Posts Tagged ‘Emotional Responses’

Research proves happiness makes you younger and successful in life

Article Contributed by Guest Author Madalina Iacob

Our internal state is directly correlated with how we age, our health and success in life. Happiness is a relative term, and it is unique to a person’s personality, desires and values in life. Unhappiness comes from lack of self-awareness in knowing what you truly want in life, and therefore bouncing all over the place living conditions others live, because you think living them will make you happy as well. This is the scenario where you compromise or give up your dreams in order to fit in with the majority. The unpleasant surprise you discover afterwards is that you just created responsibility and complications in your life, with situations you don’t really want, and that will make you even more hopeless and depressed.

Unhappiness also comes from you knowing what you want but feeling powerless in getting those life circumstances.

With every negative though we have we’re releasing chemicals into our body, constantly changing our cell’s genetic information which will then show up as wrinkled and dull complexions, hollow eyes, illnesses and pains in the body, addictions and poor performance at work.

On the other hand, when we are happy, we look younger because our internal state reverses and erases the usual marks that come with biological age. Our skin glows, is elastic, resilient and tends to repair itself more easily. Because we feel good about ourselves we are full of energy, there’s a sparkle in our eyes, we smile and laugh a lot and look for opportunities to enjoy every moment to the fullest. We tend to make healthier choices for our body, mind, soul and excel in our careers.

Positive emotions lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, undo the effects of stress and make people playful and smart. Happy people are concerned with what makes them joyful, set priorities and get everything they want at the right time through focus, positive expectation and determination.

Passion for what they do in life brings them inner knowledge, and generates positive emotions such as enthusiasm, wonder, excitement and joy of living. All of these emotions expand their awareness and thinking abilities, their creativity soars and their mind opens up with curiosity integrating new intellectual abilities.

Harvard positive psychologist Shawn Achor in his book “The happiness advantage” shares his research results: “We found that optimism is the greatest predictor of entrepreneurial success because it allows your brain to perceive more possibilities. Only 25 percent of job success is based upon IQ. Seventy-five percent is about how your brain believes your behavior matters, connects to other people, and manages stress.”(1)

Moreover, contrary to mediocre beliefs that happiness is not in our control, he shows that happiness can be cultivated: “Genes are really important to happiness, but that’s based upon the cult of the average. What that means is that the average person doesn’t fight their genes. So if you’re born with genes for obesity or for pessimism, and you don’t change your behavior, then your genes win. Happiness comes easier to some people, but happiness is a possibility for all, if we change our behavior or our mindset”(2)

Spokeswoman for Google, Jordan Newman, Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology, says the company’s philosophy is to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world. Why? Because Google knows that happy employees outperform unhappy ones, and that the emotional fitness will generate creativity and problem solving abilities for their software developers.

Google was one of the first corporations to create a wonderland labyrinth of play areas for their employees, in order to increase productivity. They have massage chairs, kitchens or sunny outdoor cafeterias with chaises that serve free food and beverages at all times, free yoga and Pilates classes, football tables and slides, vintage subway cars or Lego play stations, and secret doors leading to private reading areas. All these amenities are meant to change the neurology of the employees, so they can engage better and become more creative. There have been studies done, and the discoveries show that our brain absorbs information at a much faster rate when we are having fun (3) Think back of one of your favorite professors and remember how you got to like the subject so much more because of their personality and teaching style.

As your SI, NLP and EQ coach I am here to help you easily change your mind set, so you can become aware of what you truly want, and learn to produce empowering emotions which will be used as fuel and become a catalyst for behavioral change. You cannot change your external life conditions if you don’t stop to look inside, figure out what you truly want, and then change your mindset, emotional make-up and behavior to create those life conditions. We are very much programmed by our parents, teachers and society at large to believe and value certain things, to fit in with the norm. But there comes a moment in life when you see that even though you have been following all the rules, and you might have all that you should, you don’t feel happy or fulfilled. Every great idea or innovation in the history of human kind has been considered crazy, dangerous or impossible until one person believed otherwise and made it a general accepted truth. Anything is possible and in your power, as long as you have a clear mind, use your emotions to empower yourself, and have fierce determination for what you want.

From personal experience I can tell you that even though by society’s standards I was a successful person in every area of my life, I was not happy, and I had to completely give up all security and start fresh. Coming to US after going for Law School in my native country, I decided to switch fields and do Business Administration and then Positive Psychology because I always dreamed of having my own business and helping people live better lives. At 26 I had a great job working in the Finance department of a large corporation and married my high school sweetheart. Even though by society’s standards I was an accomplished person on the rise, inside I felt like a stranger in my own life. I did not like my job, I only liked the money I was making, and I did not feel connected to my husband anymore, even though he has always been the most loving man I could have asked for. Maybe to blame is the fact that we met at a very young age and have been living together since I was 16 and he 19, or maybe the fact that we did not know how to meet each others needs as we matured.

