NURTURING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Acknowledging the emotions, feelings, and experiences that each learner brings to the learning environment and helping them find ways to cope with those emotions. Also, nurturing compassion and empathy among students in ways that allow them to be sensitive and aware of each others’ emotions.
The key questions for this pillar are:
- How are we being sensitive to the emotions that students bring into the learning environment?
- How are we fostering compassion and empathy among our community of learners?
Learners do not exist in a vacuum. Every day when a student walks into the learning space they are bringing with them all the experiences, emotions, and feelings they have developed that day, that week, that year, and throughout their life. To deny these feelings in the learning space can generate conflict, blunt one’s capacity to engage in a learning process, and make a learner feel isolated and misunderstood.
In the previous page we looked at and explored the relevance of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory (the various ways in which one learns), and now we look at emotional intelligence, which consists of the “abilities such as being able to motivate one’s self and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope (Goleman, 34).” Goleman also made popular the term, “social intelligence,” which is very much linked to emotional intelligence. These two breakthroughs in understanding the brain has given rise to what many schools call “social and emotional learning” or SEL.
In the video below, Daniel Goleman, author of several books including Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, discusses new research and studies in neuroscience and what it has taught us about social and emotional intelligence.
Social and emotional intelligence are relevant to peace pedagogy because many of the conflicts we see in schools are born out of frustration from not being heard or understood, underlying issues of self-worth, and an inability to express how one actually feels. If we as educators and learners were more skilled at recognizing, acknowledging, and managing our own emotions and the emotions of others it would go a long way in reducing unwanted conflict and managing inevitable conflict.
Reflection Question: Do you have a way or practice of recognizing and managing your own emotions effectively? If so, what does that look like? If not, are their specific moments in your life or at work where you wished you possessed those kinds of skills? What do those moments look and feel like?
- Goleman, Daniel. Social Intelligence.
- Lantieri, Linda. Building Emotional Intelligence.
As I’ve continued as an undergrad, I have gained greater leadership roles in the campus community. As I’ve begun taking on more responsibility, I had to get better at managing my own emotions so I can help manage others. I used to try to escape the “bad feeling” by working harder and putting myself in a frenzy. After trying this method for a while and suffering the consequences (falling ill, not sleeping/eating, depression) I took a stress reduction class at the AU counseling center. This class helped me to stop ignoring my own feelings and examine them and accept them. This has really helped me when things start to pile on. I take the time to diagnose this bad feeling and then put it aside so I can work on other things.
I’d like to say that I feel as though I am able to manage my emotions well. I journal quite often, and have a few close friends both at school and at home who I talk with on a regular basis. I have established these relationships over a matter of time, although now we have “check ins” with one another to keep our heads clear, and make sure that we can be there to support each other. At some points when I am stressed, or something I am not expecting hits me, I am not as good controling my emotions right away. Though I am getting better at listening, thinking and reflecting before I jump in too deep, lash out, etc., I wish that I was able to verbalize how I felt more quickly instead of having to prepare myself for a difficult conversation, etc.
I tend to think I am overly self aware and probably analyze my emotions too much. I am constantly analyzing and reflecting on my body language, vocal tone and physiological state. Outside of my own analyzing, I tend to journal throughout the day and verbally express how I am feeling to whomever I am speaking. However, I am aware that I can improve on my emotional awareness and management of my emotions. I’m not sure of what and how that process will be, but I am looking forward to hearing other’s insights on this topic during class.
I get stressed out easily, partially because I am the only person around who can do certain things so I am constantly being asked to do some task, right this minute, and I have no one I can delegate to. Part of the problem is that when it rains it pours. This would stress anyone out but in a way it also motivates me. When I get overwhelmed I usually stop and make a mental check list of all the things I have to do to sort of organize the tasks and put things in perspective. In reality I should probably write down the list because I often forget something, but I’m really bad about doing that. When I get overwhelmed I might start to sweat, my hands might start shaking, sometimes it turns into a full blown panic attack where I feel like I can’t breathe, but more often than not it puts me in the “zone”. I have to get to a certain stress breaking point to make it into the zone, but once I’m there things seem to go better.
Daniel Knoll: I am a very energetic and quick moving person, and my quick judgments have often impaired my ability to regulate my emotions. The most obvious example for me is growing up playing soccer, I used to get into a number of fights with opponents and coaches. As I’ve gotten older I’ve spent a lot of time reminding my self to take things less seriously, that at the end of the day it is just a game. This has also helped when dealing with group projects or clubs on campus where I might get frustrated with another individual. In the past I used to respond quickly, often making the problem worse. Now I try my hardest to take some time and analyze the situation before responding, which has helped me a lot in controlling any negativity I might share with somebody else.
I consider myself a very level-headed person, and the times that I get emotional are the times that I am most stressed. This often results in me overreacting to things and getting frustrated easily (particularly with loved ones). I have come to acknowledge exercise as the best stress management for me. I really notice a difference on the days that I don’t work out on the way that I feel. Exercise relaxes me and makes me more patient and therefore more in control of my emotions.
This particular topic is of special importance to me as I work almost exclusively with a population of students that has been diagnosed as having a deficiency in emotional development for any number of reasons. I half-jokingly observed during my first year that I was beginning to exhibit the symptoms of my students in dealing with people outside this particular academic environment. What I learned, though, is one of the key points Prof. Goleman emphasizes – key to the success of my students is my ability to recognize and control my own emotions.
