What are Intelligent Emotions and how do they relate to mental toughness?
Successful people are invariably outcomes focused (a key characteristic of mentally tough people) with an advanced ability to connect with people. I have always labeled this connective ability as “emotional intelligence” but this may be erroneous as there is a part of EI called “intelligent emotions”, which is perhaps a more valid explanation.
In this article Doug Strycharczyk, Managing Director of our UK partners, AQR and the joint author of the MTQ48 mental toughness framework, explains Intelligent Emotions and how they relate to mental toughness and particularly the emotional control sub scale.
At its simplest EI describes the extent, which you are sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others, particular when you say or do something which impacts on them in some way. It also describes the extent to which you are emotionally sensitive to the actions, words and deeds of others.
Essentially it is about emotional sensitivity to the world around you. There are those who now argue that this may be less “intelligent” than popularly advocated.
Those interested might read ‘Neuropsychology for Coaches’ by Professors Paul and Virginia Brown which convincingly focuses on the importance of understanding emotion by looking at “intelligent emotions” rather than at Emotional Intelligence.
The significance of this idea in the context of Mental Toughness is that it resonates well with the Emotional Control sub-scales in the 4 Cs model.
A simple way to understand this is as follows:
Imagine going to the theatre to watch a great actor play the well-known character, Hamlet. The theatre is full with 500 people in the audience.
Actors are taught not only to say the words but also to use body language, gestures, etc. to communicate the full meaning of their performance. This ensures that the audience understands not only what the character is saying but also understands why the character is uttering these words. This includes the emotions and feelings behind the words. A good actor will reach most, if not all, of the audience in this way.
Actors are often trained to “exaggerate” emotions and feelings to ensure that this full meaning is communicated to the audience.
Now…. imagine you are in the audience. Whose emotions and feelings are you reading?
Mostly you will be reading the character’s emotions and feelings. Not those of the actor who is standing in front of you.
Moreover you may well also be responding emotionally to what you are receiving.
So where is the “intelligence” – in the transmitter (the actor) or the receiver (the audience).
A great actor is perfectly capable of playing, convincingly, a wide range of characters some very different from their own character.
What might this mean in our everyday world?
Most of us work with other people and when we do we impact on the mood and performance of the people around us. Yet some of the time we are putting on a performance, especially if we want to portray a happy and positive persona when in fact we are feeling negative and potentially distressed. We don’t want to expose our true feelings, otherwise that could badly affect the mood and culture of your surroundings
In those situations we are using our emotional control to set aside what we are thinking and feeling and show people a more positive set of emotions and feelings. This has to be authentic in that you show a set of emotions and feelings that you would typically present if you were truly content. Anything else probably wouldn’t work.
The result should be to maintain or even lift the mood around you which ….. should feed back positively to you and, despite what has happened, help to improve your mood and feelings. This is a form of cognitive bias modification.
The suggestion here then is that mentally tough individuals understand how to deal with adversity and setback but also understand how to maintain a positive persona and a positive outlook. That is they can manage their emotional response in such a way that it impacts on the emotions and feelings of those around them and where useful, it helps to lift their own emotions and feelings too and remain positive in the face of adversity.
This is consistent with our understanding of how the emotional control scale in the 4 Cs model might work.
It doesn’t mean that a mentally tough individual is insensitive. They can simply manage their emotions.
Finally, there is no suggestion here that individuals should never share their true feelings and emotions. That is more about time and place. There are clear benefits in sharing what you truly feel – but perhaps to those who can be trusted to deal with this and who are perhaps capable of understanding and supporting you. There will be times and places where you have a responsibility to maintain atmosphere and managing and masking your emotions will be more appropriate. This especially so if you are a leader and your moods or emotions –positive or negative –can have a significant impact on those around you.
It’s an area that will be researched further as it has the potential to be important and powerful for a large number of people.
To learn more about emotional control and the 4 Cs contact us.