions are based on the steps I have taken in my own life

What I have learned about emotions and emotional intelligence has come through independent study and years of hard work on my own emotional development. I began this work because of the stark contrast between my success in the business world, which allowed me to retire at the age of thirty five, and what I call my "Sadim" touch when it came to romantic relationships. Sadim, you will notice, is Midas spelled backwards.

Because I wanted to, let's say, "unlearn my competency" at turning a golden relationship into a pile of rust, I began a path of personal growth after my second divorce in 1994, a financially and emotionally painful experience. I firmly believe what I have learned about emotions since then could have prevented most, if not all of the $50,000 which was wasted on what was really just an emotional battle. I also believe the principles I now advocate can save companies millions of dollars in lawsuits, as well bring them significantly increased revenues through improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. (for additional benefits of developing EI, see http:eqiorg/...

I bring up my own life because I believe emotional work is a very personal matter and I would feel a little false and irresponsible if I made it sound like something which can be taught as easily as one might teach finance or accounting. At the same time, I do believe there are general principles which are universally helpful, and I will share a few of those here.

I also believe that if one is going to talk seriously about emotional intelligence one needs to talk about feelings. While some will say "feelings should be left at home," I say this is impossible to do and counter-productive to attempt. Our feelings impact our decisions about where we shop, where we eat and where we do business. Our feelings impact what we say to others about our experience.

Our feelings impact how we treat our clients, coworkers and customers. The best customer service training in the world is only wasted money if your employees are filled with resentment, insecurity, defensiveness and pessimism -- regardless of where those feelings originated.

Here, then, are some specific ways to raise your "EQ," based on my own personal journey. By the way, I make a distinction between "EQ" and emotional intelligence. I view emotional intelligence as an innate potential we are born with, each to different degrees. "EQ", on the other hand, reflects how well this potential has been developed, or in some cases, how much it has been damaged. While I do not speak in terms of "raising" one's emotional intelligence, I do believe it can be developed, much as we develop our muscles. I also believe one can raise their "EQ" by learning constructive skills and unlearning destructive habits and then training themselves to use these new skills until they become the new habits. I believe this because I see my own progress and see myself handling things differently and feeling much differently than I did a few years ago. (For more on the definition and history of emotional intelligence see http://eqi.org/...)

While it is hard to break the process I have gone through was into discrete steps, for me the most important first stage was to begin specifically identifying my feelings. To do this I started building a list of "feeling words" based on a list of 40 or so words I saw in a book given to me by a high school counselor.

Feeling words are words which fit into three word sentences beginning with "I feel...." For example:

I feel respected.
I feel offended.
I feel resentful.
I feel appreciated.
I feel valued.

On my website I have a list of hundreds of such feeling words. (http://eqi.org/fw.htm)

After I started my list, I began using more feeling words in my conversations, and particularly in my journal writing. Before that point in my life I spoke almost exclusively of my thoughts and opinions or of facts alone. I was good at describing people and situations but not at describing my own feelings. Taking time to reflect on my feelings from the events and interactions during the day was also an important step of the process for me. I might have said "I feel like.." or "I feel that..." but this would not count as being emotionally literate. (see
http://eqi.org/elit.htm for more on emotional literacy)


Benefits of Expressing Emotions

Most of us have been taught that feelings are too personal to share with others, especially at work. But we can't really hide our feelings, they come through in our tone of voice, our facial expressions, our choice of words and our actions. I suggest that there are several benefits to clearly and directly express our feelings.

From a health standpoint it seems to be generally accepted that it is healthier to express feelings than to try to keep them inside. In the USA in particular a whole alternative health care industry has seemed to emerge primarily to address the affects of unexpressed and unresolved feelings and emotions. This industry includes such things as massage therapists, homeopaths, yoga and meditation classes, even aromatherapy. To me, these all seem to be addressing the symptoms of an emotionally unhealthy society rather than addressing the causes of the negative feelings.

A healthier approach might be to specifically identify our negative emotions, then try to identify the sources of them and try to make real changes in our lives and workplaces. This way we might be able to prevent the number and intensity of negative feelings from arising in the first place.

Another benefit to expressing our feelings with
feeling words is that it communication more efficient. In other words, much can be communicated with a few well-chosen feeling words.

