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Brain’s Blind Spots

When we hear the words “Diversity & Inclusion,” some of us cringe or roll our eyes, not because we don’t care, but because we feel uncomfortable, guilty, or feel we don’t need any training in it because “we’re not racist.” Yet every day, we read a news story where someone’s hidden biases trigger a potentially harmful action, from calling 911 on a congresswoman visiting her constituents to using racial slurs on political opponents. “Diversity & Inclusion” is necessary but insufficient; as Coaching Certification Faculty member Michelle Maldonado notes, we need to move from “Diversity & Inclusion” to “Belonging & Unity.”

One first step we can take is to recognize our lack of awareness of what influences our decisions, actions, and perceptions of other people. According to Leonard Mlodinow, scientists estimate that 95% of what happens in our brains is beyond our conscious awareness. In other words, we’re only 5% aware of why we think and act and feel the way we do. The majority of what dominates our mental activity is unconscious.

Our world is filled with differences. We are naturally drawn towards what is familiar and deemed “safe,” like family members who, for the most part, look and smell like us, and we move away from what is unfamiliar. Our brains use heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to help us navigate a complex world. We unconsciously build beliefs about different groups of people outside of “our tribe,” based on various socially constructed or identity markers, to help us organize our social world.

Similarity bias is our preference for others who are similar to us. Our brain’s natural inclination to categorize our world starts at a young age. David Kelly found that babies as young as three months show a preference for those with a similar race to them. The chances are that these babies are not “racist,” but unconsciously, they realize that their main caregivers are their sources of comfort, food, safety, and diaper changes. More often than not, these caregivers are related and therefore, “look” like them. Such biases may persistent in adulthood unconsciously in how we act. University of Michigan researcher Jesse Chandler found that people were 260% more likely to donate to hurricane relief efforts if the hurricane’s name began with the same letter as their first initial.

Our brains are also subject to implicit egotism, the notion that we think more favorably about others like ourselves. We are more likely to respond to a stranger’s email if they share our name, and we’re more likely to help someone out if they went to the same university. The opposite occurs unconsciously as well. Have you ever met someone new that you irrationally didn’t like or felt animosity towards them simply because they share a name with a childhood bully? That’s our unconscious brain at work.

Our hidden biases also are influenced by visual bias. Our optic nerves attach to our retinas in a way that means we have actual blind spots, and so our brains fill in the visual gap we can’t see. Similarly, when it comes to how we view and evaluate other people, if we have missing data about another person, we tend to take the little bit we know about the social categorization of that person and fill in the rest of the information. For example, if you meet someone of Nepalese descent for the first time, and the only bit of information you have about Nepal is that it is a Buddhist nation, you might assume that they are Buddhist and hesitate to include them in your Passover Seder.

Even though we think we evaluate others based on their individual qualities in rational and deliberate ways, our brain’s automatic processing is influenced by cultural and social messages around stereotypes and the “Other.” Groupthink can lead to “Othering,” whereby we discourage individual disagreements or thoughts for the sake of wanting to belong to the “in-group.” Daniel Goleman offers important insights into how groupthink may manifest in the workplace and what to do about it. While we have seen historical incidences of how groupthink can cause irreparable harm, from the Holocaust to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, “Othering” in the workplace can lead to lower performance, well-being, and engagement. UCLA psychologist Naomi Eisenberger found that the area of our brain associated with physical pain is also associated with feeling left out. When we overlook the administrative assistant during lunchtime as we sit with our cubemates daily to eat, we may be impacting their feeling of belonging, even though our intentions are not to exclude.

It is therefore important that we consider how to build psychological safety into our environments, whereby people feel safe to express their true and whole selves without judgment or reprisal. When we do, people feel confident to express opinions, have disagreements, and show up. In fact, Google researched hundreds of its own teams to find out why some thrived and others wilted and discovered that psychological safety was the number one factor. In short, if we want high-performing teams that bring diversity of perspective and a sense of inclusion and belonging, we must build trust, raise our awareness, and reach out to others.

By using our brain’s natural structural functions, we can hack our minds to bring greater curiosity of the “Other,” Self-Awareness of our own unconscious thinking, and Empathy to find similarities with others who may appear different than us. Emotional Balance can help us raise our awareness and ability to move from unconscious to conscious. As Daniel Goleman notes, “when it comes to diversity, you’re seeing people who have a range of backgrounds, of understandings, and of abilities. And the more diverse team is going to be the one with the largest array of talents, and so it will be the one with the potential best performance.”

Recommended Resources:

 

 

For further reading, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Balance, and Empathy.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to cultivate your Emotional Intelligence? Reserve your spot for the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence. During twelve, two-week online experiences, you’ll explore the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence through facilitated, group learning. You’ll discover the science behind each competency, why they matter, and how to apply them to positively differentiate yourself.

For a taste of the Foundational Skills, join our two-week Emotional Balance experience. In this portion of the Foundational Skills of EI, you’ll build your resilience, self-awareness, and focus.

 

 

 

 

 

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Coaching for Emotional Intelligence: Belinda Chiu on Global Awareness

In the seventh installment of Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, Belinda Chiu, a Meta-Coach for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, discusses the role of diplomacy in coaching, global awareness, and more. Previous installments of this series include interviews with mindfulness coach and CEO Michelle Maldonado, educator and executive coach Matthew Taylor, and retired healthcare CEO Kathy Bollinger.   

 

Belinda has 20 years of experience in university admissions; leadership development & training; career and executive coaching; and strategic consulting. She is a mindfulness trainer, certified yoga instructor, and a Search Inside Yourself Certified Teacher. Belinda has worked with clients ranging from the U.S. Department of State, to GlaxoSmithKline, to Maersk, to the University of Denver. Belinda holds a Bachelor’s from Dartmouth College, a Master’s from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

 

 

What led you to begin coaching?

