painbody and emotional intelligence

The #1 Deterrent to Emotional Intelligence 

My favorite psychological author is not a psychologist (although he has studied psychology, along with philosophy and literature). As a spiritual director and thought leader, Eckhart Tolle is beyond definition—he is not affiliated with any particular religion. In his books (The Power of Now and A New Earth) he introduces what he calls the “painbody.”  In a 2010 Huffington Post article he states that, “there is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a ‘painbody,’ an energy entity consisting of old emotion.”

This is not a new idea. The Apostle Paul referred to the flesh, Carl Jung described an archetype he called The Shadow, psychoanalysts coined the term introjects, and I talk about Witches in my book (Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst). All of these have a notation of some kind of negative psychological entity that takes up residence in the human psyche (or soul/mind) that wreaks havoc within a person and then between persons. (Think of your last argument with your spouse or child. There was probably a good deal of painbody activated.)

Here are a few characteristic of painbody worth briefly noting:

  • It is an un-integrated negative psychological entity that comes in large part from negative experiences that were never fully processed and healed at the time.  One of the most important roles of a parent is to pay attention to their child and when he or she becomes distressed, to intervene to help the child with their negative emotions. As parents help them integrate these emotions, children develop self-regulation, but when this fails to happen regularly, these negative experiences collate and coagulate in the brain/mind to create painbody.
  • Everyone has some painbody. It is part of the human condition. (In fact, Tolle suggests that painbody of a nation is passed down to people within that nation or culture.)
  • The painbody takes many forms and manifestations: hurt, hate, depression, self-hate, anxiety, fear, alienation, despair, emotional drama (making mountains out of molehills), blame, even physical illness.
  • Our PainBodies can be active or dormant. In this way and many more, the painbody is like a virus. It lies dormant until something internal (like a negative thought) or external (you’re late for a flight) triggers the painbody and then it erupts. Some fortunate people have only occasional outbreaks of painbody. Others live in an almost-constant state of pain and misery—always unhappy, depressed or angry.
  • The painbody takes over the mind. Most often we identify with the painbody, thinking as it thinks. For example, the painbody makes it easy to believe that “I am a loser” or perhaps “my spouse is an alcoholic” even when there is no outside reality. (Just like viruses take over the DNA in our cells, the painbody literally hijacks the thinking part of the mind.)
  • Like any thing that is alive, it needs to eat and the painbody feeds on energy like itself; it feeds on pain. Against all reason, it looks for things to make it mad or sad or scared and then keeps the feeding going. It will instigate a fight with a spouse. It will passive-aggressively provoke a reaction from a boss or client. All of us parents have experienced our children deliberately provoking us to anger . . . to feed their newly developing painbody. When we have ample opportunity to avoid conflict or negativity about ourselves, we fail to do so. We have a hungry painbody to feed.

So what does this have to do with emotional intelligence (EQ)? EQ has everything to do with a positive yet accurate view of our self, self-control and the ability to “manage” our relationships with kindness and agency. EQ has to do with what is called flow: easy authentic emotional movement. EQ is congruent with reality and works realistically with “what is.” EQ easily and readily digests positive emotions (like joy, gratitude and love) and processes negative experiences in stride. Painbody undermines everything that I just described about EQ.

I have a psychotherapy client who is a gifted young woman who has everything going for her. And yet when she has a painbody eruption, she is fully convinced that she is an awful, worthless person, who has nothing to look forward to in her life. When evidence to the contrary is pointed out to her, she fights back with fury. Her painbody cannot digest hope and truth. She is on a feeding frenzy and will only accept raw pain for food. Her EQ is severely disabled.

In the next blog article, I will talk about what Tolle has (and I likewise have) discovered to be simple, effective ways to “manage” the painbody while also releasing all the positive energy that has been stuck in our psyche, freeing us to live emotionally intelligent (and thus happy) lives.

Tig and DawnThe Sons of Anarchy recently finished its 6th season on FX. For those of you who are fans—and there are millions of you out there—there are scenes that are indelibly etched into your mind. One of those scenes is without a doubt the opening episode of the 5th season where the character Tig is forced to witness the brutal murder of his own daughter, Dawn. Those of you who watched this amazing episode saw what I consider an Emmy-worthy performance by Kim Coates in the role as Tig.

