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Stop Using Rhetoric that Says Emotions Are Bad; Help Culture Resolve and Evolve!

©Steve Whiteford 2023

Emotional Intelligence is a popular science that is useful for Leadership Development, Communication in business, and Employee Relations. I’ve taught it from the traits model and the skills strategy which combine very well and deliver strong results.

The greatest challenge in promoting self-awareness and the skills of emotional intelligence is that our Social Reality, expressed in our beliefs, rhetoric, and behavioral norms, holds the idea that some (if not all) emotions are bad.

The strongest motivator for individuals and businesses to explore emotional intelligence is the skill of Emotional Regulation. Although Self-Awareness and Emotional Regulation are power skills, the focus on regulation as the goal can chain the science to the belief that most hinders its potential – emotions are bad.

People make great changes in their personal and professional lives through increasing self-awareness and using the skills of emotional intelligence. They have better relationships, make decisions aligned with their values, and increase focus and productivity. Their individual behavior impacts the people and the systems that surround them. But the dynamic change that must happen is that the systems, businesses, and cultures must become self-aware and regulate by consciously changing their misconceptions of emotions. Although self-aware individuals are powerful, real change happens when leadership promotes ideological change.

Our worldview provides constant programming for us to stuff our emotions. Even an excess of positive emotion can be dismissed as over-the-top. This is ironic in a society that encourages positivity to the point of toxicity. The constant drive to be positive and ignore our less socially acceptable, less positive emotions traps us in persona. We are less effective because we are less authentic.

Feeling is experiencing. Neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio posits that “without feeling, there is no consciousness.” Feeling keeps us present, anchors our memories, embodies our learning, and motivates our behavior. When we reject feelings or emotions without gleaning from the experience, we deny a powerful aspect of perception and ourselves. Our self-ness is based in our feeling.

I believe the current demand for management to learn to recognize the individuality of their employees, and our personal need for that recognition is in part because we have become so adept at stuffing our feelings. Especially, our less comfortable feelings. We’ve been living with the belief that there is no place for them and that to be successful we must live in denial and frame everything correctly and positively to please our leadership. Our need for recognition is epidemic.

I’ve recently noticed how marketing is entrenched with the verbiage of recognition. I am tapped by salespeople hourly with compliments and shallow attempts to express that they “get me.” Clearly, our society is aware of our need for recognition. But the hijack of that awareness is problematic. It pushes us farther onto the dessert beach of emotional denial. Genuineness is a depth result of practicing the skills of emotional intelligence. It’s a quality strongly lacking now in our media-driven world.

Success is getting what you want. But when we deny half of who we are, when we don’t work with a significant aspect of our perception, what we want is driven by misconception. This is why the study of emotions as an integral part of how we function as human beings and effectively using the skills they provide, is far more important than we’ve recognized. By accepting and working the full range of our feelings we can change much of what is not working in our world.

We will only succeed fully and together when we settle down and explore the full range of our feelings and the value of our vulnerability.

  • Notice how often you feel bad about having a feeling.
  • Take note of how often you repress a feeling or an opportunity to connect with someone to maintain the persona of positivity you believe is vital to your success.
  • Consider the concepts you hold about emotions and how they limit you. They aren’t real. Science refutes them.
  • Risk curiosity about your feelings and notice how they enrich and guide your life.

It’s time to stop repeating errant beliefs about feelings and how they inhibit our functioning. They are the biggest handles of toxic masculinity. They are tools of control and repression that it’s time to resist.

Emotional Intelligence is not a silly leadership trend meant to control you and manipulate you. It’s not a woo-woo, new age, airy fairy trend. It’s based on real science and proven by the experience of many practitioners. It’s not a Facebook, feel-good meme. The practice of it will free you, deepen your experience of life, and as a by-product increase the depth of your engagement and productivity.

Feel that fear and face it. This is a set of skills our outdated beliefs have deprived us of, and that deprivation is at the root of the challenges we currently face. Bravely move forward by promoting self-awareness and building the powerful bridge of authenticity with a foundation of empathy.

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