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7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence

Patrick E. Merlevede, M. Sc. Denis Bridoux, and Rudy Vandamme
In 1995, Daniel Goldman’s bestseller introduced the term “Emotional Intelligence” to the public. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) now stands alongside cognitive intelligence (IQ) as a measure of individual effectiveness and a predictor of success. A high IQ is associated with logic and academic skills. A high EQ is associated with potential for personal fulfillment and satisfying relationships.

Emotional Intelligence: the complex whole of behaviors, capabilities (or competencies), beliefs and values which enables someone to successfully realize their vision and mission, given the context of this choice. (p. 8)

Emotional Intelligence has two components: a) Intrapersonal Intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions, and b) Interpersonal or Social Intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions in others and use that information as a guide for behavior, and for building and maintaining relationships.

This book combines the principles of Emotional Intelligence and NLP to promote an understanding of how emotions work and how we can manage them effectively for optimum living. 7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence is a structured guide; a workbook packed with individual exercises and self-assessments---an intensive course in EQ excellence that addresses emotional conflict, motivation, beliefs, communication, wisdom, creativity and personal success.

Content: The Seven Steps

Why study emotions? Because our emotions link directly to our energy levels, health, and resilience. There is no human activity in which emotions are not involved. The authors present each “step” in acquiring Emotional Intelligence as a lesson, organized into objectives, neuro-linguistic assumptions, NLP patterns, examples, discussion, and exercises. Briefly, the seven lessons are:

Lesson 1: Managing Your Emotions

The first step is to know strategies for emotional control. In this way you can choose how you want to feel in given situations, rather than suffering at the mercy of emotions. You can create the emotions you want, as ends in themselves, and as resources for reaching goals.

Subjective experience consists of internal processes (thoughts, beliefs, strategies and decisions), internal states (feelings, emotions, and moods) and external (observable) behaviors. Correspondingly, there are three gateways for accessing emotions: memory (associated and dissociated), physiology (posture, facial expression, movement, etc.), and anchors (conditioned stimuli).

People respond to many anchors without thought or planning. This chapter shows how NLP processes create anchors through associative learning; so that we can transfer remembered emotions from resourceful experiences to the present. The authors give strategies for resourceful states such as creativity, concentration, and enthusiasm.

Lesson 2: Levels in Experience and Communication

The second step in acquiring Emotional Intelligence is to know your life mission and values, and align your choices with them. This way, you can identify the values and beliefs that guide and motivate your behavior.

By realizing who you are and what matters most to you, you will learn to harmonize your internal processing to respond to others and the world more appropriately…You will become more aware of identify and mission in life so that you fulfill these in the fullness of time. (p. 76)

This chapter explains the “why” of emotions, with regard to logical levels: spirituality, identity, values/beliefs, capabilities/competencies, behavior, and environment. When you have alignment on all levels, you enhance personal effectiveness. With Emotional Intelligence, we can recognize communication at the level intended by the speaker.

Emotions occur at all six levels, and all emotions serve positive intentions, that, in turn, reveal information about values, beliefs, and identity. Finding the positive intention can reframe emotions, reduce the intensity of their undesired effects, and lead to increased self-acceptance. All emotions are tied to meanings. When we “emotionalize” beliefs, by aligning them behavior, expectations of positive results, identity, and purpose, those beliefs become powerful and motivating.

Understanding logical levels in communication can help in establishing rapport with others. It can help change agents decide where to intervene and how to pose solutions. Even organizations can be defined and understood in terms of their logical levels of experience. We can also define logical levels for each of the roles we play as individuals (employee, spouse, parent, etc.).

Lesson 3: Planning for Success

This lesson informs readers about how to work with emotions in setting well-formed outcomes, implementing plans, coping with obstacles and setbacks, and accomplishing goals. Here, the authors introduce the TOTE model as the structure of flexibility. They address a number of thought-provoking issues about the importance of deadlines, the meaning of feedback, ways to make goals measurable and manageable, stress, and learning. They remind us that our hopes and expectations do not always coincide with what we actually get. Happiness then, sometimes rests with the ability to approach the world from curiosity and wonder, and openness to whatever happens, whatever the moment presents---rather than being upset because our plans failed, or our expectations were not met.

Lesson 4: Learn How You Perceive the World and Be in Charge of What Makes You Tick

This chapter gives readers an opportunity to examine their maps of the world in terms of internal representations, submodalities, and meta-programs---yet another way of understanding subjective experience. Our emotions play a part in how we take in and store information and how we filter that information through our perceptual patterns and preferences.

