Emotional intelligence explained practically

This article was published in the July’2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The magazine version is in this pdf file eintel-practical-july-2008

In my previous article on Emotional intelligence, I had tried to throw light upon emotional intelligence and life purpose or self actualisation. One wonders how emotional intelligence applies to more mundane issues. I was surprised to read in one article on board exam suicides as how to emotional intelligence should be taught in schools. In his book Working with Emotional intelligence’, Daniel Goleman has said, “Our entire system of education is geared to cognitive skills. But when it comes to emotional competencies, our system is sorely lacking.”

Though emotional intelligence primarily depends on empathy and social skills, the practical skills are based on five elements — self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy and adeptness in relationships. All this is irrelevant to students because they involve group dynamics of working in a team. Emotional intelligence issues are so complex that many a time, they require one-to-one session with the counsellor. Among the various guidelines for emotional competence training that Goleman has given, providing role models can be applicable to the young as a kind of example. As it is, it is said that “Attitudes are caught, not taught” and role models that one may come across, maybe within the organisation or the ones that one may come across in day-to-day life from people’s conduct even if they need not always fulfil common goals.

The thing worth noting that Goleman has said in his book Working with emotional intelligence is that emotional intelligence is not about being nice. He says, “At strategic moments it may demand not being ‘nice’ but bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable and consequential truth they have been avoiding. It means managing feelings that they are expressed appropriately and effectively.” I was reminded of this when, in one of the test matches of the recently concluded Australian tour, in response to sledging and all kinds of other tactics employed by the Australian cricketers to win the test, our test captain Anil Kumble, who has a reputation for being a nice guy, summed it up in one sentence: “Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game.” That was not a very nice thing to say for the hosts but it was said in a very tactful and dignified manner to befit the stature of the elder statesman of cricket which Kumble has become. Even the Australian media and Australians in general did not mind this. If there was one good example of communication as a tool of emotional intelligence, this was it,

Even at the end of the 2007 World Cup when India did not do well, former Australian cricket captain Ian Chapell commented on how Sachin was playing only for records and should contemplate retirement. Kumble, who, had always maintained a low profile and never spoken controversially, stood up for Sachin, saying “Mr Chappell is entitled to his personal opinion but since he is not so knowledgeable about Indian cricket, they should be ignored. “Since Sachin and Kumble had their cricketing debuts in 1989 and 1990 respectively, they probably played together more than anybody else and when the situation called for it, Mr Nice Guy Kumble stood up for him in a dignified, inoffensive manner.

Just as it is said in management that one has to move southwards to move northwards, one can also learn from negative examples how to control oneself. One also gets to read that the need for emotional intelligence is more as one moves higher up the ladder. One reason for this perhaps is that one also has to set an example for the people lower down. The obvious cricketing example is the slapping controversy where the captain of the Mumbai IPL Team, Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth of the Mohali team on not being able to control himself after Mumbai lost to Mohali. Goleman has given the example of Mike Tyson, “When Mike Tyson became enraged and bit of a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 heavyweight title match, it cost him $ 3 million and a year’s suspension from boxing”. Though Harbhajan did not get that physical, the one thing common is that according to newspaper reports, he lost Rs 3 crores because of the slap. Perhaps Harbhajan Singh needs training in emotional intelligence — identifying his trigger situations and dealing with them. One may add here that some time ago in Australia, the whole nation stood behind the very same Harbhajann Singh when he was provoked by the Australian players. In my view, if one has to solve the problem at the root or nip it in the bud, the person causing the problem should also be dealt with to eliminate the problem in the long run.

Another sports star that Goleman mentions in his book is Michael Jordan. He says that the game comes so naturally to him that he may not be as good a coach as he was a player. Peter Drucker had also said “Those who excel at something are rarely able to explain it”. The issue is not only of communication alone. The main thing involved in coaching is being able to have good relations among and with players while commanding their respect.

One person who comes to memory in recent past is former cricket coach of the Indian cricket team, Greg Chappell. He had been a great player himself and from the kind of presentations he made, he impressed everyone with his cricketing knowledge. Lacking self-awareness and self-regulation as a coach, he was too high – handed and hardly adept at handling relationships as he antagonised both senior and junior players in the team. Despite having far better credentials than his predecessor, John Wright, this situation was typical of what Goleman says, “People with high IQ performed poorly at work while those of moderate IQ did extremely well.” Whether as captain or coach, leadership positions automatically entail a certain finesse in relationships and in this context, having very good cricketing knowledge or experience did not suffice.

Other recent examples of nastiness was when some of the leading stars of the Hindi film Industry chose to write nonsensical things about one another on their blogs and later apologised. Internet as a medium facilitates self regulation in the sense that internet discussions tend to be the way they should be — detached, objective and rational, without the element of strong emotions. On the net, one can read the other person’s point of view without interruption, which also aids empathy and avoids friction. However if the people concerned themselves choose to say provocative things, no medium can help. Aamir Khan saying that he had a dog named Shahrukh does not befit a man of his stature and reputation- a cerebral actor with so many unique films.

In sports, coaches often have to face the kind of situation that was faced by Shahrukh in the movie Chak De when he had to exhort the two major players to put their egos aside and work for the common goal. Talking of Mr Khan, he is himself not a bad example of emotional intelligence in real life. I am reminded of one of his episodes in Kaun Banega Crorepati where in response to his traditional parting gesture one lady who was a teacher remarked, “I don’t need your hug.” Without being ruffled, Mr Khan responded, “With your kind permission, can I hug your mother and give the award money to her.” It is said that your natural self is tested only in spontaneous crisis moments and the way he handled it was as good an example as any. This was functional emotional intelligence at its best.

This kind of response apart, if one is witty and good at repartee without causing offense, that can he a vary handy tool of emotional intelligence. There is a saying ‘Humour is a rubber sword. It allows you to make a point without drawing blood.’
I had given an example on empathy which could not be included above because of lack of space. I feel it deserves a mention:-

One cannot conceive of emotional intelligence without empathy. Some years ago, in some TV programme on Children, Shahrukh Khan gave a very good speech on what society and the world was headed towards and wondered what kind of world would we leave for our children. He had seen in the TV news how a father was trying to shield his child desperately from gunfire is some area in the middle east. He stated that being a father himself, he could empathize how that man must have felt and what the world was coming to was a really sad state of affairs. Considering Shahrukh’s witty and smart image, I was pleasently surprised to learn that he could speak seriously so well. His speech reminded me of what J.krishnamurthy always used to say “Man has progressed technologically but regressed psychologically”


One Response

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