1 – Introduction to Emotional Intelligence
Good morning everybody. Thank you all for being here.
We like to tell ourselves, "I will be so successful if I have more self-awareness. I will be so successful if I can remain calm and confident in a crisis. I will be so successful if I can understand people better and help people like me."
All these qualities come under the umbrella of emotional intelligence. And the good news is these qualities are skills and because they are skills, like all other skills, these qualities are trainable. Better still, given our experience, these qualities are trainable to a meaningful degree in seven weeks which is the duration of Search Inside Yourself program.
Search Inside Yourself, what you are here for today, is a course about training such skills. It was created in-house in Google in conjunction with Stanford University, where we all are right now, and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and our friend, Daniel Goleman, who talk about a little bit later.
The objective for today's class, we hope that by the time you all walk out this lecture theatre today you will have a basic understanding of emotional intelligence, what it is, and so on and very importantly, you also walk out of today with practical skills that you can already use today which can begin to change your life. But first, a little bit about myself.
So, for those who do not know me my name is Meng and for those who know me my name is still Meng. It turns out my name is invariant to whether or not you know me. Back in high school you study mathematics and you study invariants and you wonder when you ever apply this in real life. Well, this Is it. My name is invariant. So welcome back to the math class.
I am the Jolly Good Fellow of Google. And I think I had the coolest job title in corporate America, "Jolly Good Fellow". And the way I got this job title started as a joke. When we had our engineering career ladder, the highest-ranking engineer in Google is called a Google Fellow and we should say [???] to Vice President.
And the joke I told is; why be a Google Fellow when you can be a Jolly Good Fellow? And everybody laughed and then my philosophy is if everybody laughs that's the right thing to do. So, I had it printed on my business card just for fun and it stuck. And I had that job title ever since. So, that is me, the Jolly Good Fellow of Google.
The textbook for the Search Inside Yourself course is conveniently called, Search Inside Yourself, so it's easy for you to remember. For those of you watching this at home, I would encourage all of you to read the book because there are very important details in the book that we simply do not have time to cover in this course.
So, how do we define emotional intelligence?
Fortunately, there's research from Salovey and Mayer from 1990 who were the originators of this field who defined emotion intelligence in the following way; They said that it's the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions. The ability to discriminate or discern among those and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.
Daniel Goleman wrote a very influential book called, Emotional Intelligence, in which he summarized lots of research and he summarized it in a way that came up with five interrelated domains of emotional intelligence, sometimes called Five Emotional Intelligence Competencies. These are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Five interrelated domains of emotional intelligence training and skills.
Howard Gardner, a very important researcher from Harvard University, wrote a book that was very influential as well called, Frames of Mind, in which he made a very clear point that IQ or intellectual intelligence is not the only domain but in fact that there are multiple forms of intelligence that are important to develop.
Specifically, in this class, the five emotional intelligences map onto two different aspects: intrapersonal skills and interpersonal skills. And in fact, self-awareness, which is defined or characterized as knowing one's internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions loads on intrapersonal. Second domain, self-regulation, the ability to manage internal states, impulses and emotions, also is an intrapersonal skill. And motivation, understanding the tendencies that facilitate reaching one's goals. These three emotional intelligences are
actually loading on interpersonal skills.
Interpersonally, as we extend it into the social domain, there are two other emotional intelligences: empathy, here understood as the awareness of others emotions and concerns and also finally social skills, the being adept or skillful at working with others. These two load on interpersonal emotion intelligence skills. And in this course, we will gradually unpack and provide context for practicing all of these.
This leads us to a question we call the, "So what?" question. I mean, emotional
intelligence is nice but what does it do for me, like "So What?" Emotional intelligence has at least three benefits for you and your organization. The first, not surprisingly, is that it creates the conditions for outstanding work performance. This is actually not that surprising especially in roles or in jobs that require interaction with, let's say, clients. So, it's sales.
