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Anyone can become angry, that’s easy. But to be angry
with the right person, to the right degree, for the right
purpose, and in the right way, this is not easy.
Emotional Intelligence: The ability to know and
understand ones emotions and the emotions of others,
including the ability to reason, causes and effects, for
the purpose of harnessing emotional energy for a better
life and more meaningful relationships.
Who needs EI?
There are two main reasons for developing emotional
At a personal level, it is useful to understand why we
react to the world in the way way do. It can be
empowering to understand the emotional triggers and
barriers that hold us back from achieving our best.
At a social level, anyone who is interested in
developing authentic and meaningful relationships will
benefit from understanding how and why others may
be feeling and acting the way they do. EI helps
develop empathy, compassion and humanity.
What is an emotion?
To understand emotional intelligence, it‟s useful to
understand a little bit about what emotions are, what
causes emotions, what their functions are, and how
emotions integrate with, and affect other parts of our
Most of us understand that when we use the word
emotion, we‟re usually talking about the way we
„feel‟ about things. So yes, an emotion is a feeling,
but it‟s more than just a feeling.
More than a feeling
Psychologists, scientists and philosophers have different
definitions for what an emotion is. While you and I
probably have a good „working‟ definition of what an
emotion is, here is a more technical definition:
“Emotion refers to a feeling-state (including physiological
responses and cognitions) that conveys information about
relationships. For example, happiness is a feeling-state
that also conveys information about relationships;
typically, that one would like to join with others. Similarly,
fear is a feeling-state that corresponds to a relationship;
the urge to flee others.
From that definition, you could say that emotions are
about encouraging us to act, or behave in a certain way.
However, we don‟t always act in line with our emotions,
because sometimes we think it‟s better not to follow our
That‟s what cognition is all about. How we‟ve learnt think
Naturally, how we act, and what we do is called our
So our emotions don‟t stand alone, they are actively
involved, in a complicated relationship, with our thoughts
In the same way it‟s useful to know a little about
emotions, it‟s also important to understand a little about
intelligence. Academics have a great deal of trouble
defining exactly what intelligence is, however there are
some key themes.
The plain English definition of intelligence speaks of the
ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. This
seems to include the necessity to reflect or think about
past experience and then adapt and apply that learning
to new situations.
Learning, reasoning and applying experience to knew
situations is the basis of intelligence.
Intelligence testing is aimed at understanding how
well a person learns, and then adapts that
information to new situations.
Traditionally intelligence has been measured using
an age-related test called an IQ or intelligence
Your IQ is defined as 100 times your mental age,
divided by your chronological age. Your mental age
is determined using a standardised test.
It is very important to note that all IQ tests are socio-
So now we come to a definition of what emotional
intelligence might be: The recognition of emotions, in
myself and others, their cause and function, and the
ability to reason, adapt and apply this knowledge to
new situations, for productive and profitable actions.
Intentions or actions?
There is an old saying that we judge others by their
actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions.
However, intending to get a job won‟t feed the family.
That means that what really counts in life is what we do,
not what we hope, dream or think.
Research is now beginning to show that emotional
intelligence is possibly more important that traditional
While intelligence is necessary to reason and think,
emotions turn those thoughts into action. Emotional
Intelligence could be called the, “Make it happen factor”.
French writer, playwright and poet Voltaire is believed to
first have have coined the phrase often attributed to
General George S Patton; “A good plan violently
executed right now, is far better than a perfect plan
executed next week”.
St Paul wrote to the Galatians advising; “You reap
whatever you sow…whenever you have the opportunity,
let us work for the good of all, especially for those of the
family of faith”.
Types of emotions
Researchers haven‟t been able to come up with a
definite list of emotions. In fact, some languages
have words for emotions that cannot be directly
translated into English. In addition, sometimes we
experience a blend, or combination of emotions at
the same time.
However, most experts agree that emotions can be
either positive or negative. Sometimes referred to
as emotional valence. Happiness, pride and joy are
good examples of positive emotions, while fear,
anger and disgust or loathing are easily
recognisable as negative emotional states.
Another important feature of emotions is their intensity.
Some emotions are very mild and go unnoticed. That is
to say, the emotion is real and affecting our thoughts and
actions, but we aren‟t consciously aware of what‟s
On the other hand, emotions can be intense, and we
realise we are strongly influenced by how we‟re feeling.
Sometimes we regret how we act when we have been
Road-rage is a good example of irrational behaviour
fuelled by high levels of emotion.
What causes emotions?
There are various schools of thought on what causes
different emotions. One widely accepted theory is based
on what‟s called Appraisal Theory.