I believe we undervalue feelings in society in general, and especially in the business world. One thing the surge in interest in the term "emotional intelligence" has clearly done is to elevate the value of emotions in people's eyes. (For a list of reasons our emotions are important to our survival see http://eqi.org/emotions.htm

When we begin to label our feelings we increase our chances of getting the value that often lies hidden in our unidentified feelings. For example, if we are listening to a business proposal and we can specifically identify things we are afraid of, such as an unrealistic deadline, we can use our fear to prompt us to take preventive action. This reflects the statement by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, that our feelings have the potential to draw our attention to what is important to think about.

When we have uncomfortable feelings but we don't know exactly what those feelings are, the uncertainty itself is troubling since we all have a basic fear of the unknown. Once we accurately identify the feeling we instantly feel a sense of relief. The mental energy we were using, either consciously or subconsciously, to try to figure out how we were feeling can now be spent more productively in problem solving. (see below section on using our emotions in problem solving and decision making)

Also, when we can accurately identify our feelings it has been suggested that we may actually be helping the brain form connections between the cognitive center and the emotional center. If this is true, these increased connections would likely help facilitate and possibly speed up the processing of emotional data.

There is a real skill when listening to someone to find the right balance between letting them express themselves, understanding them and "cutting them off" in order to get back to work. Accurately pinpointing the storyteller's emotions is the best way I have found to strike this balance.

For example, if someone is telling you a story which obviously caused them a great deal of frustration, you might say "That must have been really frustrating." Then they feel understood and there really is not much need for them to continue the story. Often, they will simply say something like, "Yeah, it sure was!" At that point, besides feeling understood, they will feel more connected with you.

Validation and Invalidation

Another important stage in raising my own EQ (2011 Note - Now I would say in "re-directing my emotional intelligence") was to learn to stop invalidating people's feelings. By invalidating someone's feelings I mean telling them, or implying, that their shouldn't feel the way they do, or that their feelings are wrong, or that they should feel another way. Since I first became aware of the concept, I have noticed that people invalidate each other's feelings on a regular basis. They mock them, judge them, minimize them, dismiss them, etc. On my website I have an entire section devoted to invalidation, since I believe it is so damaging. (

The alternative to invalidation is, logically enough,
validation. I have found that when I validate someone's feelings most problems seem to disappear and most conflicts seem to resolve themselves. There was a popular book which said that men tend to want to fix things for women when women just want to be listened to. This book helped me see the importance of listening without offering advice or suggests and without "sending a solution," as Thomas Gordon called it.
Validation and Listening

Learning to validate someone's feelings is a skill which can absolutely be developed as part of an overall high EQ approach to listening. Frankly, most people are lousy listeners. Often, they completely miss the underlying emotions. They interrupt, they talk about themselves, they judge, invalidate and debate.

One of the more useful things to remember about listening is that feelings are not debatable.

If someone does tell you how they feel, either directly with feeling words, or indirectly, it is extremely low EQ to debate with them about their own feelings. For more on how to improve your listening skills in an emotionally intelligent way, see http://eqi.org/listen.htm

Listening and Feeling Words

Another benefit in using feeling words is that if we can accurately identify the emotions involved in a particular "drama," people telling us long, drawn out stories feel understood much more quickly and can get "back to work" much sooner.

Once someone feels understood on an emotional level there is not much need to say more, for much of the time the reason we are supplying all the details of a story is specifically so we can convey the emotional content of it. Without using feelings words, though, this process can be cumbersome to say the least.



A higher stage of raising our level of EQ is to take responsibility for our feelings. This was a stage I have had considerable difficulty with. When I first started identifying my feelings I realized that I felt many negative feelings and I tried to hold my partner of week (I only slightly exaggerate) responsible for them. For example, I realized I felt unappreciated and unsupported and I told her that. But I said it in a way that she felt blamed and manipulated. She then backed away more from me and I started feeling less and less important to her, and of course told her as much, again in a blaming, accusing way, which only made things worse.

Since then I have learned it is much more productive to try to meet my own emotional needs as much as possible rather than blaming others for not meeting them. If I were to envision the most ideal scenario I would say it might be where one person could express his true feelings and the other person could voluntarily decide whether they want to do something to help that person with their unmet emotional needs. In a work setting this is all a bit tricky, but it is probably worth thinking about. For example, if Jane tells her manager she feels unsupported and unappreciated, the manager could decided to take some action to help her feel more supported and appreciated. But if the manager can't or won't do anything, I believe it is Jane's responsibility to manager her own feelings rather than feel resentful or victimized because her manager did nothing, or perhaps did not do enough. If Jane chooses to stay in that job, I see it as her choice and she is responsible for her feelings since she has more power to control them than the manager does.

