What did I do?
This week I wanted to get back to my roots - blog-wise.
I wanted to reflect on emotional intelligence (EI). Not the theory, but the practical. The learning and the lived experience.
I have been an advocate of Daniel Goleman’s work for many years. I am a firm believer that regardless of our qualifications it is through strong EI skills that we actually develop our careers and social worlds. This has been long confirmed research-wise by Harvard Business School to name but one.
But how do we develop it. How do we develop the self-awareness that is so essential for building it.
Life as a metaphorical mirror
We are all very conscious of “me” – which one of is not well rehearsed in our loves and passions, skills and strengths, our challenges and our failures. But how do we get there. Understanding ourselves is a lot more than simply listing such facts about ourselves. And of all the things that happen to us in life, which one’s “stick” and make it onto that me-list.
I suggest that we are but nothing without those with whom we interact. Meaning rises out of feedback. Meaningful learning involves effective interaction of what Jaak Panskepp calls our seeking system. At a very primitive level, I am hungry, so I seek food and eat, my hungry is resolved – positive feedback.
This works for our social learning too. It is only through the positive responses of others that we learn contextually appropriate behaviours, i.e. what is appropriate or inappropriate. It is only through the positive responses of others that we learn what is right and what is wrong. This follows us through life, from our early-life care-givers, to teachers and sports coaches, right through to managers in the workplace.
Every new encounter feeds-back to us.
Living the change
I only know I have done the right thing because I am told so – sometimes we have long forgotten this experience. More specifically, as we are learning, our interpretation of success of failure is measured by the feedback we receive. We can – and nearly always do – set our own compasses thereafter. However this implies that North is only ever received wisdom.
And so to the original title of the blog, “what did I do?” Or in its more complete version “what did I do that gave rise to that behaviour?” (aka what provoked that feedback).
I realised very early in my journey with horses that their behaviour in my presence was often a reflection of my own state. How they behaved, was objective feedback around how I was. And if I learned to watch that I could change their behaviour through changes in myself.
And so I carried this awareness away from the stable – I took it to work, I took it home, I took it wherever I engaged with other life. Then someone introduced me to the EI model. Bingo!
I can’t say that I always accept the feedback, but I know that I then have a choice. Feedback provides me with information about the “me” in that situation and invites me to choose. To continue as I am or to shift or change, to be a more effective version of myself in the situation.
Emotionally intelligent life is constantly aware of self in social context, and the social is a practical embodied dance. (Read The Cycle of Somatic Presence).
The “me” that we referred to at the beginning is nothing without “we”. The complexities of feedback loops between those positions shape our experience, and so our learning, and so our very being.