Emotional Intelligence – Built In or Built Up?

Angry Man WEB SMLUnless you’ve been living on another planet, you know a little something about Emotional Intelligence (EI). Therefore, you no doubt know that EI is important in the workforce and why, that everyone has emotions, how to recognize them in others, and that we, as humans, have certain emotions built in or “hard wired” into us. However, other ideas are now coming to the forefront about these built in emotions.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, gives us a set of EI Competencies. They are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Social Skills

Importance of EI at Work: One source suggests that self-awareness forms the foundation of the other factors. An example is someone who is a bully, or obnoxious, or argumentative, and they are unaware of their behavior.  Therefore, none of the other factors will become tools that individual incorporates into his/her coping skills. The behavior will not change, and the office workforce will continue to experience disruption resulting in low morale and poor performance. If the leader is the individual with these types of behaviors and is unaware, crisis can ensue. EI at work remains important. Other ideas have a new spin.

Recognition of Emotions: It is often thought that we can read the faces of our co-workers, our boss, or definitely our family members and understand what they are thinking or what emotion they are feeling.  Based on years of research, a scientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, disputes this idea. Here are some points she gives us to ponder:

Even jurors believe they can read a person’s facial expression to determine if the individual is remorseful for the crime. So, you can imagine with far less weighing in the balance, that we can certainly determine what emotions our co-workers, peers, and boss are letting jump around in the six inches between their ears. Think…how often do you surmise that someone is angry only to discover that they have chronic back pain. How often do you discern that a co-worker is sad, or depressed, only to discover they suffer from allergies? While giving a speech, I might see an audience member who is grimacing, and I think, wow, this person does not like anything I’m delivering, only to find out at the end speech, when they come up to me, and I discover how interesting they find the topic and want to discuss it further. Finally, have you ever thought you could read the facial expression of a co-worker only to discover the facial expression they are exhibiting conveys something totally different in their culture? Such is the case Lisa Feldman Barrett discusses in her Ted Talk.

Built In or Built Up: Even more interesting, while we have all heard that our emotions are “hard-wired” into us, Ms. Barrett has a different take.

We make, or build up, our own emotions according to Ms. Barrett in her Ted Talk. Further, she goes on to suggest that this means we have even more control over our emotions that we think. Therefore, this puts a great deal of responsibility on each of us for the maintenance, training, and controlling of our emotions. The talk does not suggest that we can snap our fingers or train our brain out of our feelings or something like clinical depression, just that we do have more control.

Ms. Barrett is aware that not everyone will lock onto this idea of being responsible for our own emotions. However, she suggests that when we do, we will have healthier bodies, be more emotionally flexible, and that maybe even our justice system will improve.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like to explore EI, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit www.performstrat.com

Graphic Credit: BigStock.com Copyright

Barrett, L.F. (2017, December). You Aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions – Your Brain Creates Them. TED@IBM.
Goleman, D. (2017, May). What is Emotional Self-Awareness kornferry.com

Emotional Intelligence,, Behaviors,, Self-Management