There was a war going on inside of me with one side saying “you have everything a woman can ask for”, and another side saying you will have a safe life but there is so much more beyond that.

So I started my training in the field of coaching, and told my husband I want a divorce. Even though I regretted hurting him with my decision of getting a divorce, I felt it was wrong for us to stay in a safe marriage where I didn’t feel alive and he didn’t feel appreciated. The passion was always there and that is what kept us together for 14 years. The only problem was that of not listening to the other without losing our patience, and starting a fight out of nothing. Both of us having fiery temperaments, we unconsciously drained ourselves with fights and that created a disconnection.

I won’t lie, change is scary and leaves you vulnerable a lot of times, because all your fears will have to come to the surface, but the rewards are worth it. Once you face your fears you become stronger, and a deep knowing that you can be, have or do anything you want starts settling in. Once that empowered outlook in life is achieved, you start living authentically the life conditions you desire and your life gradually changes for the better.

You cannot trick your brain and emotions. If you’re pretending to everyone else through your words or behavior that you’re happy when in fact you feel discontent with your life choices, it will not help you change how you feel inside. What you feel inside will still show up outside, no matter how much you try to lie to yourself and others.

That is why finding your path, and making meaningful life choices is much more important than following what everyone else is doing. Most people live circumstances they don’t really want, because they feel pressured to compromise and fit in with the lifestyle of your regular Joe or Jane.

If you know that what you want is something different from what most people around you live, go for it, break the rules and make your own rules. Have the courage to be your own master and live a life which brings you happiness regardless of what lifestyle others say you should be living. Live life on your terms and believe in your dreams, if you want an extraordinary life.



1-Achor, Shawn: The Happiness Advantage. Virgin Publishing. September 1st, 2010


3- Hanson, Rick Ph.D. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science Of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. Harmony. Oct 8, 2013


Change Your Habits. Change Your Life.

Article Contributed by Guest Author Doreen Lima, MBA, EIC

If I had to choose one word that has the power to transform lives in meaningful and substantive ways I would choose the word habits.

I have an incredibly talented client who is recognized as an emerging star in his field. He’s never held a 9 to 5 job, punched a clock other than his own, or depended on a corporate salary. Grateful to have found his calling early in life, he’s enjoyed great success doing what he loves and has a natural aptitude for. In fact, in the early days of his career everything seemed to happen effortlessly. However, years of coping with last minute changes in the scope of work, client expectations, and deadlines led him to develop some self-defeating habits that affected his work and personal life. As a result his creative output became rushed, predictable and joyless. He said to me, “My muse used to kick in and inspire me to create. Where has she gone? Why isn’t she doing her job?”

Distraction Limbo

While his muse had not abandoned him there’s no question that it was difficult for her to be heard over the din of the distractions he had built into his life. Habits of thought and action were keeping him trapped inside a perpetual mind and behavioral loop, one I choose to call distraction limbo.

A typical morning would find him sipping a cup of coffee while reading the morning papers. Then he would get online to check his emails, but he wouldn’t respond to them, preferring to deal with them later in the day. Next he would check social media sites, online magazines, newspapers, and forums. Then some of the postings or information he read would lead him to look up word definitions, viral videos, trending topics, or an article that caught his attention. This would last for hours or once in a while, an entire day. In between there would be long winded phone calls or the occasional extended lunch. Engaging in these time wasters resulted in being last on the conference call, late to a meeting or forgoing trips to the gym and social engagements. Suddenly many of his projects were getting done in reaction mode, with little planning or scheduling taking place. Only when he was really pressed by a request or a deadline would he get down to execution, usually sometime late into the evening.

How Habits Are Formed

Helping people like my client overcome self-sabotaging habits requires some understanding of how habits become habits in the first place. We know that repetition plays a role but science and study have shown forming a habit is more complicated than just repeating something over and over again. There’s a lot going on behind the mental screen. Some of the keys to habit formation are emotional intelligence skills such as self-awareness and self-regulation, coupled with a dose of brain chemicals that make us feel pleasure or avoid pain.

An excellent book that clearly lays out the science behind the formation of habits is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. In his book, Duhigg, an investigative journalist and New York Times reporter makes the case that habits are the brain’s way of taking a break.

Duhigg’s assertion makes sense. A habit is basically an automated action that allows the brain to get on with the higher level business of dealing with more complicated and intricate endeavors like making a decision, doing math or thinking about how to solve a problem. And because they are automated, once we ingrain a habit, it’s with us for life whether we engage in it or not. The saying “falling into old habits” is not just a cliché. It takes vigilance and commitment to maintain new ways of doing especially if we’re looking to replace disempowering habits like the type my client had grooved.