In anticipation of this scene, and knowing that I was a psychologist, Kim asked me to discuss it with him. He wanted to know what a person like Tig would go through psychologically in witnessing the brutal murder of a loved one. When I have the opportunity to work with actors of his caliber I never presume to coach them on how to act. But what I can do is help them understand how the mind works—in this case under catastrophic conditions. I’d like to share with you a little bit of what we talked about and then comment about the three ways we all react when threatened.

Tig is the sergeant-at-arms at his motorcycle club. He is the “muscle” and when necessary, literally the executioner. So you would think a tough guy like Tig could take anything. The “beauty” of this scene, written by Kurt Sutter, is that this tough motorcycle club member experienced something so unbearable that even he completely breaks. One important factor to consider in this scene was that Tig was chained (as he watched his daughter doused with gasoline and set ablaze). If he had been able to fight, Tig certainly would have tried to save his daughter. But what does someone who bullies his way through life do when he is powerless to do anything?

There are three ways mammals react. I talk about these three ways in my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst. So for our purposes here, I’ll use characters from the Wizard of Oz to make it memorable:

  • Lion is a typical reaction. It is the angry reaction. We lose our temper; we yell at someone and maybe—in worst cases—become physically aggressive. We say things that are hurtful.
  • Tin Man represents the adapting reaction. We give into the other. We cave in to their demands, we collude with their negative behavior and surrender our perspective, adapting to their arguments.
  • A third way of reacting is Scarecrow. It is the avoidant reaction.  In this reaction we avoid conflict, circumvent issues and hold our breath hoping that it will all go away.  And if we can’t physically run, we shut down like a plug that is pulled. This reaction is non-relational, passive and detached.

I explored with Kim what it would be like, as Tig, to be totally powerless to save his “little girl.” Tig’s instinct would have been to fight and so he tried. He pulled on the chains that bound him. He yelled; he screamed.  If unchained, he would have taken bullets en route to rescue his daughter and kill the bastard who was conducting this horror. But he couldn’t. And with no alternatives, he did something very unlike Tig. When there were no longer any viable Lion (fight) options, he went Tin-Man: He begged and pleaded. He desperately appealed to his captors. He offered himself up instead, as a sacrifice. “Take ME,” he implored. (I can’t imagine what it was like for Kim to go so deeply into that place of vulnerability and weakness.)

When that didn’t work, Tig found himself unconsciously in a Scarecrow scenario. I talked to Kim about how children who are severely abused use Scarecrow. When they are too little to fight the big perpetrator, and when begging and pleading will not stop their violation, little children often dissociate. I explained to Kim that it was like a mental “circuit breaker” built in the mind to protect a person from a psychological surge that is just too much to bear. In these cases the circuit breaker pops and we psychologically and emotionally go “offline.” We go numb; we disconnect. Anyone who has experienced that scene (no one watched the scene) will hardly forget the fully broken man who numbly watched his daughter die before his out-of-focus eyes.

I did not have to tell Kim how to play Tig in this scene. He is a natural and gifted actor—he knew. But what was helpful—and hopefully is helpful to the reader—was to know that when presented with an emotional/relational challenge we tend to move to our most familiar reaction style (for Tig it was Angry-Lion), then to our less familiar reaction style (for Tig it was Adapting-Tin Man) and finally, when all else fails, to our last resort reaction style (for Tig it was Avoidant-Scarecrow). It is important to note that not all reaction sequences are the same. For example, sometimes we try to run first (flight) and if that fails we fight and finally adapt (appease) to the threat.* In what sequence do you tend to react? If you think about it, you are likely to react differently depending on the situation.

So when important people offend or challenge us (like a spouse, a boss, child or an avenging crime-boss), the first step in managing our own reactivity is to identify that we are reacting and how we are reacting: Angry Lion (Fight), Adapting Tin Man (Freeze/Appease), or Avoidant Scarecrow (Flight).  Once we do that we are halfway there.   The second half of the process will have to wait for a follow-up article.

Thank you Kim for your outstanding performance.

