Emotional Intelligence: How Mindfulness Can Help
Good emotional intelligence is vital for personal and professional success. But many people are unsure of what it means and how it can be achieved.
The emotional side of our lives is where our potential for happiness resides. And if we aren’t on top of our emotions, that can be detrimental to our overall wellbeing.
What is emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman describes emotional intelligence as,
“The ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, the emotions of others and that of groups.”
Some people are hugely in touch with how they feel. Others can’t quite put it into words. Emotional intelligence is about recognising and understanding your own emotions enough to begin to exercise some choice around them. It also leads to a better understanding of other people’s emotions. Emotional intelligence, therefore, leads to greater empathy and a better ability to relate to, and collaborate with, others.
How can mindfulness help?
Charoensukmongkol (2015) found that, “Mindfulness improves your ability to comprehend your own emotions, helps you learn how to recognize the emotions of other people around you and strengthens your ability to govern and control your emotions.”
And Li-Chuan Chu (2010) looked at a cohort of 351 full-time working adults employed by public and private enterprises. Sixty per cent of these occupied non-management positions while forty per cent were managers. What they had in common is that all of them meditated. Those participants with greater meditation experience exhibited higher Emotional Intelligence, less perceived stress and less negative mental health than those who had lower levels of meditation experience.
The study went on to randomly divide 20 graduate students with no previous experience of meditation into a mindfulness meditation group and a control group. It measured both groups for the same variables and found that those who completed the mindfulness training demonstrated significant improvements with respect to Emotional Intelligence, perceived stress and mental health compared to the control group.
Mindfulness training is an effective means of developing Emotional Intelligence
One context where we all feel the presence or absence of Emotional Intelligence is in the doctor-patient relationship and that was the context for a workplace study that was carried out in Rochester, New York in 2009.
‘From the patient's perspective, we hear all too often of dissatisfaction in the quality of presence from their physician. From the practitioner's perspective, the opportunity for deeper connection is all too often missed in the stressful, complex, and chaotic reality of medical practice,’ said Michael Krasner, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
In a study published in the Journal of American Medicine in 2009, Krasner and his colleagues reported the results of a mindfulness course they carried out with seventy primary care doctors in Rochester. The training significantly alleviated the psychological distress and burnout that is often experienced by many physicians and improved their well-being. But it also expanded their capacity to relate to patients and it enhanced patient-centred care.
Enhancing the capacity of the physician fully to experience the clinical encounter, in its pleasant and unpleasant aspects, non-judgementally and with a sense of curiosity and adventure had a profound effect on the experience of stress and burnout. It also enhanced their ability to connect with each patient as a unique human being and to centre their care around that uniqueness.
Like many doctors, Edward Stehlik thought he was reasonably good at connecting with his patients and helping them manage their health. But he also sometimes found himself distracted by other demands – the insurance form he hadn’t completed, a colleague's e-mail that needed answering.
‘There's no question, especially after you've been in practice for a while’, he said in an article published by the American Psychological Association, ‘that there are times when you're not as engaged with patients as you should be.’ He signed up for the mindfulness course. ‘If you asked my patients now,’ he said ‘I think they would say I listen more carefully since the training and that they feel they can explain things to me more forthrightly and more easily.’
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