“Everything is self-evident,” said Rene Descartes, mathematician and philosopher. Everything is self-evident if you have high emotional intelligence and are good at reality-testing. If you’re clouded with emotions, stuck in the past, inflexible, inauthentic, or inept at verbal and nonverbal communication, alas, everything is not self-evident.
When you develop your emotional intelligence, and the ability to understand and manage your emotions and those of others, you see things clearly. You can avoid the following pitfalls to accurate perception and smart choices:
1. How you WISH things were.
2. How you think things SHOULD be.
3. Believing that how things have always been in the past is the way they are now, and ever will be.
4. Assumptions about situations in-the-moment which seem at the surface level to be similar to experiences and people in the past. Assumptions always need to be checked out.
5. Your persona or inauthentic, unintegrated self, which shifts according to mood, emotion, person and situation leaving you without compass or anchor.
6. Your ability to delude yourself because of lack of self-knowledge.
7. Self-sabotaging because of lack of self-knowledge, self-management and low EQ.
8. Fear, anger, jealousy and other strong emotions which distort thinking.
9. Hearing what you WANT to hear or NEED to hear instead of what’s actually being said. Failing to take into account the other person’s nonverbal behavior.
10. Distortion from relying on other people’s perceptions of reality and/or “catching” their emotions.
IN SUM: We are our emotions. They influence our perception of reality. The more you understand yourself and your own emotions, the better you can understand their effect upon your perceptions of reality and manage them so you can make smart choices.
Emotional Intelligence means understanding which of your three brains is operating (reptilian, limbic or neocortex), and which brain[s] you need to be in. Emotions guide us and give us information, but sometimes we need to get to the neocortex to make the decision. For instance, you may be angry and feel like hitting someone, but your “thinking brain” will tell you this isn’t a wise course of action. By the same token, you may love someone (limbic) while your neocortex keeps giving you reasons not to.
The most important decisions generally need to be made with both the heart and the mind. Here are some examples.
If you strongly desire to like the person you’re dealing with, or if you have a need to like them, you may miss what’s actually going on. This is what’s happened when you hear someone repeat an anecdote, saying, “He did [something mean] BUT HE’S REALLY A NICE PERSON.” It’s clear to you the person mentioned is NOT “a nice person,” because nice people don’t do things like that.
Another good example is one I read on a Russian bride website. It was giving advice to the male suitors re: such important factors as wanting or not wanting to have children. They cautioned that because the need of the Russian woman to come to the US might be so strong, she would delude the man, because she had truly deluded herself. She would say what the man wanted to hear even if she didn’t mean it.
How do you guard yourself against such disillusionment? High EQ, time, reflection, feedback, intuition, and understanding people and their emotions.
HEARING WHAT YOU NEED OR WANT TO HEAR
This can happen when the outcome is very important to you. If it’s with a loved one, you may fear rejection or loss and therefore your emotions interfere with what you’re hearing. Someone who’s been rejected a lot, for instance, may read things into what they’re hearing, finding rejection in places where it doesn’t exist.
Because of their emotional state, they may jump to conclusions that aren’t warranted, or over-react. For instance, if their partner tells them “I don’t like it when you talk that way to my mother (which is a behavior which can be changed),” they may hear, “I don’t love you” (which is a condemnation of you as a person). This sort of distortion is why it’s good to repeat back what you think you’ve heard in heated discussions where the outcome is important. If you say, “Let me make sure I understood what you said. You said you’re angry because I…” this gives the other person the opportunity to clarify what they said or meant, and to correct your misperceptions. This is vital to good communication.
It’s common with couples for each person to correct the other saying, “But that’s not what you meant” or “That’s not what you said.” There’s never a place for this. By checking it out with the person you give them a chance to self-correct, to correct you, and to establish clear communication about important things.
If you aren’t clear about what brain is working you can do yourself in. One reason coaching is helpful is because it can help you clarify what you’re really after, and what fears and obstacles you’re throwing in your own path. If you want something but never seem to be able to attain it, it could be that you fear success, or fear failure, or aren’t clear about what you want. An example would be wanting to marry someone because you love them (limbic) but talking yourself out of it (neocortex) because your best friend doesn’t like him. Your best friend may or may not be perceiving correctly, and is certainly entitled to their opinion, but they aren’t the person who will be marrying this man, you are. Therefore you need to get centered in your own feelings and perceptions.
DISTORTION FROM “CATCHING” EMOTIONS
Emotions are contagious. We vary in our ability to protect ourselves from “catching” them, and in our ability to stay centered in our own emotions.
An example of this happened to me the other day. I told a friend I was planning to drive from San Antonio to Houston to pick up my sister at the Houston airport for us to continue on to a vacation in Alabama. Her flight would arrive at Houston International and we both had cell phones. I planned to pick her up out front. It seemed simple enough to me, but the person I related this to said it was “very difficult” and not to try it.
I checked it out with a third person who travels through the Houston airport all the time to find out what on earth the first friend was getting at. The third person said “Just be sure and bring at least $4 worth of quarters for the tollway, and aside from that, there should be no problem.”
It turned out I had no trouble whatsoever. If I had listened to the first person’s perception of reality, I wouldn’t have done something that was actual quite easy to do. I’m sure you can think of many examples in your own life.
This is another situation coaching is good for. Friends tend to bring their own fears into advice-giving, and think about what they would do and how they would feel instead of being able to see if from your point of view. Whatever your goal, whatever you have in mind, there is someone out there who would be afraid of it. A coach can be objective.
Whether you want to be an entrepreneur, or marry someone from another culture, move to a Caribbean Island, or write a novel, or bungee jump, there is someone to whom this is a frightening thing who will do their best to discourage you because of their own feelings about it.
Developing your Emotional Intelligence has many benefits. Give it a try! Most people get immediate results and realize immediate improvements in their lives.