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Emotionally Intelligent Living

Geetu Orme
“As we move into a future that is increasingly uncertain, difficult and potentially stressful, our emotional intelligence will determine who succeeds and who doesn’t, who lives a life of pain and who copes, who is happy and who is miserable, who has long-term relationships and who lives in solitude.” (p. vii)

Geetu Orme wrote Emotionally Intelligent Living to make the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) easy, accessible, and doable for her readers. Her book is an educational guide to what EI is, and why it matters. She cites research, shares personal examples, provides exercises and quizzes, and teaches us how to apply EI in personal life and in the work place.

Background

Being emotionally intelligent involves tuning into emotions and understanding them and taking appropriate action. (p. 6)

EI applies not only to how we take on the daily routine of life, but to how we handle major crises as well. It is “advanced common sense,” applied to your own emotions, as well as those of others. Researchers have developed scales to measure EI. In Emotionally Intelligent Living, you can measure yours and pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.

Orme cites studies showing that: • EI is a learned ability that can be improved at any age. • EI increases with life experience, peaking at age 40 – 49 and then leveling out. • Different professions and jobs require different kinds of EI. • While men and women are similar in EI, women score higher on interpersonal abilities, while men score higher on intrapersonal dimensions, stress management, and adaptability. • EI enhances general intelligence. • EI affects decision-making skills. • EI is an important element of relationships.

The earliest studies on EI date back to the 1920s, when Robert Thorndike studied social intelligence. In 1935, Edgar Doll contributed the Vineland Social Maturity Scale to the fund of EI knowledge. Orme chronicles the history of EI studies up to the present day, ending with Daniel Goldman’s 1998 book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.

For scientific-minded readers, Orme includes a chapter on the neurology of emotions, replete with research findings. Did you know that emotions have a chemical structure in the body? Are you aware that emotions influence our perceptions of time?

The most fascinating finding is that the heart has its own “brain,” nervous system, and intelligence! Emotionally Intelligent Living gives good introductory information about the recent work of Doc Childres, founder of the Institute of HeartMath, whose research shows that the heart is a source of personal power. His groundbreaking studies show that: • The heart produces mood- and performance-altering hormones. • The heart communicates with every cell and organ in the body. • The heart is the key to mind-body harmony and longevity. • The heart influences thinking, physiology, and behavior. • The heart and brain are in constant communication and positive emotions enhance the functioning of both organs simultaneously. • When the heart and brain synchronize, performance improves.

The author also gives a nice overview of the “schools” of EI, each with its own definition of EI and EI measurement scales. They are: • Dr. Reuven Bar-On with his EQ-I scale. • Drs. John Mayer and Peter Salovey with the Multifactor EI Scale. • The Institute for Health and Human Potential, headed by Dr. Pawliw Fry, with the EI-360.

Application – Personal Life

In our personal lives we employ EI in relationships with self, family, friends, and with our intimate partners. One important skill in EI is the ability to recognize our emotions in healthy ways, name them, and appropriately tell others what emotions we are experiencing. Journaling is a good way to begin.

Families with high EI make a commitment to dealing with the emotional aspects of family life as it evolves over time. Orme suggests ways in which families can increase EI, such as watching a movie together and discussing it afterward; what each family member felt about the movie, and how each would handle the difficulties facing the characters. Viewing modern art is another way, with each family member discussing what he or she sees in the art, and what it communicates.

Friendship is a source of joy and bonding. Emotionally intelligent friendships rely on deep, connecting communication and fun. I like Orme’s definition of TRUST as: Truthfulness, Respect, Understanding, Support and Time. She describes each element in TRUST, and alerts us to the emotions that get in the way. Respect, for example, includes being open and non-judgmental. Emotions that get in the way of respect are fear of not being respected in return, and anger over a trespass. Fun, a key feature of all good friendships, requires planning mutually enjoyable activities.

Romantic love, if it lasts, evolves through five stages: romance, battles of competing needs, negotiation, mutual acceptance, and togetherness. Orme gives a chapter of discussion exercises for couples concerning how they handle anger, listening, love, conflict, values, and expectations.

Application - Work Life

Work success relies on five competencies: self-actualization, happiness, optimism, self-regard, and assertiveness. Some jobs require more EI than others; especially those where more person-to-person communication takes place. Many work situations can evoke strong emotions and require good coping skills. EI usually equals good work relationships and productivity.

Orme estimates that 70 percent of career disasters are related to lack of EI. Career success is not always about making lots of money. It means, instead, that your life is in balance. Emotions at work do matter and the exercises in the book will help you to assess your workplace EI and take appropriate action.

Like individuals, teams need EI too. The best teams are those in which members consistently validate one another and respect one another’s feelings as part of the task process. And what about emotionally intelligent leaders? In today’s business climate, they most need: • A knowledge-based technical specialty • Cross-functional and international experience • Collaboration skills • Skills for career management and continuous learning • Personal traits such as flexibility, integrity, and trustworthiness.

For me, the two things that set leaders apart are the extent to which they are open about themselves (and this reflects in the quality of the relationships that they develop both with peers and people who report to them) and the language that they use when trying to motivate people. (p. 134)

Rigidity and poor relationships can topple a leader. Good leaders need to maintain health and high morale so that they can manage people on both the emotional level and the task level. Excellent leaders know about the people who work for them: their families, hobbies, education, values, visions, dreams, and goals. These leaders use persuasion skills to motivate others to share in a common mission.

Decision-making also requires EI. When making tough choices we must consult both head and heart. That goes for decisions about how we spend our time and, ultimately, how we lead our lives. Orme tells us, “Peace is about letting go and trusting that decisions based on our feelings are good decisions.” (p. 142)

About the Author

Geetu Orme is the founder and Managing Director of Ei (UK) Limited, a company at the forefront of advancing innovative EI-based development programs for businesses and schools. In addition to EI measurement and training programs, the firm offers strategic business planning, team building interventions, recruitment and selection support, and leadership programs. Born in Liberia and now living in the UK, Geetu Orme is rapidly gaining a solid reputation as a leader in EI applications. The corporate web site is www.eiuk.com.

Conclusion

Emotionally Intelligent Living is organized well, and easy to read and understand. Its style is upbeat and refreshing. It has lots of extras, such as a glossary, and lists of EI-related schools, training programs, organizations, resources and Internet sites—and, of course, many self-assessment exercises. I felt an affinity for the author, because she provides, as examples, small vignettes drawn from her personal experience and those of her friends. These glimpses of her life are about her relationships, her work, and her recreation—jogging.

This book is fun to read because it maintains a positive focus and the language is straightforward and down-to-earth. It is not a self-help book because it is not remedial. It does not focus on how to fix problems. It is a self-enhancement book because it focuses on how to develop the skills of EI to improve many aspects of living. It is a book about creating comfort with our emotions and developing relationships that work. It is a sensible book that makes for a nice blending of human sensitivity with the results of scientific research.