_____

*Dr. Elias Porter describes this sequence in his Strengths Deployment Inventory.

training the brain

Four Pathways to Retraining Your Brain

This is the follow-up to my December 1st post, which was based on an article by UCLA researcher Daniel Siegel. His article describes a healthy brain-mind using the acronym: FACES:

Flexible … the ability to bend without breaking
Adaptive … ability to adjust to different conditions
Coherent … clear, logical, and forming a whole
Energized … having vitality and enthusiasm
Stable …  firmly established, not easily upset, not likely to give-way

At the end of Part I in this series, I wrote:

Can we retrain the brain?  Fortunately the answer is YES, however it is a qualified yes. It is not easy, and not everyone is willing or capable of retraining his or her brain. Siegel and other neurobiologists agree that the brain is “elastic.”  What they mean is that—although difficult—we can recondition the brain: build new and better brain-mind integration. . . . And one key way to effect and eventually develop this part of the brain-mind is through awareness.

As promised, Part 2 of this article will discuss how to raise awareness in leaders so that we change their middle prefrontal cortex and thus generate real learning, growth and effectiveness.  Following are four ways to raise awareness as leaders in the business world in order to retrain the brain. The principles apply likewise to our roles as spouse, parent and friend but in different forms, which I will mention briefly at the end.

1. Experiential Training: I start with the most common, but least effective way to retrain the brain. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training. One of my favorite things that I do as a consultant is to facilitate training sessions among business and executive teams. But even when I do the training myself, I almost always try to make it experiential and STRONGLY encourage follow-up—the more personal and experiential the follow-up, the better. We retrain the brain primarily through experience, not through taking notes or watching colorful slides. The more we repeat the experience, the more new neural pathways we form.

2. Targeted Personal Assessments: This can take many forms. The most common form of this is the routine annual or bi-annual review. Human beings thrive on accurate, digestible feedback.  When the feedback is about us, we generally listen with a higher level of attention. It is particularly helpful if the feedback comes with clearly stated and doable actions. Changed behavior is changed experience, which equals new and better neural pathways.

As a business psychologist I often give assessments to key employees and leaders in a company.  These assessments can take on many forms. There are the typical self-report assessments, which are valuable but easily skewed. I particularly like using what is call a 360-rater feedback where any number of people (up-line, down-line, peers, etc.) can take the test about you and you can see how others perceive you.

3. Business Coaching:  Probably the most powerful way a leader can raise awareness and retrain the brain is through coaching. Business coaching (executive coaching, corporate coaching or leadership coaching) is based on a one-on-one relationship with a trusted advisor (usually from the “outside”) who provides a discovery process, in-time feedback, support and advice to improve an individual’s effectiveness in their organization.  It is the individualized, ongoing process that makes it the most salient brain-changer. If a basketball player benefits from a coach, any and every business leader would likewise be the better for the process of interaction and feedback.

4. An Aware Organization: This last suggestion is the hardest to come by but is the most comprehensive. It goes beyond helping individuals become more aware (the goal of the first three points above) by making awareness part of the corporate culture itself. The organization creates a  culture that not only models and encourages awareness from all its members, but is interestingly aware of itself as well. It is an organic living SWOT analysis. In other words, it is an organization that is aware of its

  • Strengths to exploit,
  • Weaknesses—(yes, its weaknesses)—to monitor,
  • Opportunities to leverage, and
  • Threats to be privy to.

How does an organization become aware? It starts at the top. If its top leaders are not aware, then there is little hope. The Aware Organization is also an organization that is open to outside review (assessment) and feedback and is willing to hear and face the truth about itself. This organization is one that will naturally promote awareness as a norm.

How do these principles apply to other roles that we assume—for example, as a spouse, parent, or friend? Well, any way that we can raise our awareness in one relationship (without shame or defensiveness) does the same thing for us in other types of relationships. Here are some examples (that correspond to the 4 areas above):

  1. Taking interactive courses and workshops. For example, I run occasional courses for couples and parents that are highly interactive and “awareness raising.”
  2. Take online assessments. There are many free assessments that you can take. (If you’re interested in knowing more, leave me a comment below and I will forward you the links). Listen to your partner’s (child’s/friend’s) feedback carefully without defensiveness. Consider what parts of what is being said might possibly be true. This should raise awareness and change your brain.
  3. Instead of getting coaching, try a stint in your own personal therapy, or consider working with a mentor or spiritual director.
  4. Create an “Aware Home” where part of the culture of your household is a commitment to non-defensive listening to feedback. Also be part of organizations (clubs, churches) that are awareness-prone organizations.

