I was not born emotionally intelligent [For a longish and embarrassing substantiating personal story, scroll to the end]. So how did I go from there to teaching, researching, and speaking about emotional intelligence? I have even published peer-reviewed research on how to improve emotional intelligence. I owe my personal development in this area to my decades of meditation and my late father’s patient influence.
By now, it is common understanding that emotional intelligence is very important for human flourishing in both personal and organizational contexts. Most research highlights how important emotional intelligence is but there is not as much substantiated research on how to develop it.
In graduate school, I was fortunate to study under Dr. Richard Boyatzis, a world-renowned expert in emotional intelligence and its relevance to managerial and leadership excellence. His most recent work applies this knowledge base in the context of coaching with compassion.
I have heard it said that we all study what need to learn. As someone who has personally struggled with knowing it was important but not knowing how to develop it, the quest was personal. I bring the same energy to teaching how to apply mindfulness towards becoming more effective at building inclusive and just organizations. My upcoming book, Expansive Leadership: Cultivating Mindfulness to Lead Self and Others in a Changing World delves deep into this topic and provides a practical 28 day plan.
So, how do meditation and mindfulness practice enhance emotional intelligence?
Two Elements of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has two aspects: Emotional Self Awareness and Emotional Self-regulation.
Without emotional self-awareness, it is highly unlikely that one can demonstrate emotional self-regulation. Without self awareness and self regulation, it is highly unlikely that one will be socially aware or adept in relationship management.
Mindfulness practice increases attention to the present moment awareness of our thoughts and feelings thereby increasing our emotional self-awareness.
Emotional self-regulation requires us to pause so we respond and not react. Mindfulness helps us develop the capacity to pause and not act on impulse. How many times have we said an unkind word or
The ability to lead begins with the process of self-discovery, self-awareness, self-leadership, and discovering our connections to other people and the universe at large. When we are fully present in the moment, we optimize our capacity for self-awareness, self-regulation, and relationship management.
Mindfulness Practice helps more than develop emotional intelligence. More on that coming…
The Promised Personal Story
I was seventeen when I attended my first job interview at a local dentist’s office. The role had one job– to make sure that patients were let in as per their appointment and the rest was just crowd control. After a nice conversation, the dentist asked me a question, that in retrospect, turned out to be a pivotal point in the interview.
“So, here is a hypothetical. You are manning the desk. The waiting room is full of patients with appointments. A patient comes in without an appointment and asks to see me immediately. They appear to be in severe pain. What would you do?”
With no hesitation, I responded,
“I would ask them to take a seat and wait for their turn.”
“Okay, they sat down and waited for a few minutes and came back to you and said they were hurting and wanted to see me immediately. How would you handle it?”
I cringe at the memory. It is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
“Hmm, I would tell them to wait since there were all these people with appointments. It wouldn’t be fair to make them wait,” I reiterated.
“The patient is really in unbearable pain. Would you still ask them to wait?”
By now, I was getting frustrated. I felt like the dentist had something in mind that he wanted to hear from me, but I didn’t know what it was.
He said I was not a good fit. I didn’t get the job.
My research, practice, and teaching is centered on radical change for a better world – both outer and inner worlds. Radical change involves challenging the taken-for-granted fundamental assumptions about our mental models, organizational priorities and social systems. I use mindfulness and contemplative engagement as a methodology for generative change. I am a professor at the New School in New York City.