Cue. Routine. Reward.

As discussed by Duhigg, there are three parts to a habit; a cue, a routine and a reward (positive or negative). For example, your dog wakes you up every morning at the same time with a bark. That’s a cue. His bark signals you to take him out for a walk. Pulling on your sweats, looking for the leash and walking over to the dog park for 30 minutes of playtime is a routine. The reward for practicing the routine might be that you meet other dog owners with similar interests. When your brain receives the realization of the reward, for example the possibility of expanding your social circle, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good, which in turn reinforce the routine. The upshot is that the next day you will gladly get up to take the dog out for his walk.

Positive & Negative Rewards

As we know not all habits are derived from positive stimuli. This was true of the habits my client employed to enable and reinforce procrastination. Distracting himself by engaging in mindless activities helped him avoid feelings of anxiety and stress but also shut down his access to higher level thinking. Unfortunately the quality of his work suffered because he was paying less attention to it and this in turn fed the fear that he’d lost his talent. He hadn’t. His feelings of stress were further compounded when he had to argue with himself to get work completed. The inner dialogue that resulted from this self-argument began to blanket his life with a sense of malaise and futility. He was doubting his abilities because he couldn’t get on with the job of creating.

It’s to be noted that overriding a habit formed by negative stimuli is a little more difficult because of the way our brains have evolved over time.

Choice: The Midbrain or Prefrontal Cortex

To further understand the formation of habits it’s helpful to know that the midbrain, the epicenter of the rewards circuit, and the pre-frontal cortex, the place where reasoning lives, are often at odds with each other when we’re determining what course of action to take.

The midbrain is the place that drives us to search for things like food and shelter. This is where fear and anxiety hang out. The midbrain is older than the pre-frontal cortex and as a result, thanks to its more established circuitry, will often (but not always) triumph over reason.

For my client, the first step toward disabling his habits of procrastination was to pose and answer the question “what is the real cost of frittering away my time?”

Based on the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear he was experiencing, his immediate in-denial answer was, none. His choice to engage in mind numbing distractions like watching YouTube videos was deemed necessary to keep his anxiety at bay whether he was conscious of his decision or not.

The rational viewpoint on the other hand held that my client’s relationships, earning power, client base and creative projects were left wanting due to his increasingly time consuming habits of procrastination. He also suffered from insomnia because all of the feelings he was trying to tamp down during the day occupied his thoughts when he tried to sleep. In addition, opting to spend time on the internet in lieu of exercising had begun to impact his health. The consequences of his actions were measurable.

Answering the question about the real cost of his habits led him to fully understand and acknowledge the impact of his choices, but interestingly didn’t incite him to take action or make changes. If anything, it caused more anxiety because he wasn’t taking action.

When he explored a second question “what are you really searching for” he realized something he hadn’t considered. He was living a lonely professional life. There was no one to bounce ideas off of; no one to help sharpen his thinking. Although he employed a virtual assistant as well as the occasional personal assistant, they weren’t enough to amp up his game where projects were concerned, and because he passed some of his days without an in-person interaction of any kind, spending time commenting on blog posts, chatting in forums, and tweeting gave him a sense of belonging and connection. What he hadn’t counted on, what he hadn’t realized, was just how much he needed regular real-time, in-person connections with his peers to challenge and inspire him.

Learning of this need was the reason his pre-frontal cortex won the day. He made a deliberate and conscious choice to stop feeding the habits of procrastination. He sensibly concluded that if he found ways to increase moments of face-to-face contact with peers in his industry he could replace his “time frittering” habits with new ones that would empower him and bring him back to a more productive way of being.

New Habits

The key to establishing these new habits began with a support group. He brought together local professionals he knew or had heard of, working under similar circumstances. Since its inception, this group meets once a week for breakfast to discuss issues, workloads, ideas, and opportunities. The goals of the group are similar in some measure to the intentions and structure of a well-run mastermind group. In addition, every month two members pair off as accountability partners. They trade off calling each other on weekday mornings and speak for a total of 15 minutes (they set a timer) to review their daily agendas and share the previous day’s accomplishments. The buddy pairings have positively influenced and reinforced one of my client’s new productivity focused habits. The cue is the phone call. The routine is the daily agenda review. And, the reward is the ability to connect positively and constructively with another person every day. Good friendships and award-winning work collaborations have resulted.

