Mastering the Art of Emotional Intelligence


As human beings, we can’t escape emotion.  And quite frankly, nor would we want to.  Feelings are what make life rich, they alert us to what matters to us, they deepen our connection with others, and they are often a guiding star to help us recognize what matters most.

However, emotions can and do get in the way of personal effectiveness when we are in “reaction” to a situation, and when we lack the emotional mastery to realize our triggers and manage our responses.

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

And don’t balk and think this is some kind of “soft skill” that isn’t critical – TalentSmart has researched this topic extensively, and concluded that EQ accounts for a staggering 58% of positive job performance in all types of roles and industries. Plus, needless to say, emotional intelligence has just as significant an impact in the home and in our interpersonal relationships with our friends and families.

So how do we develop this emotional self-mastery?

With regards to our own emotions, we must first recognize what we are feeling.  As crazy as this sounds, many, many of my clients have a hard time articulating their feelings when asked – they are so used to rushing on the hamster wheel that they feel almost numb. But we must slow down, take some deep breaths, and allow the body to reveal the true emotions that want to be expressed.

Then, we must witness those feelings with compassion. We must ask ourselves the root of these feelings.  What thoughts and interpretations of our circumstances are causing these feelings?  What are these emotions pointing to in terms of what we need?

It’s up to us to then explore how to get our needs met – maybe it’s asking something of someone, maybe it’s setting a boundary, maybe it’s advocating for ourselves, maybe it’s just that we need to process grief or disappointment…

However, the knowing and honoring of our feelings – and determining what next action we need to take from a place of self-compassion – that allows us NOT to slather our out-of-control emotions all over other people.  It’s unattended-to emotions (unattended-to by us) that creates the collateral damage of our losing control and therefore losing ground and credibility with others.

Once you have developed the muscle of emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to use this to great effect when you see others having emotional experiences. This comes in very handy as a leader, manger, life partner, and parent…. In fact, you’ll find many circumstances where your experience with EQ will be of great value. You’ll be able to recognize that someone perhaps needs a safe space to feel their feelings – to be encouraged to slow down and breathe – and to brainstorm what these emotions are trying to tell them.

You’ll likely be able to inquire a little bit about what their thoughts, beliefs, and narratives are regarding their situation – which is causing these feelings – and coach them to see if there is perhaps another way to look at their circumstances.  Meeting them without judgment, yet helping them to deconstruct their feelings and explore their needs, allows them to feel seen and heard, yet to come up with a set of constructive next steps rather than letting their emotions get the best of them.

Remember, when emotions rise, they’re signals. Every interaction, every emotion, is an opportunity to grow. Your mastery of emotional intelligence will lead you to calmer seas, stronger relationships, and unparalleled interpersonal effectiveness.

Victim Vs. Creator Consciousness


“Why is this happening to me?” “Why can’t I catch a break?”

How often do we, as humans, throw up our hands and feel powerless. Frustrated. And trapped…?

It happens often, I know – not only from my own feelings of “Wow, another shoe has dropped?” but from how many of my clients through the years have come to me with this same exasperation when met with setbacks, challenges, and unexpected obstacles.

But one of the biggest disservices we can do to ourselves – and often we don’t even recognize it – is to go through our lives from the position of “victim.”

When you go through your life as a victim, life “happens” to you. You believe you have no responsibility for creating your circumstances, instead, others have acted “upon” you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Looking at life through this lens sets us up for hurt, pain, anger, and fear. 

“My God, the world is random and chaotic, I wonder what horrible thing is going to happen to me next?”

So what’s the answer?

Taking fierce personal responsibility for your experience.

Let me explain what I mean.

In almost all circumstances, we have either had a hand in CREATING the circumstance or pattern, or at least ALLOWING it.

Perhaps you didn’t set a boundary.  Perhaps you compromised your truth for another.  Perhaps you didn’t do your due diligence, perhaps you didn’t say no, perhaps you over-rode your gut and allowed yourself to fall prey to pleasing another.