For example, if it's sales people, definitely you need emotional intelligence. Definitely they sell more if they have better EI. Right? Well there's a surprise. It turns out it doesn't just work for people from sales. Surprisingly, surprising at least to me, this is also true for engineers. Even for engineers, emotion intelligence create a condition for outstanding performance.
So, if you look at this list, for example, the top six distinguishing factors that distinguish the best engineers from the average engineers are these in this order. So, the first one is a strong achievement drive and high achievement standards. The second is the ability to influence. The third is conceptual thinking followed by analytical ability followed by initiative, you take your own challenges and self-confidence.
You notice something about these six qualities. You notice that there are four emotional competencies in this list of six and two cognitive competencies. Which means that and it gets better, the two top competencies are both emotional competencies. So, that emotional competencies are twice as important leading to outstanding work performance even for engineers. That was my first surprise.
The second thing that emotional intelligence does for you is that it creates the conditions for outstanding leadership which is again not surprising. I mean, imagine the best manager you ever had. Imagine somebody with high emotional intelligence, right?
So, here's another surprise. The surprise is this is true even in the Navy. Which was
surprising to me because when I think of Navy commanders, I think of the best Navy commanders are people who shout orders: Make it so, number one. Engage. Go, go, go!
That's what I think of when I think of top naval commanders. But there was a study done and published in 1988 on what distinguished the best naval commanders from the average naval commanders. And this is what they found, and I'm
going to quote here, "They found the best naval commanders to be positive, outgoing, more emotionally expressive, dramatic, warmer, more sociable, more appreciative, and trustful."
In other words, the best naval commanders are nice guys, people you want to be
with. And funnily enough, the title of this study was, "Nice Guys Finish First". That third and perhaps I think to me the most important benefit of emotional intelligence is that it leads to the conditions for happiness. And just a secret between you and me and the million other people watching this video, this was the real reason we started SIY, Search Inside Yourself.
The other two factors I told you about, they're all true, but I use those to sell this to management, but this is the real reason, I want to create the conditions for happiness for my co-workers and for the world. The first step in creating emotional intelligence is to begin the assumption that emotional intelligence is trainable. When you come to a course like this that advertises itself as an emotional intelligence course, you might think of this as a behavioral course, right?
You might expect to be told, "share a candy," don't bite your co-workers," "be nice to
everybody". So, you might expect to be told what to do. We decided on an entire different approach. We decided instead of doing it a behavioral way, we do it in a way that creates skills. And the theory behind this is, if we can develop the correct skills, the behavioral issues go away.
For example, if we can create the skills to manage anger, then behavior issues concerning anger just go away. So, therefore we say let's focus on training skills emotional competences. And here you see on the board right now these fare examples of skills that we can develop in the space of seven weeks that you're staying with us.
So, examples are; the ability to respond to emotional triggers, how to be triggered and not fly off the handle, the ability to conduct difficult conversations, and also how to be confident in times of stress, for example, speaking in front of a large audience with an accent, for example. I'm just saying.
Why can we do this or what enables us to do this? This is based on a fairly new branch of science called Neuroplasticity. The idea is this. The idea is what we think, what we do, and most importantly, what we pay attention to, change the brain.
So, for example, you have been shown...
So, the example is London cabbies, people who drive cabs in London. It's very hard to get a license to drive a cab in London. In order to qualify for a license, you have to be able to navigate all the streets of central London in your head. Like, given point A and point B, you must be able to in your head say, let's go this way and that way and so on. And it turns out that it takes about most people two to four years of hard study to qualify for the license.
And the question then is, given the training are the brains of London cabbies different from the brains of normal people. It turns out they're different. It turns out that the part of the brain associated with directions called the hippocampus, of the hippocampi. The hippocampus for London cabbies are bigger and more active than normal people and the longer they've been driving a cab the more powerful, the bigger and more active the hippocampus is.