If you want leaders (partners, parents or friends) who have the ability to bend without breaking while remaining firmly established and persistent (Stability), and the ability to adjust to varying conditions and markets (Adaptability), are able to think with clarity and logic (Coherent), and have a vitality and an enthusiasm (Energy), then you want a leader (partner, parent or friend) with a high-functioning middle prefrontal cortex. And to retrain that part of the brain you need to increase awareness and foster growth experiences.

Share with us strategies that you use to raise your awareness. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

This is my last post of 2013. I wish all of you a wonder-filled Holiday and a great 2014.

MandelaStampThis week’s blog was supposed to be Part 2 of last week’s “The Emotionally Intelligent Brain, Part 1.”  However because of the passing of a historic man, I decided to digress for one week.

Nelson Mandela’s greatness was of historic proportions. He was also—in my humble opinion—emotionally intelligent. Now mind you, I do not believe that all great people are emotionally intelligent. Steve Jobs was a great man. He changed the world. I am not sure if we could say that he was emotionally intelligent—ask his employees. Nelson Mandela was.

In a previous blog (November 11th) entitled “Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Three-D: Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion,” I introduced the Interpersonal Triangle and what I consider the three dimensions of emotional intelligence (EI). The basis of my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst, is that Dorothy’s three companions represent the three dimensions of the interpersonal world:

  • Courageous Lion represents the Power or “Self “dimension (Moving-Against)
  • Heart-filled Tin Man represents the Love or “Other” dimension (Moving-Toward)
  • Thoughtful Scarecrow represents the Knowing or “Mindfulness” Dimension (Moving-Away)

InterpersonalTriangleAs far as the Interpersonal Triangle describes EI, the premise is simple: When we relate to others—and the world in general—in the positive expressions of all three dimensions, in dynamic balance, then we are at that moment emotionally intelligent. If we get out of balance, unable to function positively in any one (of the three) dimensions we become lopsided and emotionally “unintelligent.”

Mandela and Dorothy have much in common. Mandela and the people of South Africa were under the dominion of the wicked Apartheid regime.  At first the people of South Africa—and Mandela himself—understandably reacted to this regime in one or all of the following ways:

  • Negative Tin Man: they were frozen in fear, like Tin Man in the forest, immobilized and compliant
  • Negative Scarecrow, detached, indecisive and ineffective in the cornfield
  • Negative RED Lion, violent and angry

By the end of the story, Dorothy pulled her inner Team together and with equanimity was able to move fluidly in all three dimensions so that she could eventually melt the Wicked Witch of the West. Tin Man was no longer frozen, but with some oil was able to move with passion and compassion steadfast in the mission.  Scarecrow was no longer ineffective and indecisive. When he found his knowing, he was able to mindfully and persistently see how to move forward with self-control and wisdom. And yes, Lion (finally) found his nerve and was willing to march into hell (the castle) for a heavenly cause to face the most dangerous witch. This, my friend, was Nelson Mandela. Mandela eventually and consistently pulled together his inner Team—like Dorothy—to melt the wicked regime of Apartheid. This is why we love and admire this giant of a man.

With notable equanimity, Mandela lived and functioned in the positive aspects of all three dimensions:

  • Courageous Lion: He spoke truth to “Power” (not unlike Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King). And what courage he exhibited, to confront the green-faced hag of Apartheid and then survive an oppressive and impossibly prolonged imprisonment!
  • Heart-filled Tin Man: His compassion for his people and his passion for the mission was unshakeable. His life was a life of service. But the thing that I admire most about Mandela was his capacity for forgiveness. He was once asked if he forgave his jailers who brutalized him for nearly 3 decades.  His response was profound.  He said that he was their prisoner for 27 years and if he did not forgive them he would still be their prisoner.
  • Mindful Scarecrow: He was a man of patience and self-control. Prison allegedly taught him the benefits of silence and solitude, attributes of mindfulness. One of the sub-categories of EI is what is called “political savvy.” Mandela had political savvy. He knew when to fight (Lion) and when to forgive (Tin Man).