Many of my students behave in oppositional and defiant manners. It took me a while to realize that, though they may exhibit these behaviors toward me, oftentimes they have not developed the skills necessary for appropriate social interaction. It is sometimes hard to remind myself that these are teenagers with their own perspectives that may have been created without any consideration for my own perspective. A quick reminder of this point – as well as having a supportive work environment of other adults – certainly helps me in recognizing and checking my emotions.
As this module iterates, no student exists in a vacuum. For some students, the emotional development or emotional intelligence is the biggest obstacle to overcome.
I’ve recently noticed a distressing tendency I have when trying to recognize or manage my emotions: I often want to compare what I’m feeling to what others experiencing the same thing are feeling. I want to match the mood of my close friends. This hasn’t always been the case, especially not when I was living alone abroad, and so I need to better manage my process of introspection during moments of overwhelming emotion.
Beth Jimerson. I think that I have always been a (sometimes overly) empathetic person. I think I learned some of these skills at a young age, especially witnessing an older sibling going through the ‘teen years’ and empathizing with my parents. Those skills tend to carry on into social skills by understanding how people are feeling and tailoring my attitude and reactions to that. Sometimes I think too much about pleasing other people and working around my perceptions of how people are feeling. I’m not very good at hiding my emotions. When I’m angry or upset about something I find it hard to smile and move on which is sometimes a more appropriate reaction that I try to work on. I also found it interesting the differences in social norms living in Italy for six years. Italians are very gregarious and emotional in a way that I’m not used to. There are also very different social norms which left me feeling upset after interactions in the stores or on the streets. I had to constantly remind myself of the cultural differences and try not to get too upset about things. I think that everyone probably struggles with social interaction to some degree and it’s important especially in school to recognize and share experiences in order to understand where people are coming from.
In my adolescent/teen years I feel that I really struggled with recognizing and managing my emotions effectively. Through my past experiences, and family influences, it was somewhat ingrained in me that expressing emotions was a sign of weakness. I trained myself to hide my emotions and deal with them internally. It wasn’t until college, through various courses in psychology, that I learned techniques to recognize my feelings and saw the benefit of appropriately expressing my emotions. Now, I take time each day to ask myself “How am I feeling?” and “Why do I feel this way?” and “What do I want to do about these feelings?.” And most of all, I tell myself “It is okay to feel this way.” I have learned that validating my own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, allows us to be honest with ourselves and one another. When we openly express our emotions we appear more genuine, eliminate the potential for misunderstandings, and decrease the likelihood of conflict.
Richard Cambridge: A way or practice of recogning and managing my emotions effectively. What does it look like? I am very emotional and this comes from my background, life experiences, and the work of a career in development. I probably do not manage these emotions well but have sought ways to control these. As a young manager in the World Bank, I could not understand why a highly educated staff member who was selected to join the Bank through rigorous competition, could not or did not perform well. I had to learn to understand that people came to work and were affected by many other things in their lives and not only the work in the office. I had to learn to be more open, to listen, and to empathize.
As a project economist working in many distressed countries, communities and with individuals, I had to learn to empathize, understand, but not pity and condescend. For a very long time, I could not look counterparts or beneficiaries in the eye. Avoiding eye contact was the technique I employed in order to manage emotions.
I think that how I regulate my emotions completely depends on the situation. Sometimes, especially when working with students, I have to step back in my head and do the silent count to 3…or 5 or 10 so as to not react how I automatically would like to. I think that type of emotion regulation manifests differently when I’m working with adults. I know myself; if I don’t have processing time, I’m much more likely to say the first thing that comes into my head or that I’m feeling and I’ve chosen to be very direct in communicating that to my colleagues. While at our leadership meetings or collaborative plannings, I often like to let things really absorb before I react. I do have to say that I’ve learned these skills after having found myself in uncomfortable situations in the past where I’ve reacted how I initially wanted to.
My mom taught me how to apologize by being the most contrite and sincere apologizer I’ve ever known. I have taken her example to heart. I am a big self-monitor. If I feel I’ve overstepped my boundaries, I’m quick to call myself on it, or ask those around me with whom I’m invested to do the same for me. I consider it growth. I work hard to identify what rankles me in any given moment, name it, develop a solution, and move on. It is working for me so far, but I have a long way to go.
This year I became the English Department chair at my school. I have already found that I’m not adept at leading and facilitating these meetings, at least not by my standards. It’s difficult leading one’s peers – I’m worried that I may offend people by over-directing or re-directing them. Through teaching, I’ve become used to leading young people which is a more natural position to be in. With my peers, when I feel clumsy or unsure, I second-guess myself and retreat. Not what I’m meant to do as the chair. It will be a learning process for me for sure.
In seventh grade I learned what “I statements” were and how we were expected to use them. Some people think that they can be silly and over simplify what a person is feeling—that’s probably true in a lot of situations. However, I’ve found that it is a good way to note my own emotions and how that translates to my relationships with those around me. I often find myself thinking, or even saying, “When I was rushed at breakfast, I felt _______.” This certainly applies when evaluating how my emotions are impacted by other people or a series of events. It is important for me to explicitly note how I’m feeling which then can help to inform my decisions or explain my behavior.