So, just as an example that what we pay attention to changes of brain. Even for adults. And this is true even for emotional skills. And this is a mechanism we'll be
relying for, for training emotional intelligence.
The next question is this. The next question is; So, now we know we're going to train
emotional intelligence, what do we begin the training with? Cognitively, we begin training with attention. And you might wonder, what has attention got to do with emotional intelligence?
The answer is this. The answer is that a strong, stable, and perceptive attention that offers you a calm and clear mind is a basis of emotional intelligence. In other words, we're trying to train attention in a way that you can create a quality of mind that is calm and clear on-demand. Imagine like everything happening around, everything happening around you people shouting at you and you can create a mind that is calm and clear on-demand. And if you can do that, then it creates a foundation for
emotional intelligence and that skill is highly trainable.
Which leads us to another question; how do you train that most powerful skill? Very
simple. We train it with a technique called mindfulness. And mindfulness is defined here by Jon Kabat-Zinn, our friend, as paying attention. And not just paying attention. Pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, very important, non-judgmentally.
This is mindfulness. The good thing about mindfulness is that all of us already know how to do this because it's something that all of us already experience from time to time. That's the good news. The better news, and with me there's no bad news, the better news is that this is something you can sustain and deepen and create on-demand with training this quality of mind. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to train mindfulness and this will be the basis.
Mindfulness will help us create the mind is calm and clear on-demand and this will be the basis of emotional intelligence training.
So, there's an increasing literature on scientific investigations of the effects of mindfulness that help us to provide empirical data of both the short term and long-term effects of mindfulness practice. One such study as shown here has to do with training attention using mindfulness and its effect on brain functions and in particular focusing on the amygdala. The amygdala is a very ancient and important brain region that is one of the most interconnected brain regions. And it's very important in terms of detecting emotional salience, generating emotion, and it's triggering other parts of the brain to come online to help regulate.
In this particular study, as you can see the amygdala shown in blue, in this study there were negative or aversive acoustic stimuli or sounds of people screaming and this is something that would immediately trigger the amygdala to react and to generate very rapidly an emotional response, emotional reactivity. And the idea here is that, in a group of long-term meditators and as you can see in the X-axis, people with tens of thousands of hours of meditation training, their training literally down regulated the amygdala response that would be normally very rapid and very powerfully reactive to negative sounds.
And one of the things that we know about the amygdala is that when the amygdala is triggered it can literally hijack or overtake other psychological processes that are instantiated in different neural circuits. For example, when the amygdala is triggered it can literally override our ability to regulate our attention, to make clear informed decisions, or even to regulate our emotions. Hence the ability to train or modulate amygdala response could be very important for health.
In this particular study, we see that a small group of very well-trained meditation masters and as you can see in the having tens of thousands of hours of training are literally able to down regulate their amygdala via their training in response to a cue, a very aversive negative sound, a person screaming, that would normally induce a very powerful negative emotion response.
One thing that's very important to understand here is that even though the X-axis talks about tens of thousands of hours, if we really think about how many hours does it take to become a master violinist, a master computer programmer, to get a Ph.D. to become a physician, that also, if you counted, would include thousands and thousands of hours of training.
Another very important point here is that there are huge effects of individual differences. People vary very much in their readiness for the meditation to impact their psychology, their skills.
Another very important point is that research has shown that even as little as 100 minutes of meditation training has measurable effects. And that's very promising because it suggests that, again going back to an earlier theme of plasticity, our brains are plastic. The amygdala can be trained, and other brain systems can help to regulate the amygdala response and that this is amenable to meditation training.
There are many different forms of emotion regulation. One form shown here is what's called affect labeling. This refers to generating an emotion word that describes an emotional state. This is one form of emotion regulation. Work coming from Matt Lieberman at UCLA has shown, as shown in this graph here, there's a region of the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex that is more active when we are volitionally engaged in labeling with words our current emotional state.