Today my client still does some meandering on the net but it’s driven by professional need or scheduled as a reward break. Another new habit: twice a week he meets up with friends or participates in social, professional or community based events. Although this sounds like a relatively easy transition from one habit to another, it was not. His new habits are reinforced by a continued willingness to self-examine and remain self-aware, to look for solutions appropriate to the situation at hand, to engage the help of a support system, and to demonstrate a continued commitment to the routines required by his new habits of productivity. His rewards have been many and the voice of his muse has returned but my client is clear that his old habits survive in the crevices of his brain waiting to be called into action again if he so chooses.



Social & Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Optimizing Decision-Making

Article Contributed by Guest Author Gloria Zamora

Fact based management has proven to be a very beneficial tool to arriving at sound decisions.  Overwhelmingly, data and logic are the main currency of business.  To ignore the facts is to refuse to face reality and learn from past successes and failures.  At the same time, sales professionals know that every decision has some element of emotion.

So how does social and emotional intelligence complement left brain logical decision-making?

David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone in their Harvard Business Review article, “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making,” postulate that there are simple decisions that have clear cause and effect relationships, as well as complicated decisions that have discoverable but not immediately apparent answers.  These types of problems in what they call a fairly ordered world lend themselves to linear, logical, sequential thought processes to arrive at the right answer.

On the other hand, complex problems have many competing ideas, unpredictability and unknown unknowns.  These conundrums in a more unordered world are best solved with pattern-based assessments.  Creative solutions can be buried in linear thinking.  Social and emotional intelligence and big picture thinking to connect the dots are required to arrive at the best outcome.

Without right brain thinking, which Daniel Pink would call a “Symphony aptitude”, emerging patterns would be missed.  Understanding group dynamics and the unspoken language of other players in the equation provides invaluable insights into the many factors impacting the circumstances.  What is being conveyed, yet not being openly discussed? Those oblivious to social awareness cues are at a distinct disadvantage.

At the same time, not understanding our own and others’ emotions can lead to perilous endings.  Warren Buffett talks about his $200 billion blunder that he made when he was 34 years old.   When he invested in Berkshire Hathaway, a textile company, he felt he had been misled by Seabury Stanton, the CEO.  Buffett was upset about the unfair dealings he had experienced, so he proceeded to buy majority control of the company and  then fired the CEO.  Unfortunately, his sweet revenge was ill fated.  Berkshire Hathaway had been a poor investment.  He recognizes now that to “seek revenge at any cost” can cost you dearly.  He estimates that had he invested in the insurance industry, his company would have been worth almost twice as much today.  Allowing negative emotions to cloud your judgment will never result in optimum solutions.

That is the lesson of Social and Emotional intelligence.

Have you found a correlation between the complexity of a problem and the heightened need for social and emotional intelligent right brain thinking?

Is Optimism Really Good for You?

Choose to be optimistic.  It feels better.

– Dalai Lama XIV

This is the first in a series of blogs on Positive Psychology and how it supports our work in coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence.

Last Spring, I had the wonderful good fortune to take a class* from the late Dr. Chris Peterson.  Chris was one of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology and a scholar and researcher with a long-standing interest in optimism (as well as health, character, and well-being).

Sadly, for all of us who studied with him, and for all the world, Chris passed away unexpectedly last October.  He was an inspiration to me and to many others in the world of Positive Psychology.  He taught me to strive to seek the positives in life, to “pursue the good life,”  to scientifically study what goes right in life, and to always remember that “other people matter.”  He is so missed, and one of my primary goals in teaching a new course (starting next week) on Using Positive Psychology in Coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence is to pass along some of the many lessons Chris taught me.

Today, we will touch on some of his work related to optimism.  Prior to Chris Peterson’s research, optimism had developed something of a bad rap (believe it or not).  People equated optimism with Pollyanna, and the annoying Dr. Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide  (i.e., foolish, stupid, unrealistic optimism).

Positive Psychology is based, above all, on science, and Chris Peterson turned his attention to the scientific study of optimism.   In fact, studies of optimism preceded and helped usher in the field of Positive Psychology, which is why we will start here.

An enormous amount of empirical research over the decades (Peterson’s and others) has demonstrated that optimism is good for us.  Among the benefits, optimism can lead to:

  • Better health, bolstered immunity
  • More satisfying relationships (both friendships and intimate relationships)
  • Greater success in work, school and sports
  • Less stress
  • Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure
  • Increased longevity (longer life)
  • Greater happiness
  • Enhanced resilience and coping skills
  • Greater productivity and motivation
  • More patience
  • Enhanced physiological and psychological well-being
  • More effective problem-solving
  • Greater self-confidence and positive self-regard
  • Improved social life and bonding between individuals
  • Greater focus
  • Improved communication and self-expression
  • Enhanced mental flexibility and creativity

Optimism and other positive emotions have a positive impact on virtually every bodily function and organ in the human body, including the brain, the heart, the vascular and immune systems, the hormonal system and on detoxification.

