Research Paper By Judith KovÃ¡cs
(Life Coaching, GERMANY)
The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.
My research paper will be looking at Emotional Intelligence and its connection to coaching.
From my perspective there are various reasons why more and more people have become interested in Emotional Intelligence. One of them – according to Daniel Goleman – is that there is evidence which “testifies that people who are emotionally adept […] are at an advantage in any domain of life.” Being “emotionally adept” means to know one’s own feelings and having the ability to manage them. Furthermore, one subsequently becomes aware of other people´s feelings and is in a position to deal with these feelings effectively. People who command Emotional Intelligence are more likely to be “content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity.”
Annabel Beerel – a Professor of Social Ethics at the Southern New Hampshire University – writes in her book “Leadership and Change Management” that:
emotional intelligence competencies enhance a person´s social awareness, and this improves his or her adeptness at grasping the complexity of human situations.
One can say that Emotional Intelligence could be viewed as a key to living a happier and more fulfilling life and this is why, from my perspective, Emotional Intelligence has a place in coaching as an increasing number of clients are looking for ways to live such lives.
One way that could support developing Emotional Intelligence is Marshall B. Rosenberg´s concept of Nonviolent Communication. In his book “Nonviolent Communication. A Language of Life” he states that:
Life-alienating communication […] obscures our awareness.
From my perspective, by addressing life-alienating communication patterns in coaching we are in fact supporting our clients in developing Emotional Intelligence competencies.
2. What is Emotional Intelligence?
In his book “Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” Daniel Goleman – an American “author, psychologist, and science journalist“ – looks at the role of Emotional Intelligence in our lives.
Let us start by looking at emotions.
According to Goleman, “all emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us.” Goleman points out that the Latin verb “motere” – which is “the very root of the word emotion […] plus the prefix “e-“ to connote “move away,” suggest[s] that a tendency to act is implicit in every emotion.”
Later on in his work Goleman goes one step further and states that “every strong emotion has at its root an impulse to action” and that “managing those impulses is basic to emotional intelligence.“
It is so crucial for us to understand our own emotions as they can “get in the way of or enhance our ability to think and plan, to pursue training for a distant goal, to solve problems and the like.” Emotions “define the limits of our capacity to use our innate mental abilities” and therefore play a major role in determining “how we do in life.”
So what is Emotional Intelligence?
Goleman writes that key elements that constitute Emotional Intelligence are “self-control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself.” Furthermore, Goleman states that the development of expertise in “self-awareness, identifying, expressing and managing feelings; impulse control and delaying gratification; and handling stress and anxiety” are extremely important.
Based on the work of Goleman, Annabel Beerel has divided Emotional Intelligence into four key competencies:
- “Self-knowledge attained by having access to one´s own feelings, an ability to discriminate between them and to draw on one´s feelings to guide one´s behavior.
- Self-awareness and emotional self-management, being the ability to know one´s own emotional tendencies and show appropriate emotion that is proportionate to the circumstance.
- Self-motivation, which is the ability to marshal one´s emotions to motivate oneself.
- Empathy, which is the ability to step inside others’ shoes and to understand their emotions from their perspective.“
According to Goleman, the ultimate goal of Emotional Intelligence is being able to enter a state of flow, as “flow is emotional intelligence at its best.” It is when we find ourselves in this state of flow that our emotions are “positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.” Flow – which “occurs in that delicate zone between boredom and anxiety” – is described as “a state of self-forgetfulness” where people are no longer “lost in nervous preoccupation.” Goleman states that those that find themselves in flow “exhibit a mastery control of what they are doing, their responses perfectly attune to the changing demands of the task.”
What motivates people who are in flow is the “sheer pleasure of the act itself.” In this state, people are able to use their skills and abilities and are not concerned “with how they are doing, with thoughts of success or failure.” As we all know, we also learn best if we are passionate about the subject matter and the simple act of learning not only gives us pleasure and joy but indeed is highly energizing.