And also, that brain activity via the medial prefrontal cortex down regulates amygdala response hence the intensity of our emotional response or emotion generation.
Another study following up on this, again looking at individual differences in trait mindfulness, so how much mindfulness different people have as innate as their quality, showing again that this right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex as well as the medial prefrontal cortex vary as a function of how much mindfulness skills people self-report, showing an individual difference brain relationship. Again, more evidence of how mindfulness might literally be related to different brain's prefrontal cortical circuits that help to modulate emotional experience.
And then, very importantly, cartoons. One of the questions that we always ask, and we can ask ourselves is how much of my waking hours am I in the present moment? And what this cartoon suggests is that we spend much time in what I call past tripping or future tripping.
And if we could have a little monitor on top of our heads that measured how much are we in the present, you could really wonder how much am I in the present?
Not that there's anything wrong with considering of the past or preparing for the future, but the ability to intentionally bring the mind back to the present moment i.e. Sati, mindfulness is a very powerful and important skill and you can think of very practical applications like when you really want to pay attention to a friend who's saying something important or you're driving a car or you're listening to your daughter's day, a description of her day at school. The ability to stay in the present as opposed to being pulled into the past and future.
How do we begin to train mindfulness?
There are many ways but one way that we have found in the Search Inside Yourself program is literally paying attention to the body, the embodied sense of mindfulness. And as you can see in this slide, you can begin to read people's emotional states by their bodily posture.
And in fact, what we've come to understand is that there's important brain regions like the insular cortex that maps our whole sense of body or sensory experience and hence paying attention to the body is a way of understanding what emotional state I'm in because all emotional states have physiological correlates.
Why is it so important? Paying attention to sensations in the body is a way of
understanding our moment to moment emotional state because different emotions have bodily correlates. So, the ability to develop a fine resolution laser beam like attention to our moment to moment changes in physiology actually is a way to develop emotional intelligence and understanding what am I actually feeling from moment to moment.
So, this is one basis for training attention to emotions via sensations in the body. One of our friends, Laura Delizonna, actually has a definition, provided this quote or
definition that "emotion is a basic physiological state characterized by identifiable
autonomic or bodily changes".
Simply put, sensations are constantly occurring throughout the body and pinging back to parts of the brain that are always online, sensing, detecting, and again, that this is information that we have access to that we can use from moment to moment to understand our own emotional state and also the emotional state of others.
How do we begin to do this? Through developing what's called high resolution awareness of emotions as they arise. And as you can see in this slide, it raises the question, how refined can I make my attention and what are the ramifications or the benefits that arise from laser beam like attention, high resolution attention, that can notice emotions and their physiological correlates as an emotion arises, fully develops or manifests, changes over time, and even dissolves?
What would be the benefits from developing that high-resolution awareness of our own physiological sensations and reactions that are related to our emotions?
Why are we bringing mindfulness to the body? The reason is to create a higher resolution perception into the process of emotion. What does that mean? Let me illustrate with an example. The example is this, can you detect anger the moment it is a rising? That's important because if you can detect more anger that moment, that is the moment you have control.
Can I turn it on? I mean, do I want to turn it off or do I want to let it continue. You
have choice and the choice comes from that moment and the choice comes from having the ability to perceive that moment. Part of this training is to be able to develop the ability to perceive the process of emotion both at high spatial resolution and high temporary resolution.
This goes back to why we want to bring mindfulness to the body because only by bringing mindfulness of the body can you create the conditions for high resolution perception. What does that mean? So, coming back into the example of detecting anger. If your mindfulness is in the mind, if you bring attention to the mind, it's very hard to detect anger the moment it's arising. However, if you detect in the body, you find that the emotion in the body are a lot more vivid.
For example, in the case of anger for example, you might find your forehead tightening. You might find you're breathing differently. You might find your chest tightening and so on. You might feel your own [???] of anger. And imagine that you're in a situation and you find, "Oh my God, my chest is tightening, my breath is changing. I am beginning to become angry right now."