An optimistic expectation leads us to the belief that goals can be achieved.  Positive expectations can be self-fulfilling.  So how can we set optimistic expectations, both for ourselves and in support of our clients?  This will be the subject of a future blog post and will also be explored in our upcoming class (starting next week!) Using Positive Psychology to Coach Social + Emotional Intelligence. 

In this advanced class, we will be covering dozens of Positive Psychology exercises and interventions (related to optimism and many other topics that can add significant value to our practice of coaching social and emotional intelligence).  To register, click here


*While I have taken several courses in Positive Psychology over the past few years, I had the good fortune to take the Positive Psychology class with Dr. Chris Peterson through MentorCoach, LLC, a coach training school based out of Bethesda, Maryland.  Their foundational coaching training program is based on the principles of integrating evidence-based coaching and the science of Positive Psychology.  For anyone seeking an ICF-accredited program for your foundational coaching training, I highly recommend MentorCoach.  For information, contact Dr. Ben Dean at

Take a Positivity Break

This week’s article comes from Betty Mahalik, one of our own S+EI Certified Coaches.  This article deals with positive psychology and the tremendous positive impact this can have on coaching our clients and on ourselves.  In fact, this topic is so important, we have added an advanced course on positive psychology to the course line-up here at the The Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence.  Betty’s blog post on this topic is definitely worth your time and an excellent article.

Last week I received one of those blog messages that I believe has changed my life. It was from Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of a book I’m reading called Buddha’s Brain, that links current neuroscience research findings with ancient practices such as meditation. His message, backed by research was this: focusing on the positive really works to grow your brain, increase your emotional balance and generally make you a happier, healthier person.

I’ve always prided myself on being a positive person, but Rick’s article took the idea of positivity to a whole new level for me. You see it’s not enough to simply think positive thoughts or keep a gratitude journal or count your blessings. Those are fine as far as they go. But the real juice—that research is now validating as vital for improving your mood, attitude and your health–comes from internalizing those positive experiences at a deep level, using multi-sensory images to “burn” them into your brain. I recently explained it to a coaching client like this: using all of your faculties, reenact the positive experience and then imagine that the positive emotions being triggered are sinking down into your whole body like butter melting into a hot English muffin.

Want to try it? Start right now by recalling a positive moment from the past 24 hours. It might be something as simple as a trip through the produce department of the grocery store to something more emotionally meaningful like a loving conversation with a friend or family member. Now in vivid detail recall that experience with as much sensory memory as you can muster. What color were the fruits and veggies? What color was your friend or family member wearing? What else did you notice during the experience? What smells do you recall? Was there a particularly loving expression or a smile your loved one was wearing? What did you hear? Were there any particular sounds or words you want to recall from the experience?

Once you’ve reenacted the experience with as much imagery as possible, now imagine all of the positive emotions you experienced seeping down through your brain, spreading into your body, neck, back, shoulders and heart. Stay with the imagery and the sensations of love, peace and well-being for as long as you want. You can do this exercise in as little as 30 seconds or take a longer 2-3 minute positivity break. According to Hanson, the longer you can hold the images and feelings the stronger the beneficial effect on your brain: “The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in implicit memory.”

This practice not only sharpens your recall of the positive things in life, (something many of us have a hard time doing because of a built-in survival bias for noticing the negative), it actually builds more positive neural activity in the brain, which has a beneficial effect on everything from your productivity to your health, according to Hanson’s research. It also strengthens your ability to experience more positive emotions in the moment.

Keep paying attention to the positive and here’s what Hanson says begins to happen: “Over time you will fill up your cup, overcoming the negativity bias of your brain with a growing, inside-out sense of happiness, love, and peace.”

Don’t know about you, but I think our world and each of us as individuals could do with a growing, inside-out sense of happiness, love and peace.

I’ve noticed since I started consciously taking positivity breaks that I’m calmer, more centered, naturally more grateful and I’m paying attention to the little joy-filled moments of everyday rather than waiting for the “biggies” to happen and being disappointed when those so-called big moments don’t live up to my inflated expectations. I also notice that I’m replaying those negative memories and moments less frequently, another benefit to the positivity practice!

Every moment is a gift. This year I invite you to start engaging in regular positivity breaks. Train your brain to “take in the good” and develop the daily habit of reviewing those small but precious moments of happiness that often flit by unnoticed.

Okay I’ll take the lead and declare today a special occasion: National Positivity Day! Now it’s your turn to help create a groundswell of positive experiences and emotions. Go ahead and take a positivity break….take in the good….feel the love.

