Emotional intelligence: some reflections after a tough Wednesday

Not a bad day, quite productive. But a piece of work I had to quality assure left me feeling a bit low, and I cursed myself that I had not acted on some of the issues sooner. Then a former work colleague said to me, “Exercise some self-compassion.” Forever curious about the etymology of certain concepts, I am intrigued that the word “compassion” has both the obvious root – “with” passion- and the less obvious “compass”, that is, compassion is a way of finding one’s bearings and ultimate purpose. There is a tradition in Judaism which identifies the heart, rather than the head, as the route to the soul. Neuroscience research on the role of emotions and feelings in decision-making indicates how interwoven are feeling and thinking. Emotional intelligence is now broadly understood as being made up of recognising emotion, expressing it and managing or responding to it. I look for each of those qualities in myself and others. One of the best fictional examples of it is depicted by Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar after Caesar is assassinated by the conspirators. Mark Antony uses his own shock, sadness and anger constructively to master not only his own situation, but influence and shape the unfolding drama.Far from “managing one’s own emotions” being a soft option, it is one of the most difficult. Hats off to anybody who goes through a mix of emotions, listens to them, takes them in and lets them go, and still emerges reasonably sane, human and actually quite fun to be with!

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