Three rules of emotional intelligence for business owners
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is described as the ability of a person to recognise, understand, and manage their emotions, and to do the same with others. The term was brought into common parlance by Dan Goleman’s 1996 book, which took its cue from the work of psychological researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer.
EI is a contentious term. Far from everyone accepts its legitimacy as a measure of a kind of mental competence. Some argue that the normative quality of EI – that we are to suppose that it is good to possess high levels of EI, or that better people have higher EI – disguises that it is possible to be highly skilled in emotional control and be a psychopath, or that some might find the idea of imposing emotional control on others unsettling, a kind of mental invasion.
Even for those that take issue with EI, the term does place a focus on some crucial aspects of human life that could otherwise be overlooked. Self-consciousness, self-knowledge, and self-control – three concepts that are crucial to flourishing, are put front-and-centre in the EI framework. Mastery of aspects of your self provides the means to mastery over your life, and others’. Emotions can seem to evade our control; EI reminds us that this is not necessarily the case.
How can you use the lessons of EI to the benefit of your business? Here are three rules to keep in mind.
1. Concentration is key
Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations that his way of gaining control of his emotions was to “do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life”. Self-control is central to the Stoic way – a person should not let circumstance outside their control shake the inner self.
2. Be the example
As a business owner, you may want your employees, for instance, to display a level of EI that allows them to do their jobs without the distraction of emotional turmoil. But though you may say or write instructions to that effect, it’s unlikely to be processed by your employees if you fail to exhibit and practice those virtues yourself. The only control that we can have over the wills of other is passive – they must want to want your way; to try to impose your will is futile, and worse, self-defeating.
3. Command over emotions is not disregard of emotions
A lesson of the EI conceptual structure is that it is often good to not be moved to action by your first emotional impulse. It is possible to read into this that emotional impulses are bad, or that they should be suppressed. This is not the case. Emotions are critical to our ability to evaluate, to live. What EI dictates is control over actions that come as a result of feeling – not the feeling itself.