Have a positively wonderful day, week, month and year!

If you have an interest in learning more about positive psychology and how it can be used in coaching social + emotional intelligence,  our next class starts Thursday, March 7th.  You can view the entire schedule by visiting

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5 Easy Steps to Fabulous Feedback

Once in my career, my “boss” wrote my annual review in pencil. Yes, seriously. There was very little feedback on the actual form and when pressed, I learned he wrote it in the 15 minutes before I arrived in his office for our meeting. I felt devalued and like I was wasting my time. My trust was completely blown and my respect for him dropped immensely. The same person whose lips were saying, “I really want to see you succeed, how can I help?” was showing me through his actions that there was no intention to follow through.

As leaders, it is essential for us to “get it right” when it comes to coaching and mentoring others in our organization. These may be peers, direct reports, or even our superiors, as the need to manage up is crucial for our success. Giving positive, constructive feedback is key. I don’t mean the “pat on the back variety.” I mean real, meaningful feedback that allows the individual to truly know how they are doing, what can be done better, and celebrate specific successes.

When you are giving feedback in an annual review, or in the moment, be sure to use the following steps to maximize the value for the individual receiving it also for you.

  • Be specific—provide specific examples of actions and behaviors that attributed to the outcomes. Balance the positive and the negative as much as possible. Avoid judgment in your specifics. Just the facts “ma’am.” And be genuine in your approach.
  • Be timely—in an annual review, be careful of focusing only on events that have occurred recently. Instead, be sure you have collected successes and challenges from throughout the year. This should not be the first time your report should be hearing about either positive or negative situations. The annual review is a round-up; a time to review the progress being made. Feedback on performance should be ongoing to avoid surprises and maximize the opportunity for learning and growing.
  • Show courage and compassion—don’t dance around if you are delivering difficult feedback to an individual. Get right to the point and offer suggestions for how improvements can be made. This provides the individual with hope and moves them into thinking about the future instead of the past. Make sure you affirm the talents and skills of the individual. Equally important for leaders is to not fool yourself. Do not excuse poor behavior or performance. You may need to show courage and compassion by cutting your losses. This can be freedom producing for both you and the individual.
  • Be sincere and honest without demoralizing the person—empty praise is easy and just…well…empty. Likewise, words like “always” and “never” will lose your audience and they will not be able to see through their defensive lens. Do not go on the attack. This isn’t about putting someone in their place. Feedback is about helping someone rise to be a better version of themselves.
  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare—It is critical to spend some time thinking about what really needs to be said and the best way to say it. Ask yourself how you would receive the information presented they way you are considering? Do you need to make some adjustments? Are there extenuating circumstances that will make it easier or more difficult to hear feedback at this time?

Quality feedback increases trust, accelerates results, and ultimately impacts the bottom line. Great leaders have a gift for giving timely, effective feedback that moves those they are mentoring/coaching to the next level as they incorporate changes in their behaviors and performance practices.

To fully assess your current competence in Coaching and Mentoring Others and create a personalized development plan, contact the Institute for Social +Emotional Intelligence at or go to our website to learn more.

Will You Just Listen to Yourself?

Article contributed by guest author Joel H. Head, ACC

The Screamer!My mother’s voice comes back to me from time to time. It was her way of saying slow down. Check in. Is that how you really feel? Just listen to yourself.

Listening to your inner voice, some say “God’s voice”, is a way of tuning in to your innermost thoughts and beliefs. The scientists call it “clairaudience.” Sometimes that inner voice is calm and reassuring or even a cheerleader. And sometimes, operating out of fear, it yells stop, you’re not good enough, or not smart enough to pull that off.

Self-awareness, one of the tenets of emotional intelligence, can be difficult to achieve. You have to get in touch with how you feel in the moment and how events or people affect you. Does your boss give you a headache? Do deadlines curl a knot in your stomach? What exactly are you feeling right now? And what triggered that feeling?

Self-awareness also means listening to your innermost thoughts and emotions because they provide clues to how you are acting and the results you are getting. Are your inner beliefs holding you back, like an anchor weighs down a boat? Or are your innermost thoughts propelling you forward with wind in your sails? Just listen to yourself for clues about how to deal with daily situations in your life.

There is truth in the old saying “be careful what you wish for”. Because thoughts are energy which attracts like-energy. Like beams into the universe, your negative thoughts will attract negative people or events. Think more positive energizing thoughts and the world will open up. Author Mike Dooley sums it up simply as “thoughts become things.”

So tune into yourself. Become more aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking at different parts of the day. In addition to just being plain relaxing, the information you gain will help you to lead a happier, more energetic life.

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
Shel Silverstein

How Do You Recover From Emotional Hijacking?