His ability to move freely and dynamically in all three dimensions is why I consider him a notably emotionally intelligent person and a model and inspiration for all of us—on whatever stage we live out our personal and work lives. Emotional intelligence is an intelligence that he lived by. South Africa is grateful; the World is grateful. Rest in Peace.

emotional intelligenceThere is much–albeit not enough–talk in the business world today about emotional intelligence (EI) and its importance in understanding what makes leaders transcend to the next level. There is less discussion of EI as it pertains to matters of love—couples, parenting, friendship. From what I know as a psychologist who is interested in neurobiology, I do not think of EI independent of thinking about the brain. Daniel Siegel, M.D., is one of the cutting-edge leaders in this new area of study called “Interpersonal Neurobiology.” Dr. Siegel, in an article for the Psychiatric Annals in April of 2006, wrote the following (I recommend reading it slowly):

An interpersonal neurobiology view of well-being holds that the complex, nonlinear system of the mind achieves states of self-organization by balancing the two opposing processes of differentiation and linkage. When separated areas of the brain are allowed to specialize in their function and then become linked together, the system is integrated. Integration brings with it a special state or functioning of the whole, which has the acronym of FACES: Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable. This coherent flow is bounded on one side by chaos and on the other by rigidity. In this manner we can envision a flow or river of well-being, with the two banks being chaos on the one side, rigidity on the other.

The focal point in this paragraph is on the idea of a “complex non-linear mind” that is “integrated.”  Integration comes about when the special functions of the brain work well (differentiation) but are also connected and communicative (linkage). As a result we get FACES.  When we consider these five functions of an integrated mind, also think of a leader, partner, parent, friend—who has all these functions working together as well:

  • Flexible … the ability to bend without breaking
  • Adaptive … ability to adjust to different conditions
  • Coherent … clear, logical, and forming a whole
  • Energized … having vitality and enthusiasm
  • Stable …  firmly established, not easily upset, not likely to give way

This is how Siegel describes a mentally healthy brain-mind. It is a mind that “flows” optimally between chaos (disorganization) on one side and rigidity (over-organization) on the other. What I find compelling is that these five (FACES) brain-mind functions aptly describe an emotionally intelligent leader (partner, parent, friend) as well. Emotionally intelligent people apparently have healthy, integrated brain-minds.

Who would not like to be married to (or have as a parent or friend) a person who is Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energetic yet Stable–in other words, emotionally intelligent? Likewise, who wants people in their organization–not the least of which a leader—who possesses the opposite attributes of being inflexible if not rigid, unable to adapt, incoherent (confused, unclear and illogical), depressed, unmotivated or unstable? Having someone like this to follow (be married to, parented by and/or friends with) would be at best unpleasant and at worst damaging.

We can’t choose everyone in our life, of course. We get to pick our partners and friends. (Unfortunately we do not get to pick our parents.) We don’t always get to choose our workmates, but organizations can choose employees and leaders. So if emotionally intelligent leaders have healthy or integrated brain-minds and these integrated brain-minds make for transcendent leaders, how do we get a few of these brains into our organization?

I often argue that it is easier to hire a star employee rather than develop one. That is why I spend a good bit of time in my consulting practice helping organizations hire best-fit (emotionally intelligent) people. It is relatively easy to find someone who has the right education, training and even experience–especially in this current “buyers” market. It is much harder to find someone who is Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable . . . someone who has a healthy brain-mind, someone who is emotionally intelligent.

But it is not possible to hire an entirely new company full of integrated emotionally intelligent people. We have to work with the employees (and owners) that we have. This begs an important question: Can we retrain the brain?  Fortunately the answer is YES, however it is a qualified yes. It is not easy, and not everyone is willing or capable of retraining his or her brain. Siegel and other neurobiologist agree that the brain is “elastic.”  What they mean by that is that—although difficult—we can recondition the brain: build new and better brain-mind integration. How does one do this?

