The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights
Title: The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights
Author: Daniel Goleman
Date of Publication: 2011
Daniel Goleman first brought the term Emotional Intelligence to the attention of the wider public in the mid-nineties. The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights is his first digital-only book. It is a short but significant book aimed at those working in the emotional intelligence field that need to apply the concept in action effectively. So it is particularly relevant for coaches.
Goleman states that he wrote the book to share “updates on the key findings that further inform our understanding of emotional intelligence and how to apply this skill set.”
The Brain and Emotional Intelligence shows that emotional intelligence is a phenomenon separate from IQ. “For an intelligence to be recognized as a distance set of capacities there has to be a unique underlying set of brain areas that govern and regulate that intelligence.”
Using the work of Reuven Bar-On, Goleman makes reference to distinct circuits in the brain for emotions and emotional regulation along with accompanying multi-coloured diagrams. (However, I have been reliably informed that they can only be viewed in black and white on some digital book readers!)
The chapter “Self-Mastery: The Right Brain State for the Job,” looks at the pros and cons of various positive and negative mental states. In positive states of mind we are more creative, but may also be less discriminating. In negative moods, we may be unpleasant to be around, but we pay more attention to detail, are more able to keeping working on boring tasks, and are more inclined to think for ourselves.The chapter also explores the subject of emotional regulation, and how the amygdala, which are responsible for the “fight or flight” reflex, can hijack the entire brain leading to panic and stress. Goleman identifies the top five “amygdala triggers” in the workplace:
condescension and lack of respect
being treated unfairly
lack of appreciation
believing that you’re not being listened to
being held to unrealistic deadlines
Being aware of these is helpful within the coaching context, but Goleman also goes on to suggest strategies and tools that make an amygdala hijack less likely. These include many areas explored in coaching - self-awareness, self-talk, empathy, and meditation.
The book summarizes important research on various topics such as motivation, stress (including how much stress is the right amount), how rapport emerges, gender differences in the brain regarding empathy (and here, Goleman rightly stresses that the differences may be true, in general, but don’t necessarily apply to every individual), and sociopathy (a condition suffered by those who do not care about the effects of their actions on others). Interestingly, the book also explores why online interactions can be so much more contentious than real-life encounters.The Brain and Emotional Intelligence ends with chapters on “Developing Emotional Intelligence,” making it a much more practical book and so of greater relevance to coaches. Of particular interest is the section that looks at the difficult task of learning a new skill and, more importantly, of unlearning old skills by looking at the underlying changes in circuitry that take place during learning. Here, Goleman draws together lessons stressing how we can generate commitment using self-awareness to develop detailed learning plans and tap into the brain’s capacity for mental rehearsal.
This is a book that I’ll be using as a good source of reference material. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about coaching, particularly anyone wanting a deeper understanding of how the neurobiology underlies behaviour and emotional intelligence.