Appraisal theory argues that our senses collect
information and compare the current situation, with our
expected situation. When there is a difference, an
emotion is created, the function of which is to initiate an
action that resolves the conflict.
Some of our expectations are are „hard-wired‟ into our
brain as part of our natural „operating systems‟, but most
of our expectations are the result of learning and life
Moved to action
Imagine the emotion of loneliness. As human beings are
naturally „social‟ creatures, a period of isolation will
probably initiate the feeling of loneliness. To resolve this
conflict, the lonely person thinks about how best to seek
out company. Where possible, the plan is put into action
and loneliness abates, otherwise the feeling intensifies.
The driver who thinks they are running late, may start to
feel anxious. This anxiety causes the driver to speed up
to resolve the conflict. However, the driver may slow
down in front of a school zone, thinking this is not the
best place to speed. Once past the school zone,
speeding resumes until the conflict is resolved.
The ancient brain
During the early stages of evolution our brains were
small, and not equipped with the more sophisticated
features of modern human brains.
All vertebrates have a spinal chord capped with a more-
or-less sophisticated „brain‟. This „ancient brain‟ is
comprised of three regions; the prosencephalon
(forebrain), mesencephalon (midbrain) and
The hindbrain and midbrain form the brainstem at the top
of the spinal chord. The biggest difference between the
ancient brain and the modern brain lies in the size and
complexity of the forebrain, or cerebrum.
Cognition as filter
The three main evolutionary features of the brain
include its increase in size, relative to body size, the
compartmentalisation and specialisation of functions,
and development of the forebrain (cerebrum).
It is the significant development and growth of the
cerebrum that gives humans our unique ability to think
in the ways we do.
Although emotional drives are ancient, the ability to
think and reason is a relatively new adaptation.
The prefrontal cortex, is a part of the large newer
human brain and is responsible for controlling or
filtering primitive or ancient emotional urges.
Research has shown that the prefrontal cortex is largely
responsible for filtering and mediating „emotional charges‟
from the „ancient brain‟.
Studies show that prisoners charged with violent crimes
often have what is called “poor impulse control”, and this
can be directly related to underdeveloped or damaged
In addition, this part of the brain is not fully developed until
after the body has reached maturity. While our bodies may
have fully grown by late teens, our brain is not fully mature
until our mid twenties.
Some researchers are concerned that young drivers are
at particular risk due to late brain maturity.
Young drivers typically account for only around 12-13%
of the driving population, but are involved for 25-30% of
It is considered that younger drivers may be less able to
moderate emotional urges that encourage pleasure-
seeking and risk-taking behaviour when driving.
Two possible solutions include deferring the driving age
until the brain is fully mature. Alternatively, sophisticated
tests have been developed that help identify young
drivers most likely to have trouble moderating emotions.
Fear is a good emotion to study when considering the
link between the emotion and behaviour.
When we are afraid we experience the emotion of fear
in several ways. We may or may not have the conscious
knowledge of being afraid, or we may or may not be
aware that our breathing and pulse have escalated.
We probably won‟t be aware that a surge of adrenaline
has entered the blood stream or that our pupils have
dilated. However, we may well notice that we we back
away from that thing or situation which makes us
Snakes and spiders
It seems that we are well conditioned in an evolutionary
sense to cope with spiders and snakes. Our
„programmed‟ fear of spiders and snakes gives us the
ability to survive in a natural world. Natural selection
has favoured those of us who sense (feel) the threat
and keep away from danger „intuitively‟.
In the modern world, we have to learn to adapt to a
range of dangers, hazards and threats that are not part
of the natural world, and therefore foreign to our
Developing a sense of self-awareness is the first step
to becoming emotionally intelligent. Try to understand
how you are feeling and why.
Once you are able to discern your emotional state, and
identify the cause or triggers, you are more able to
predict future emotions.
By critically questioning the causes and triggers you
can often learn to predict and control your emotional
responses to future events.
It‟s important to know when and how to remain calm,
and when to spring into action.
Once you‟ve developed the ability to be self aware,
you can start to develop the ability to anticipate and
read the emotions of others.
Understanding how others feel is at the heart of
empathy. Empathy is central to effective and
Empathy is at the heart of what it means to be
human. From empathy comes compassion.
Only humans can be truly sympathetic, showing
concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others.
Jeremy Williams can speak on these and a number of
other topics designed to help your personal or professional
* Leadership * Peer Observation
* Leading Safety * Optimism
* Leading Change * Risk Taking
* Teacher Development * Diversity
* Road Safety - Education & Training
For more information, and other free resources, please
contact PD Pro Pty Ltd
Voice: +61 414 722 271