This is a an important point, and one which is lost on most people -- certainly it was lost on me until the past few years of my life. We always have power to change our way of looking at something and by doing so, change our feelings.

Managing your own negative feelings

Probably the most important thing a manager can do is to work on managing his own negative feelings. Because a manager has more power than his subordinates, his emotions will tend to set the emotional tone of the workplace. Imagine if you and your coworkers are sharing a laugh and your boss walks in with a disapproving look.

If I come to work feeling stressed, controlling, rigid, afraid,

- identify them
- figure out what your unmet needs are

- communicate them
- ask for help
- try to fill them yourself
- you see a pattern, try to figure out why you have those particular unmet needs.

Measuring Feelings...

More practical applications

Problem Solving and Decision Making

Our emotions can be helpful to us in several ways. First, when we have identified the feelings we have, it helps us focus on the exact problem. For example, in the case of the business proposal with an unrealistic deadline, it may be our gut level feeling of a low level of fear which first alerts us that there is a problem with the deadline.

If we ask ourselves the question, "What would help me feel better?" we can start to generate alternatives. Then when we are evaluating those alternatives we can ask ourselves how we will feel about each option. This is valuable data if we choose to give it a place in business or in society in general.

Conflict Resolution

Most conflicts are centered on hidden emotions. The longer they stay hidden, the longer it will take to resolve the conflict. Even though a particular conflict might seem to be resolved, if the feelings are not resolved, another conflict will arise soon enough. Generally people talk about what happened to lead to the conflict. I believe it is more important, though, to talk about how each person felt and is feeling during the resolution process. If you are interested in an emotion centered conflict resolution model, visit http://eqi.org/cr.htm

Getting an Emotional Expert Opinion

There have been countless times when I have felt frustrated and misunderstood by customer service agents who have what I would call very low EQ. I know that I am more emotionally sensitive, if not more emotionally intelligent, so I feel frustrated earlier and recognize it sooner than most people. I can hear the impatience, defensiveness or sarcasm in someone's voice, I can even feel it through online chat interactions with customer service reps.

I have often wished that companies would find someone who is extra-sensitive and have them give their "emotional expert opinions" on improving customer service. They could ask such a person to describe their feelings before, during and after a customer service call, this could be invaluable data. There is a test, by the way, which is designed to measure a person's "level of emotional awareness." This is not the same as an EI test, but it could be a useful tool. A test for
alexithymia (the inability to label feelings) might also be useful to find those who were particularly good at identifying their feelings. If they score very low on the alexithymia test, then they have a relatively high ability to identify and label feelings.

Either with such tools or without, it is not difficult to find sensitive people who are good at identifying and describing their feelings. Whether they are good at managing their feelings is not the most important thing. In fact, maybe you want those who are especially sensitive, and especially poor at managing their feelings to be your emotional experts in some cases. Such people will easily get angered, and rather than dismissing them as "hotheads," a company could learn a lot from them. What these kind of people find annoying is very likely to trouble others at some level. Identifying what triggers their negative feelings would surely improve customer relations for everyone. I've heard something about a canary being used in mines to detect gas before humans can detect it. So these "hotheads" can be utilized as something like emotional canaries.

One simple example is those automated attendants. How many of us have felt frustrated by them? Well, I can promise you I have sworn at them many a time! To make them more user friendly, you could call in an emotional expert and have them try out the system before you frustrate a large number of your customers. I suggest that you want to find someone who is not only sensitive, but impatient, cynical, skeptical, judgmental, animated, expressive and opinionated for a job like this. They may well be the ones who will give you the most valuable information. Then you can find an emotionally intelligent person to work with them to help improve the system.

Possible summary of how to develop your EI & use emotions in organizations:

Begin to label your emotions.
Keep a feelings journal.
Begin to notice recurring feelings.
Work on managing your own negative feelings by yourself.
Slowly begin asking people how they feel and helping them label their feelings.
Use the 0-10 scale when trying to assess specific levels of feelings.
Employ "emotional experts" to review systems.
Begin tracking feelings measures.
Work on your listening and validation skills.