The better question might be “where do we do this?” We do it in the Middle Prefrontal Cortex. It is the at the crossroads between the emotional limbic system and the thinking cortex and it has to do with things like emotional balance, empathy, insight, fear extinction, intuition and morality. One key way to effect and eventually develop this part of the brain-mind is through awareness. When we raise people’s awareness we increase the proper functioning of this important region of the brain.

There are different ways to raise awareness in a business environment: the use of assessments, targeted workshops and especially one-on-one coaching.  But there are other ways to affect this region of the brain-mind. Stay tuned, I will discuss them further in part two of this article. For now, I hope you are encouraged to understand that we really can increase emotional intelligence and thereby improve relationships with everyone who crosses our life path.

Please let us know your experiences with emotionally intelligent (or lack thereof) bosses or leaders, as it pertains to FACES. And remember, EI is intelligence you can live with.

EnvyOne of my friends is now in Europe, all his expenses paid by his employer. (Oh yeah, did I tell you that he went with his wife and they are paying all her expenses too?) Another friend just released a book which is well on its way to becoming a national best seller (see Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Dr. Enrico Gnaulati). I have two friends who just retired in their 50’s and will never have to worry about money again. So do you think I am happy for them? To be honest, the envious part of mind wants an all-expense paid trip to Europe with my family. I want to have a bestseller so I can retire and never have to worry about money again.

What do you envy? Do you envy your friend who can eat anything she wants and is still as skinny as a rail? How about the guy at work who used to report to you who was just promoted again? Or how about your friend who is (apparently) happily married and expecting her first baby and you have not had a good date in months (okay years)? Do you envy those people who have the Midas touch—everything they do turns to gold?  We can envy anyone who has more (money, looks, happiness) than us; we can envy anyone who has less (body fat, bad luck, marital troubles) than us. The list of things that we can be envious about is as long as things in the world that we can possess or acquire or experience—but don’t. And the list is long.

Envy Happens! Envy is a basic human emotion—a state of mind to be exact. It is reflected in some of our earliest literature, for instance religious texts. In the well-known Judeo-Christian story of Adam and Eve, the author of Genesis writes that eating of the forbidden fruit would make the couple like God. Embedded in this narrative is a story of envy. They envied God and who would not?—Which of us would not want to be described as all powerful; all knowing? But what really seemed to piss them off was that they needed God. According to British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, we are prone to envy anyone on whom we depend. Why? Because we are not all powerful and all knowing and we do in fact need others.

Envy unchecked is very destructive. Envy hates.  Envy wants to hurt if not destroy the envied. This is also seen in the Genesis story of Cain and Abel. If you remember the story, Cain envied his brother Abel and as a result murdered him. Sometimes the expression of envy is huge; many wars have been started because one group wants what another group has. However, more often the expression of envy is more “civilized” showing up as resentment, backbiting and passive aggressive behaviors.  And when we envy, there are often serious feelings of inferiority lurking in the shadows of our self-concept.

The opposite of envy is gratitude. Envy wants what others have, what others do and what others experience. Gratitude “wants” what we, in fact, have, do and experience. (You heard the expression: Do you have what you want or want what you have?) Gratitude accepts and appreciates—the “AA” of a healthy mindset. We are most centered when we accept who we are and what we have. However, it is not easy to be content when there is so much feedback out there showing us what we lack. It takes a mature mind to transcend an attitude of scarcity to have an attitude of gratitude. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with wanting to have more. But if you cannot be grateful with the good you currently possess—and yes there is good in our lives—then you can never be truly happy even if you possess the envied things. (We all know of celebrities who apparently have everything most people would ever want but live seemingly unhappy lives.)

I have struggled with envy my whole life. I grew up in a very poor family and often heard my father talk about all the rich people who had it easy. I still struggle with being content with what I have and where I am in life. However, as I have worked through issues in my own personal therapy and lately in my mindfulness practices, I find myself more content and yes—even at times grateful—for my life as it is now. I want more and will get it. But gratitude is not about the future; gratitude is about the NOW. So I choose to be happy for my friends who are retired at 50, traveling in Europe, and a successful author. I am truly glad for them, as I am glad for all the good things in my life. And I hope that you find that quiet, sober place in your mind and heart that appreciates what you have NOW this Thanksgiving and for the other 364 days of the year.