Lesson 5: Emotional Intelligence in Company

The fifth component in Emotional Intelligence is the ability to read the emotions of others and put oneself, mentally, in another’s place. The NLP skill is the ability to shift perceptual positions. This skill can help in resolving conflicts and misunderstandings, in acquiring insight into others’ communications, thoughts, meanings and motivations, and in developing empathy. The authors propose that each perceptual position may have a specific use: First position enhances assertiveness; second position enhances empathy; third position is useful for self-coaching; and fourth position (the systemic view) promotes win-win negotiations.

This chapter contains information on resolving interpersonal conflicts. The authors present a “Model for Qualitative Cooperation” for relationships. It advocates 1) learning how to maintain first position to assert your point of view and satisfy your needs, 2) taking meta-position to see oneself more objectively, and 3) the ability to go to second position to understand the other person.

Lesson 6: Asking the Right Questions

Assuming “The map is not the territory,” Emotional Intelligence requires that we understand another’s needs and plans, in order to create relationships based on agreement and cooperation. To find out those needs and plans, we can ask questions based on a sincere interest in the other and a desire to learn more about what is important to him or her. This chapter presents the Meta-Model as a way of helping ourselves and others communicate with greater clarity that leads to mutual understanding.

Lesson 7: Successfully Interact with Yourself and Others

This chapter is about building rapport. The text covers calibration and observation skills, body language, and matching and mirroring. It pulls together elements from previous chapters such as meta-programs, perceptual positions, representation channels (VAK) and logical levels.

Parting Advice

Seven Steps to Emotional Intelligence wraps up with advice to readers to continue learning about Emotional Intelligence, using this approach: 1. Define your goal 2. Find resources to support your learning process 3. Develop supporting values and beliefs 4. Make a model of the structure of competence 5. Remove old, unwanted reactions 6. Develop a core state and a supporting personal philosophy

The Authors

Patrick E. Merlevede, M.Sc., is an organizational consultant and trainer specializing in Emotional Intelligence, Human Resources, and Knowledge Management. He is the CEO of Integral Perspectives Group, an international network of NLP-inspired companies. He holds a Master’s of Science in Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science Option, from the University of Leuven, Belgium, and is pursuing a Ph.D.

Denis Bridoux is an NLP Trainer, therapist, coach, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Neuro-Semantics, living in the UK. He studied Linguistics in his native France and Education in the UK. Prior to starting his practice, he was a teacher and health specialist in the British National Health Service. He completed his NLP Trainer’s Training with 1995 with Richard Bandler and John LaValle and continues to assist with Bandler’s programs. Since 1997 he has also worked closely with Michael Hall in Neuro-Semantics.

Rudy Vandamme is a professional trainer and coach, directing The School for NLP in Belgium. He obtained certification as an NLP Trainer in 1987 through the International NLP Association. He has conducted coaching at corporations such as Nestle, Capco, and Duracell. He holds university degrees in Psychology, Philosophy, and Anthropology. He is currently working on his Ph.D. at the University of Leuven in Belgium.


NLP practitioners will find in 7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence much familiar territory---perhaps in a new package. How were we to know we’ve been modeling, teaching, and learning Emotional Intelligence all along?

Emotional Intelligence, what many would call “self-understanding” and “people skills” is something most people want. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could choose our emotions each day in the same we choose what clothing to wear?

Or would it? Is it realistic to expect to control our emotions? If we choose to feel happy, in the face of loss or injury, are we in denial? If we choose self-satisfaction, in spite of criticism from others, is that a healthy response? If we could turn emotions “on” and “off,” then to what extent are they valid? If we consistently choose positive emotions in a world of pain and suffering, are we living in a fool’s paradise? Do satisfaction and contentment interfere with the ability to challenge the status quo or to express outrage over injustice?

The only answer I can think of to these questions is “Well, it depends….” The authors would probably say that emotions can be understood and evaluated only in the context of personal meanings, beliefs, and values. They caution that while we can learn to choose our emotions, we should do so with great care, making our decisions conscientiously, with regard to our spiritual beliefs, identity, purposes, values, beliefs, desires, responsibilities, and needs.

As far as I know, the human dilemma has never been too much happiness, peace, contentment, or satisfaction. Rather, the problem has always been how to cope with and overcome the painful emotions that make us wish we could crawl out of our own skins, or slaughter one another. After eons of biological evolution, and decades of astonishing technological advancement, are our emotions much more developed than those of our ancient ancestors? Perhaps Emotional Intelligence is something we could use more of, as individuals, and as a species.