3. Emotional Intelligence & Coaching
In this section I will be looking at what Emotional Intelligence and coaching could have in common.
As we have seen, self-knowledge, self-awareness, emotional self-management, self-motivation and empathy play a key role in Emotional Intelligence. These competencies are also key elements in coaching.
As coaches we come to the coaching sessions with the understanding that our clients have the answers to the challenges they are facing in life. In order to support our clients in creating change by exploring and identifying solutions, we guide them through the process of self-awareness.
Goleman defines self-awareness as “a neutral mode that maintains self–reflectiveness even amidst turbulent emotions.” Self-reflection also plays a key role in coaching. We continually ask our clients to reflect on situations in order to create awareness.
Self-awareness implies being “aware of both our mood and our thoughts about that mood” and is furthermore described by Goleman as “a nonreactive, nonjudgmental attention to inner states” where one can anchor “attention to one´s internal states.” When becoming self-aware, we start to recognize our “strengths and weaknesses” and we start seeing ourselves “in a positive but realistic light.” And this might be the strongest link to coaching. We support our clients in becoming aware of who they are and how they tick.
Ruth Hadikin – a professional Life Coach who has specialised in personal and business transformation – points out in her book that the more aware we become about ourselves, the more aware we become of our feelings.
Unaware or indeed blind to their emotions, needs, underlying beliefs, emotional triggers and responses/reactions – including the impact these are having on their lives – our clients will remain stuck and unable to bring about the changes they need or want to target.
From my perspective, one of the most important insights a client needs to acquire – besides becoming more aware of their feelings, strengths, needs and beliefs – is to know that they themselves really do have the solutions within themselves. This in itself can be seen as a state of self-knowledge: knowing that one has all the answers within.
A further apparent link between Emotional Intelligence and coaching is the focus placed on empathy. To quote Goleman:
Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings.
In Goleman´s book, empathy is described as “the ability to read emotions in others.” Empathy is the ability to understand other people´s feelings and to take on their perspectives including “respecting differences in how people feel about things.” In coaching – especially as the coach – we need to consciously practice empathy with our clients. We need to be open-minded, to have the ability to see the world through their eyes, to understand where they are coming from, and to show that we understand and are able to sense their feelings. As Marshall B. Rosenberg points out in his book “Nonviolent Communication. A Language of Life: ”Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”
From my perspective, Emotional Intelligence is an important skill for coaches to command. Before being truly able to coach, we need to be aware of our own values, needs, beliefs and strengths. We need this self-awareness in order to be in a position to create a safe, trusting and non-judgemental environment. As Rosenberg explains, to have
empathy with others […] we have [to] successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgments about them.
Empathy means allowing our clients
the time and space they need to express themselves fully and to feel understood” and empathy requires that we focus full attention on the other person´s message.
As coaches we need to embrace the understanding that it cannot be our responsibility to “fix” situations in which clients find themselves. As Rosenberg points out, it ”is often frustrating for someone needing empathy to have us assume that they want reassurance or “fix-it” advice.” If we fall into the trap of believing that we need to “fix-it” for our clients, we are preventing ourselves as coaches from being truly present and are failing to grasp that the “key ingredient of empathy is presence.”
In his book, Goleman highlights the fact that
being able to manage emotions in someone else is the core of the art of handling relationships.
If we as coaches are able to handle the emotions of our clients – which according to Goleman is
the fine art of relationships requiring the ripeness of the emotional skills, self-management and empathy
– then we have become true role models when it comes to the practice of Emotional Intelligence. With the support of these skills we can shape our encounters with our clients where we can mobilize and inspire them and make them feel at ease.
4. How can Emotional Intelligence be developed?
In her book Effective Coaching in Healthcare, Ruth Hadikin writes that
there is growing evidence that we can measure and improve our emotional intelligence […] which honour[s] our sense of Self and bring[s] us more into alignment with who we want to be, rather than our externally prescribed role.
Hadikin views the
coaching process with its emphasis on self-awareness and action learning [as] an excellent tool for raising our EQ with coaching encouraging the coachee to recognise ´choice points`.