You have that kind of perception or the high resolution of perception and the only
way to do that is by bringing attention to the body. Which is why this is so important. However, this is not the only benefit. There is another benefit to bringing attention or mindfulness to the body. And this has to do with intuition. A lot of intuition comes from the body. And it sounds a lot like hocus pocus but let me tell you what it means, and you'll find it is all grounded in science.
There is a very interesting study done in the University of Iowa. And the study was this. It's a very simple game. The game is a blue deck and a red deck, and you choose one that comes from one deck and open to one card at a time. So, the interesting thing that the players do not know in the beginning is that the red deck is minefield. So, if you play the red deck, eventually you lose money. So, you had to play the blue deck to win money in the long term.
And after 80 rounds of doing this most people figured it out. They figured out that the red deck loses you money and they figured out how. Just something interesting, before that happens, so, at a 50th turn, before they figure it out cognitively, they had a hunch. They say, "Eh, there's something wrong with the red deck but I don't know what it is." The hunch begins way before the cognition.
But here's something even more interesting. We saw as part of a study they measured the sweat glands of the participants to detect stress. And it turns out that even way before the 40th hand, on the 10th turn, the player already detected it. The player's sweat glands started reacting when they're playing the red deck and their behaviors started changing.
So, it means that way before you had a hunch that something's wrong, your body knows, your body knows. There's is something wrong here or this. So, imagine if you had access to the body's wisdom. You have access to intuition. Why is that the case? It turns out there are neurological reasons.
One part of the brain most correlated or most related to intuition is a very primitive part of the brain called the basal ganglia. It's very primitive and the basal ganglia what it does is sort of create decision rules in life. It detects what's happening in life all the time. And you sort of create rules, like this is good, this is
bad, this is dangerous, this is not. This eats me. I eat this. This is what the basal ganglia does.
And the basal ganglia is so primitive that it has direct connections to the gut but no direct connections to the vertical centers of the brain. Which is why you have gut feelings, literally gut feelings, and you cannot explain your gut feelings. And that is neurological. So therefore, once you create a strong mindfulness in your body you don't just have emotional intelligence.
You don't just have high resolution perception into emotional process, you also have better intuition. This is amazing. The best deal on TV. So, in summary, these are the 3 SIY principles. The first principle is that emotional skills are trainable. And this course Search Inside Yourself is about training those skills. The second is that we start the training with attention, specifically with mindfulness. And the third principle is that emotions are not just in the brain they're also in the body.
It's as much a physiological as a psychological process and therefore we bring mindfulness to the body. And these are the principles of Search Inside Yourself. So, here are some applications and benefits of my mindfulness practice. One application is that with this is mind you can just learn to pause and notice thoughts and emotions throughout the day. Just pausing and noticing, "what am I feeling right now. What I'm thinking right now." Sort of as a state of rest and also a state of reflection. So, that's one possible application.
Another one is just bringing mindfulness into daily activity. For example, we're having sushi. Such a lovely experience. So that's bringing mindfulness through the experience. Or even just taking a walk. Very small things, simple things. Everything you do can inject mindfulness. One of the benefits of this practice is that with enough mindfulness you become very good at recovering from distraction. So, try that. Try that in a situation where you're in a meeting, you have to focus on the
boss and your attention keeps thinking away, use mindfulness. Use your boss as the
object of mindfulness and then you might find that your concentration improves, and you might find you get a promotion. And if you do you, owe me lunch.
And finally, use mindfulness as a tool for emotional stabilization. For example, if you feel the need to send a very angry e-mail, try this. Try instead of sending the angry e-mail now, try going into mindfulness on your breath for just three breaths. That is all. Take three mindful breaths and then if you still want to, feel free to press send. And you might find that sometimes you will decide to not press send and then might save your career.
So, these are some of the applications and benefits.