Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Person Training: emotion excercises & social stretches for stronger Hot Intelligence

Part 1.a: Intelligence can be HOT

We see the world through "us" colored glasses: everything is tinged with the hue of our own personality. Most of what we do involves other people, yet empathy is not a skill easily learned. Education traditionally focuses on cognition -- information gleaning & processing skills, and the logical progression of thought -- but mood often effects thoughts so one's knowledge of moods & emotions must be a factor in how well-functioning a person can fully be.

Think about it: we're aware of the world around us by using our 5 senses. Similarly, we're aware of the minds of ourselves & others by expressing & perceiving emotions. We have 6 basic emotions which are easily detected by our facial expressions -- happy, sad, afraid, angry, surprised, or disgusted. Just as knowing how to think is vital to building one's general intelligence, knowing how to feel is the basis of practical intelligence.

For this conversation, I'm going to stick to a dual model of intelligence, with sub-branches. Practical intelligence is hot, its interpersonal, & involves skills specific to how we relate to & interact with others. General intelligence is cool, its inTRApersonal. General intelligence involves cognitive skills -- focusing on, remembering & processing information internally. We subconsciously combine the internal thought process with the external social life, and, according to one's individual abilities, find patterns & draw conclusions which drive our conscious actions.

Just as hot & cool intelligences intertwine symbiotically, so do the two branches of HI -- emotional & social intelligence. Because so much of being social relies on empathy, emotional intelligence is the starting point of it all.

Part 1.b: ID E for stronger HI

In order to really develop EI, a person needs to be able to...

~identify emotions & emotional responses

~use emotion to spur thought

~understand what the various emotions mean


~manage emotions, your own & others'

Emotions drive thoughts. Thoughts drive beliefs, & beliefs drive actions. If you want to know why a person thinks or does what they do, recognizing their related emotions will give you great insights.

Identifying emotions is the basis of EI. We mentioned that the basic 6 emotions can be recognized visually, by facial expression.

Facial expressions are one form of nonverbal communication, but all parts of the body can give you hints as to how a person is feeling. For example, a head tilt to the side shows a person is interested & paying attention.

Learn to pay attention to your own & others' body language. Watch their hands, their feet, how they hold their torso & you will *hear* a unspoken conversation. Here are just a few points to watch for:

  • ~A face touch shows discomfort or a lack of confidence. If a salesman touches their face while quoting a price, ask for a discount and see what they say.
  • ~A true smile engages the eyes & is higher on the right side. If a person is not being sincere, the eyes will not move and the smile will be higher on the left.
  • ~Arms crossed over the chest is an attempt to protect ones' self, to place a barrier between them & something they find uncomfortable.
  • ~When sitting, the legs & feet usually point to a person or destination of interest (i.e. the door).
  • ~Upwards facing palms show sincerity: fingertips touching shows confidence.

When you're interacting with another, more than half of the information conveyed will be nonverbal. Most of that will be from body language but some knowledge can be gained from just looking at the person. Clothing, jewelry, spatial distance during conversation & especially body-art can tell you a lot about a person. You might not want to judge a book by its cover but that does not mean you should ignore these many & obvious signals.

Almost half of all communication is made up of the non-verbal aspects of speech. So often in modern society people learn to hide their true voice. They aim to speak only in terms of logic, reason & facts, so their words might not truly express what they feel. The way they speak, however, tells a story, too. The voice is dependant on the breath & the breath is very closely tied to our sense of safety -- or threat.

When you're afraid, your heart races & your chest feels tight. You tend to take shallow breaths and say shorter sentences with shorter words, faster. When you're relaxed tho, you exhale fully & slowly. The longer the pause to exhale, the more at ease you appear. A person who is calm is more able to access their true emotions, & more apt to be genuine about their feelings. A higher pitch to the voice shows excitement: a lower pitch shows gravity & assertion.

The last few percent of communication is, oddly enough, verbal. Words represent a person's thoughts, whereas non-verbals represent feelings. Verbal communication is one person offering information to another: both are equally important. There must be a sender & a receiver of the message. There will often be barriers, such as misunderstandings & distractions, so try to use as few words as necessary to get your message across as clearly as possible.

People tend to use certain ways to get around expressing their feelings verbally. Sometimes people will use text bridges -- a word or phrase that will tell an alert listener there is some information being passed over. Sometimes they will repeat a phrase or stammer, letting you know they are feeling anxious, possibly being deceptive. Listen also for words that imply something very certain especially if the body says something else. Pay attention then, there may be logical flaws in their story. When people tell the truth, they don't bother with modifiers such as "I went STRAIGHT home," or "I ONLY did this."

Part 1.c: EI exercises, phase 1


Play a little game: any time you're in an area with many people, see if you can identify all 6 facial expressions of emotion -- happy, angry, surprised, sad, afraid, disgusted. HAF SAD


Start noticing the 8 points of nonverbal communication in yourself & others.

  1. gesture

  2. posture

  3. facial expression

  4. gaze

  5. proximity

  6. touch

  7. appearance

  8. voice


Identify verbal cues that reveal emotions, intent, & motives.

Be aware of...

  • text bridges,

  • inserting a word that is definitive when it is not necessary,

  • or repeating phrases.

Once you get stronger at the 3 individual skills, try combining them. Try to notice facial expression, body language AND verbal cues.

Part 2... Using EI to facilitate intellectual growth


  1. ~~ on verbal cues

    ~~on nonverbal cues

  2. Great article! What I found interesting is that when speaking with co-workers or friends about topics that I have little interest, I spend a lot of time trying to 'fake' the proper responses of body language and facial expressions. I lean forward, face them, chuckle while maintaining eye contact, etc. And yet, when I am speaking with others about things, I don't seem to take notice of the reactions of others. I wonder if this makes me somewhat arrogant? Or maybe I am insecure?

  3. Thank you for your kind words!

    I'd say your attentiveness to making others comfortable without holding them to the same standard is neither arrogance or insecurity: I'd say it makes you a nice guy who's generous to a fault.

    The next post will discuss conversational skills & empathy. I hope it will be of interest to you, but I know you will say so regardless. ;)