Article Contributed by Guest Author Betty Mahalik

You’ve most likely heard the term “emotional hijacking” (or “amygdala hijacking”), coined by Dr. Daniel Goleman to describe what happens when a person’s emotions become overwhelming, causing them to “flip out.”  Such an episode can result in physical, mental and emotional damage to both the person experiencing the hijacking, and others who might be watching or be the victim(s) of such an episode.

It starts with a triggering incident, often something relatively minor in the grand scheme of things:  a driver that cuts you off in traffic, a petulant teenager, or an employee who fails to follow directions.  The incident sets in motion an emotional and physiological “runaway train” that can cause serious damage to your health and relationships.

The thoughtless words, the negative comments, the temper tantrum may produce emotional scars that never go away.  Virtually everyone has had one of these adrenaline-fueled fits where we feel powerless to control the emotional tidal wave.

But we aren’t powerless!  We can learn to circumvent our emotional outbursts and safely “dispose” of the negative emotions in healthier ways.  Here are seven ways to recover from an emotional hijacking:

1)    When your emotional trigger gets tripped, stop as soon as possible.  That’s right stop!  Stop your rant, stop your mental terrorist attack on the situation. Stop!  I don’t mean to stop driving if you happen to be.   But if your meltdown is happening in the car, stop focusing on anything but the matter at hand—driving.

2)    Take some deep breaths.  Breathing calms the emotions and simultaneously the mind.  Deep breathing is a known antidote to the adrenalized, heart-pumping fight-or-flight response brought on by an emotional hijacking.  Practice it often and always when the rush of emotions threatens to overtake you.

3)    Count to 6.  Growing up you probably heard the old adage to count to is 10.  Turns out there’s a lot of truth in that. Researchers have discovered it takes about 6 seconds for the response to a triggering event to move from the fight or flight center in the brain to the pre-frontal area where rational thought takes place.  Count to at least 6 before saying a word or taking an action and you may just save yourself from going over the edge.

4)    Put yourself in “time out.” If possible change your physical location.  Go someplace quiet where you can down-shift and work through some of the other steps.

5)    Ask yourself what the real problem is, or how best to solve or address the issue you’re facing.  You may realize it’s only a problem because you’re making it one.  Trying to “prove” that another driver is a jerk, for example, will be a futile and possibly dangerous endeavor.  Besides, allowing the stress-induced fit to continue robs you of brain power. According to one research study, allowing your emotional reactions to run rampant can cause you to temporarily lose up to 15% of your cognitive thinking ability!

6)    After the incident, concentrate on calming down even further.  If possible stop your activity completely and repeat numbers 2, 3, and 4 until calm and reason return.  You’ll be doing others as well as your nervous system a huge favor by taking the time to physically, mentally and emotionally regain your balance.  The stress from an emotional hijacking can have a serious effect on your physical health so taking the time to “de-tox” is well worth it!

7)    Finally, have a short internal command you can issue when you feel yourself losing it.  Good possibilities are “Calm down!” or “Pause!”  Silly and simple as it sounds, just telling yourself mentally to calm down or pause can interrupt the emotional flood long enough to regain your composure.

Now take a deep breath and reflect on the words of this Chinese proverb: “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” – 10 Best Books on Emotional Intelligence

You can read this entire Blog article in its original format at

We at The Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence® have been invited to share this great article from  They have put together their 10 Best Books on Emotional Intelligence.  As you read their article, I invite you to think about the following questions:

What do you think?  Are these the best books on emotional intelligence?  What other books would you add to this list?  And are there any you would remove?  When you are looking for a book on emotional intelligence, what is it you are seeking to learn?

I welcome your feedback on the list!

The 10 Best Books on Emotional Intelligence

originally posted Feb 22, 2012

By Staff Writers

While a high IQ can go a long way in helping you to be successful in the world, studies are increasingly demonstrating that your EQ, or emotional intelligence, is of equal (or perhaps even more) importance. Whether it’s sustaining personal relationships, working on a group project in college, talking with your boss, or managing your own employees, emotional intelligence plays a key role in how successful these interactions are or are not, often in ways we’re not even readily aware of. If you’d like to give your EQ a boost, there are plenty of great books out there on the subject that can help teach you the fundamentals of emotional intelligence and help you through activities that will make you and those around you more emotionally healthy in your interactions. We’ve listed 10 of these great books here to help you get started on your emotional education.

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman:

    Curious as to why emotional intelligence might matter more than overall intelligence? Touching on psychology and neuroscience, Dr. Daniel Goleman, an expert on brain and behavioral sciences, explains the crucial skills for success offered by emotional intelligence that can determine your success in relationships and work and may impact your overall health. Even better, Goleman explains that EQ isn’t fixed, and shares ideas on how you can improve your emotional intelligence. Read the rest of this entry »

How do Expertise and Social & Emotional Intelligence Relate in Your Career?