Perhaps you didn’t prepare.  Perhaps you left late.  Perhaps you were rushed and made errors, perhaps you forgot to clarify, perhaps you simply didn’t express what you needed.

The path to taking back power is to courageously look at your role in the situation.

Now this doesn’t absolve other people of their part in what’s occurring.  I’m certainly not saying that!  Of course other people’s choices impact us daily.

But it is incredibly empowering to explore what you, personally, could have done differently (or could start doing differently now) to effect a different outcome.

Please be aware that acknowledging your part in something and truly taking responsibility for the ways in which you contributed to the situation is NOT an excuse to beat yourself up. It is not a justification for your Inner Critic to run wild.  The key here is self-compassion.  You are on a human journey here, and this is all a part of your evolvement!

Again, if you shift from blaming others to blaming yourself, you’ve compounded the problem.

And once you have taken inventory about your role regarding the things you are resentful, stressed, or upset about, you can determine how you will choose to do things differently.  This would reflect a growth mindset, a mindset of ownership of your experience, and the capacity to make change.

You are now the proactive creative force in your life. 

And as a final note, even in the rare situations where you have had almost nothing whatsoever to do with the circumstance (again, this is atypical), you always have the choice of how to relate to the situation – what narrative to tell yourself, what story to “assign” to what has occurred.

So even in a case like this, be mindful and purposeful in how you choose to respond to the event.  You can tell a story of hope and possibility of what’s to happen from here, or one of despair and resignation.

The choice is yours.

Get Quiet, Get Clear, Get Going


One day, a man was walking in the woods, just ambling along not paying much attention. The next thing you know, he finds that he is hopelessly lost. 

He can’t find the trail that got him there or any discernable direction to move forward. Luckily, he had taken a lot of self-actualization courses, so he didn’t panic.  

Instead, he said to himself, “I’d better make a plan to get out of here. First I’ll think about the plan. Then I’ll make a list of the pros and cons. Then I’ll do a “mind-map” of the ideas I have.” 

He was getting very excited about planning his plan and so he sat down under a tree. 

“I’ve got it! I’ll do a creative visualization of my plan and imagine what it will be like to find my way out of the woods and get rescued! Well, I’d better get started, I have a lot of thinking to do!” 

So he shut his eyes to meditate and before long he had fallen asleep. 

Unfortunately, he was never heard from again. 

Thinking and planning too much and doing too little is often called the “paralysis of analysis.” 

It’s the person who is perpetually getting ready to get ready.

Often this is rooted in our fear of making a mistake or the wrong decision. But if you want to get anywhere in life, you have to start moving. 

You must start out in a direction and then “course correct” along the way. You take a few steps, get new information, change your course slightly, a few more steps, new information. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Sometimes a goal can seem too huge and daunting to even start. So we keep trying to see and control the end result as a way of controlling the outcome. But no one can see the entire road ahead from today’s vantage point. 

Famous pastor and theologian Dr. Robert Schuller used an analogy he called “Peak to Peek.” 

He said that the small steps you take moving forward are like little peaks. You climb to the top (by achieving that first, doable goal) and from there you can “peek” at the next peak. 

Your view from up there is completely different than it was at the bottom of the first peak. You’ve had that first “win” and, from this, have received new information and feedback from the world. After this you can’t help but be a slightly different person with a different outlook and perspective.  And then this informs your NEXT task!

Now don’t think I’m saying that you should have no roadmap at all and just throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.  If you dash off in just any direction, eyes closed, you’re liable to have a rude awakening when you smack right into a tree!

There is a plaque-worthy phrase that says “Get Quiet. Get Clear. Get Going!” 

You’ll want to have clarity of purpose and a vision of where you’d like to go. Sure. But don’t stop there pondering, assessing, and re-evaluating.  Every successful person knows that the real secret of philosophies like “The Secret” is to take action. It’s certain your journey will twist and turn, but you’ll end up having a wonderful adventure.  Certainly better than being back where you started!