In other words, by developing Emotional Intelligence, it is in the coachee’s hands to decide and shape who they want to be and what they want to do. They become less and less victims or puppets of life while becoming more and more their own puppet masters taking full responsibility for the choices they make.
Techniques proposed by Hadikin to enhance Emotional Intelligence i.e.
gaining control over […] thoughts and emotions, include breathing, relaxation and visualisation.
For Hadikin Emotional Intelligence
refers to a spectrum of life skills which include social skills, communication and interpersonal skills [while placing] equal emphasis on self-awareness and emotional control.
And it is the life skill communication which Marshall B. Rosenberg in his book “Nonviolent Communication. A Language of Life” that – from my perpective – offers a very tangible approach to supporting clients in consciously developing their Emotional Intelligence.
Nonviolent Communication guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others.
It is about inculcating positive attitudes and having our thinking “dominated by love, respect, understanding, appreciation, compassion, and concern for others. If we want to change who we are, we need to begin with the language we use and our methods of communication.
Nonviolent Communication focuses on:
- “The concrete actions we observe that affect our well-being;
- How we feel in relation to what we observe;
- The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings;
- The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives.”
From my perspective, one of the first steps one can take to develop or indeed enhance Emotional Intelligence is to create a sense of awareness around the language and words we – and indeed our clients – use.
One could focus on replacing
language that implies lack of choice with language that acknowledges choice.
For example, Rosenberg writes that the word should has the
enormous power to create shame and guilt and is often used in an unconscious manner to evaluate ourselves.
In contexts such as
I should have known better or I shouldn´t have done that
Rosenberg explains that when we use should in this manner
we resist learning, because should implies that there is no choice.
Instead of using should or even have to we can use the expression I choose to. This shift triggers the feeling of choice. It can be seen as that choice Hadikin talks about within the context of Emotional Intelligence: The choice which honours our sense of Self.
Another area one could address is around the language we use when talking about our feelings. Rosenberg has observed that the word feel is often used “without actually expressing a feeling.” For example one says: “I feel that you are not listening to what I am saying.” When we use the word feel followed by the word that we are in fact expressing an opinion rather than revealing what we are feeling. So, when one says
I feel that you are not listening to what I am saying,
one is in fact sharing an opinion – a belief – that the other person is not listening and such a statement has indeed nothing to do with the way one feels. Once one becomes aware of the difference between the language of sharing an opinion and the language of sharing an insight into the way one feels, one has arrived at a new level of consciousness and indeed choice.
As Goleman points out, we mirror and copy the behaviours that we see. Consequently, when we as coaches use Nonviolent Communication with our clients, they can experience themselves first-hand the language of choice, in other words, the language of Emotional Intelligence. Through this process, our clients can connect with their feelings and in doing so have the opportunity to develop their Emotional Intelligence.
As the research paper has shown, there is a strong connection between Emotional Intelligence and coaching on more than one level. From my perspective, the most apparent connection is the fact that both Emotional Intelligence and coaching focus on a number of shared key competencies such as self-knowledge, self-awareness, emotional self-management and empathy. A way to develop Emotional Intelligence is through Nonviolent Communication where we become aware of the language we use and the impact it is having both on ourselves and on others. Nonviolent Communication is a concept that not only supports the conscious development of empathy with oneself and with others, it is furthermore a language of choice. Once we are aware that there is always a choice in life, we are then in a position to live an emotionally intelligent life. To conclude, it is my belief that Emotional Intelligence and coaching are strongly intertwined, impacting and influencing each other.
Annabel Beerel, Leadership and Change Management (SAGE 2010). Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ (Bloomsbury 1995). Ruth Hadikin, Effective Coaching in Healthcare (Elsevier Science 2004). Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD., Nonviolent Communication. A Language of Life (Puddle Dancer Press 2003). http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/laotzu118184.html (20/06/2013). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Goleman (20/06/2013).