Article contributed by Virg Setzer,MSOP

In my past blog comments I discussed two of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – Ownership and Mindset.  This week I am addressing the third essential, Expertise. 

What is Expertise?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines expertise as:  expert skill or knowledge in a particular field” and Expert as, “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”

In the business world it is not at all uncommon to hear the phrase, “what is his or her expertise?”  In an interview, “tell me about your expertise”, or as senior leaders discuss key successors, the individuals expertise and overall capability is frequently a major discussion.  Sometimes expertise is described using different terms, such as what is his talent, but it all boils down to what is the special capability an individual possesses.  What is the capability or expertise that person has that sets them aside from others, in effect gives them a competitive advantage.

Expertise – Critical for a successful career.   There are many attributes necessary for success, but Expertise is clearly one of the essentials – it is in fact essential to continually build and enhance one’s expertise.  Expertise is not simply the special knowledge gained from focused education and experience. We all know of many people who have a vast resume of educational accomplishments, degrees, certifications, etc., yet are not all that effective in their performance.  Expertise is gaining that special knowledge and associated experience, but most importantly expertise is the ability to employ and apply your knowledge and skill in real world situations, and to do so in a highly effective manner.  Often there are people who are equally qualified in terms of education and experience, but it is the real expert who is able to apply it to achieve maximum performance.

Is expertise limited to technical or functional areas of knowledge and experience?  The ability to effectively employ and apply one’s capability encompasses a number of factors.  Those that are successful likely do not think of their capability as including social and emotional intelligence competencies, yet as we consider Personal Competence and Social Competence, we might make a case that all twenty-six competencies in some way have an impact.   A few however are key contributors to the successful application of expertise.  I believe those that may have the greatest impact are:

  • Organizational awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships; being able to “size up” a situation and plan an appropriate response.  This is critical in applying your expertise in any organization.
  • Integrity: Maintaining high standards of honesty and ethics at all times.  A must to build credibility.
  • Initiative & bias for action: Readiness to act on opportunities.  The term, “timing is everything” does in fact often apply in business – this competency is a major contributor to successful application of expertise.
  • Personal agility:  Readily, willingly, rapidly and effectively anticipating and adapting to change.  Our rapidly changing global and technological world requires personal agility now more than ever.
  • Communication: Listening attentively and fostering open dialogue.  Essential for every effective relationship.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness:  Possessing diplomacy, tact and interpersonal skills, and knowing how to use them to ease transactions and relationships with others; the ability to relate well and build rapport with all people.  Application of expertise cannot be completed in a vacuum – interpersonal effectiveness is essential.
  • Powerful influencing skills: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.  A sub-set of effective communication, but also critical to success.
  • Building Bonds: Nurturing and maintaining relationships, cultivating a wide network; connecting with others on a deeper rather than superficial level.  Essential for a continued effective relationships.
  • Coaching & mentoring others: Identifying others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.  Developing others supports and helps affirm your expertise.
  • Building trust: Being trustworthy and ethical when working and relating to others; ability to establish a bond of trust with others.  Trust is the foundation for successfully employing your expertise.

Building Your Expertise:

Building one’s expertise is not a quick or simple process.  It is also a never-ending process.  As people begin their business careers they may start to build their expertise based upon their educational background, undergraduate and graduate educations – the knowledge they acquired in school.  Over time expertise is expanded and the educational expertise supplemented as experience occurs.  The understanding gained from application in the workplace and on-going learning is vital to enhancing one’s expertise.

Building your expertise also takes into account the topic in my last blog – Mindset – building your expertise requires a “possibilities mindset” – a mindset of continuous learning and development.   I doubt that there is a formula or template for how to build your expertise?  But I encourage everyone at every stage of your career to periodically conduct a self-assessment of your expertise – an Expertise Audit.  Ask yourself, what really is my expertise?  What is the value I bring to the workplace?  Where do I have holes or voids in my expertise?  Have I only focused on developing my technical and functional knowledge and skill or have I also considered the social and emotional competencies associated with effectively deploying my expertise?  How do I best test what my expertise is?  What do I use to compare my expertise against?  Who can give me meaningful input about my expertise?  What actions must I take to improve and enhance my expertise?

Real Expertise sets you apart – it gives you a competitive advantage – consider how you can achieve that level of expertise.  Expertise is one of the Nine Essentials to Career Success – it cannot be taken lightly.  Whether you are 20 or 70, I encourage you to continuously build your expertise and in turn enhance your career!