Grit or Emotional Intelligence: The Winner Is?

In her TED talk titled Why Some Students Fail and Other Students Succeed, teacher turned psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth reveals the one factor that determines whether a student will succeed or fail. She suggests that, in general, IQ has been the easiest factor to measure to predict success. And while other factors such as social intelligence, good looks, socio-economic status, physical health and talent are also considered in predicting success, her conclusion from the research suggests that the one factor that stands out more than any other factor is what we call “grit.” But what is grit?

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Emotionally Intelligent Power: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Emotional intelligence is about the ability to navigate interpersonal relationships constructively. In my latest book I describe the three dimensions of the interpersonal world: Power, Heart and Mindfulness. When we find that dynamic balance or “synergy” between all three (in their positive mode) we find emotional intelligence and optimal human functioning. And when we don’t have that balance, we get disharmony and human dysfunction. This is never so true as when it comes to the Power dimension.

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For Mindfulness When Things Go Wrong, Call AAA

When Americans get a flat tire, we call the American Automobile Association (AAA). When something unexpected happens to us in life, we would be wise to call on AAA as well. That is, the AAA of self-awareness: Accept what is. Allow what you feel. Act if you can. This is a practical manifestation of mindfulness: one of the key tools at our disposal for developing emotional intelligence.

In my book The Three Dimensions of Emotions: Finding the Balance of Power, Heart and Mindfulness, I refer to an idea that I heard when listening to a lecture by Eckhart Tolle (most known for his best-selling book, The Power of Now). I would summarize it like this: Accept what is externally real, just as it is. Honestly allow what you feel internally about the situation. Then take action if and when you can.

If you or I could practice this in response to the inevitable (if not daily) things that “go wrong,” we would have a categorically better life. These things could be on any scale from something small (a traffic jam or dropping your favorite mug) to something large (having a serious disease or grieving the loss of a loved one). And these things can go wrong in any life space, whether at home with a spouse, at work leading a difficult team on a challenging project, or in any other sphere. So how can we take practical steps to apply this mindful approach?

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Emotional Intelligence: Why There’s Not a Dark Side

In an article published by Scientific American titled “The Dark Side of the Brain: Too Much Emotional Intelligence Is a Bad Thing,” the author suggests that “profound empathy” sometimes comes “at a price.” The suggestion is made that people with too much empathy are likely to be sidelined by stress more than those who do not have as much empathy. The author points to a Frankfurt study where students who were rated as having higher emotional intelligence (as determined by an empathy measure) also had higher levels of stress during an experiment (as measured by the level of cortisol in their saliva). While the study itself may be perfectly valid as far as it goes, there is a notable problem with the magazine article’s conclusion: the author equates emotional intelligence (EI) with empathy. This is a rather common mistake.

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What Color Will You Be This Holiday Season? A Look at How We Emotionally React

There are three general ways that we emotionally react to stress, threats and anxiety: Fight, Flight and/or Freeze & Appease. (Yes, you learned this in biology class.) In my book I refer to the three movements or dimensions using the three primary colors: Fight is Red; Flight is Yellow; and, Freeze & Appease is Blue. So when you find out at a holiday meal that your niece went to a protest against Donald Trump you might react from the Red paint bucket by angrily railing at her, and every other liberal, for being sore losers. Or if your sister’s husband lists all the ways that Trump will in “make America great again,” you might react out of the Blue paint bucket by coming around to “see his point of view”—even though you voted for Hilary because you saw Trump as dangerous. Alternatively, you might go absolutely silent and emotionally detach (Yellow paint bucket) when your Uncle Bud goes on about Obama being a Muslim. We can blend the colors as well. For example, you can go into the Purple space (reactive Red and Blue) and dominate a conversation at the dinner table, not letting anyone else have a say.

All of us react in one (or a blend) of these three ways throughout the year in our public and private relationships, whether toward a spouse, a child, a boss, an employee, the idiot who just cut you off, or the president of the United States. And when we do, our limbic system (emotional brain) gets triggered and we get thrown out of balance—to the detriment of others and ourselves. But we can almost always count on our vulnerability to reactivity when co-mingling with relatives at Holiday event, when we come together with those whose ties with us are not necessarily of our own choosing.

So what can we do to mitigate our reactivity?

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Close Encounters with the Other Kind: Tips for Tranquil Family Holidays

Last week I had a business meeting in Houston. On my ride to the Los Angeles airport my driver enthusiastically described Donald Trump as a great businessman who will get America back on track. He then expressed his outrage at all the “sore losers” protesting in the streets. A few hours later, on my ride from the Houston airport to my hotel, the driver explained with dismay that his young daughter had awakened in tears, afraid that she and her family could be deported. He was outraged that America could elect what he saw as “an insecure bigot.”

Never in my memory has the country been so divided in reaction to an election—a state of affairs clearly represented by my two drivers. It is amazing that any two of us can look at the same event with very different eyes. Some see Trump as a national treasure who will save America. Others see the same man as a dangerous narcissist and bigot. How can we see the same reality in such different ways?

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How to Respond with Emotional Intelligence to a Surprising Election

Donald Trump is president elect. And unless you’ve been asleep for the past week, you’re aware that there has been an unparalleled reaction to the surprising outcome of the election. As I talk to friends, clinical clients and business clients, I’m seeing unprecedented personal and collective feelings of despair, anger and anxiety. (I suppose that if Hillary Clinton had won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, many Trump supporters would be equally unhappy.)

I have—like most people—opinions about this election and its candidates. But that is not the purpose of this article. The intention of this article is to present a model to help the large number of people who are notably pained by recent events to respond with emotional intelligence rather than react. I will organize my thoughts around the three dimensions that I write about in both of my books: these are Power, Heart and Mindfulness, respectively.

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Michelle Obama’s Emotional Intelligence

I am always in search of people who exemplify the convergence, synergy, balance, or integration of Power, Heart and Mindfulness—the three dimensions of emotionally intelligent people. These are the people who bring positive energy and productivity to every relationship they touch, whether the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the janitor at a local high school, your (favorite) uncle—or the First Lady of the United States. As a case in point, Michelle Obama’s emotional intelligence shines through admirably in her public speaking.

While watching the First Lady speak at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, I saw a woman who had the dynamic balance of Power, Heart and Mindfulness. I was not just listening to a good speech, but a good woman as well.  Whether you are Democrat, Independent, or Republican, if you were listening, you had to know this in your gut. You might disagree with her politics, but she represents a minority of people who can find the relational sweet-spot at the intersection of power, heart and mindfulness. Continue reading “Michelle Obama’s Emotional Intelligence”