If you have a moment, please share with us what you find yourself envying and/or what you are personally grateful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!

HonoringDifferencesI just finished facilitating a workshop for a consulting firm on the topic of “Honoring Differences & Emotional Intelligence.” All the participants took the ITI– Interpersonal Triangle Inventory, which is an inventory that I developed based on the Interpersonal Triangle model that I introduced in my previous post (See “Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Three-D: Scarecrow, Tin Man & Lion.”)  Based on their scores they were sorted into one of four relationship styles represented by the following colors (the first three are sorted into the three primary colors thus representing the three primary ways we relationally move or connect; the fourth is a hybrid):

  • Red: Moving Against—Lion. These types of relators tend to be more aggressive, directive, take-charge, determined, quick to make decisions, and are opinionated.
  • Blue: Moving Toward—Tin Man. These types of relators tend to be people oriented, empathic, supportive and caring, willing to defer to the needs of others.
  • Yellow: Moving Away—Scarecrows. These types of relators are more measured and careful, want to be accurate and true to the facts.
  • Purple (Blends of Red Lion & Blue Tin Man). People in this hybrid are enthusiastic and readily engage and influence others. They like liking and like being liked. I have a Purple relationship style in most of my relationships.

I’d like to share with you what we learned through the workshop experience (in no particular order):

  • People have different relationship styles. Some are more quick and determined (like the Red Lions) others are people centered (like the Blue Tin Man) and others are more careful and precise (like Yellow Scarecrow). Then there are Purple people like me who want to engage and influence others. One style is not necessarily better than the others all the time (even thought I would follow a Red in an emergency, a Yellow when I want objective facts and a Blue when I want to be understood).
  • Each style has its positive or negative expressions. Each style, in its positive expression, can enhance communication and bring about positive outcomes. However in its negative manifestation, each style can break down communication and be destructive. Often the negative expressions are directly related to their positive expression. Elias Porter—the person who developed the SDI (the Strength Deployment Inventory)—suggested that our weaknesses are nothing more than overdone strengths. Think about it. A quick Red response overdone makes them rushed or impetuous. A Blue’s deference to others can easily become a form of self-denial; and a Yellow’s carefulness is only a couple clicks away from being overly cautious and hesitant.
  • We have different styles in different situations. For example, my relationship style is different at home than when I am speaking or consulting. At home I am more Orange (Red and Yellow) and at work I am more Purple (Red and Blue). And when I get around Red alphas, I have to fight the temptation to become overly Blue (submissive). Different settings and interactions with different people often bring out different elements of how we interact. A person at work might be one way with a boss (e.g. Blue) and then another way with a subordinate (e.g. Red). I am always amused by CEOs who run large organizations who, when they come home, become totally subservient to their spouse.
  • If we don’t honor differences in someone else, we will end up reacting to them. Evolution formed a brain that is suspicious, if not hostile, to those who differ from us. If we don’t leverage our differences for good we will likely get entangled in some sort of estrangement. I worked with a board of directors who had a good number of Red relators. They looked down on the “weaker” Blue relaters seeing them as “soft” simply because they were not as decisive and opinionated as they were. It was unfortunate that the Reds did not honor their Blue brethren because they did not take advantage of their sympathy for client relations and their ability to collaborate. This can happen at home as well. We can write off our “quiet” (Yellow) spouse as disinterested rather than slow and thoughtful. And we’ve all heard of the rough and tough father who reacts to his “weaker” (artistic) son not realizing what a precious gift the son brings to the world.

I’d love to hear back from you: What relationship style do you tend toward  . . .  at home? Are you more Red, more Blue or more Yellow (or like me, a hybrid)? Is your relationship style different at work? If so, how?  Do you ever “overdo” one of these relational styles to a fault? (If you are not sure, ask your spouse, children, or your employees.) Do you ever find yourself reacting to your partner for having a different relational style than yourself?  Please share your experience with us.

Ultimately, be yourself, accept who you are and be positive in your difference. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

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