Great question! I can’t say I had some of epiphany, but if I really had to think about the roots of what led me here, I suppose it had much to do with my growing up in the “in-between”–cultures, interests, etc. Not belonging anywhere yet belonging everywhere offered a sense of comfort and capacity to see things from multiple perspectives–even if those perspectives weren’t lived experiences. This orientation to the world has helped me to support others to explore and connect from a divergent, yet inclusive space.

As an undergraduate student, I earned an internship at my university’s career center. At the time, it was simply meant to be a great experience about the inner workings of higher education, not a future career. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy helping my classmates be more purposeful with and prepared for their post-grad plans. I remember when my director told me that one day I would be in some sort of profession helping others find alignment in their careers and lives, I dismissed him. Well, Mr. Sturman, you might have been right.

That experience, along with my direct approach (perhaps early debate training?), became useful as peers and friends reached out for advice. What I discovered was not that I was particularly wise (I’m not), but that I had the privilege and honor of their trust. From this place of trust and nonjudgment, I could then ask them direct, oftentimes uncomfortable questions. Coaching isn’t about me; it’s about helping others connect and explore.

 

In what ways has your background in education and diplomacy informed your current work as a coach?

Diplomacy and education are far simpler as theories. Just listen to each other and arrive at a speedy resolution. Just know the student’s learning style and teach to it. Simple, yes? We can talk all we want about tactics or models, but the second you throw a human being in the mix–with all their quirks and human-ness, it gets messy. Having the capacity to enter into any situation, whether a negotiation or classroom, with greater self-awareness of one’s own triggers and biases, the ability to recognize and manage others’ emotions, and seek commonalities is therefore critical. In diplomacy and education–and in fact, almost anything, I keep two questions in mind: what is the highest intention, and how can we act to be of service?

My work as a coach requires me to bring this perspective to help my clients, who I believe hold the answers. It is my responsibility to help facilitate and serve as a catalyst to help them uncover the deeper hidden answers to more surface-level issues. A diplomatic approach is required to raise tough-to-hear, often uncomfortable questions. For example, if a client has a tough relationship issue with a boss or peer, the skills of mindful diplomacy may help them navigate their conversations for more positive and productive outcomes. I also get to indulge my research side by bringing psychology, educational, and neuroscientific research into practical, user-friendly techniques that they can apply in real life. I assign homework!

 

 

What drew you to the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification?

As I study mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence, as well try to incorporate these concepts into my daily life, work, and coaching, it’s impossible not to know of Dr. Goleman’s work. As he serves as an advisor for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute on Emotional Intelligence leadership, I became even more familiar with how he understands applied research. Going to the “root” source, if you will, for the most up-to-date research that is also done with a critical eye for validity and reliability, as seen in Altered Traits, was appealing to me as a researcher and writer. Importantly, being part of a community to help make broader improvement on how we live and work with peers from whom I could learn and grow seemed like an invaluable part of my own development. Being around others with a purpose and higher intention of how to make the world a kinder, healthier place seemed like a no-brainer (pun intended) to me.

 

You have a Doctorate of Education in International Educational Development, are a Mindful Leadership Coach for Ignition Coaching LLC, which has an international presence, and also co-founded Zomppa, a global education nonprofit for children. What is the role of global awareness in your work as a coach?

Global awareness impacts my work as a coach on multiple levels. On one level, it’s the personal. I have worked with clients from all different backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences. My own personal background also informs a level of nuance as to different cultural variances in workplace behavior, concerns, and issues relevant to an immigrant or underrepresented individual, or upbringing that impacts current behavior and mindset. On another level, it’s the wider societal and geopolitical forces that impact the approach. It requires that I stay attuned to global forces, local context, and group and individual biases–unconscious or otherwise, as all of this may impact their work so I might serve as a conduit to help them thrive.

 

Do you have any advice for those leading an increasingly diverse and virtual workforce?

Diversity has become almost an overused and often misused phrase. Fellow Coaching Certification Faculty Michelle Maldonado offers a wonderfully appropriate and more expansive phrase, “Belonging & Unity,” to bring recognition of a broader invitation for everyone to have a seat at the table. Whether we’re geographically dispersed or separated by tribe, there is no scarcity in science that shows that diversity of cognitive and experiential representation boosts creativity, and that diversity alone is insufficient. It is irresponsible to simply say “we have X, Y, Z” without doing the far tougher work to ensure a psychologically safe environment where people from multiple backgrounds can challenge, be challenged, and thrive. With an increasing virtual workforce, the lack of face-to-face and its corresponding critical body language communication can exacerbate any pre-existing biases or blockages.

We know that psychological safety is important. We also know that lip service to diversity or inclusion is insufficient. It is important to raise an individual-, team-, and organization-level of awareness to recognize biases, mental shortcuts, and behaviors informed by unconscious thinking to build such a safe environment. It is also important to provide time and space for in-person meetings, and at the very least, consistent and robust communication. There is much technology to use at our disposal to increase connectivity, but it cannot be at the expense of human-to-human relationship building. These approaches require training to relate to others in a deeper way that builds trust, supports vulnerability, and invites and gives voice to all around the table.

 

 

What does living an authentic life mean to you? How do you develop authentic leaders?

An authentic life is being aware of one’s North Star and having the wherewithal, skills, and tools to stay true to it. It is having the wisdom of discernment, self-compassion for growth, and courage to act. Authenticity requires a level of self-awareness and willingness to be honest with oneself and others. A little gumption, irreverence, and sense of humor doesn’t hurt.

This is not to say that we live authentic lives without consideration of others around us. It does not give license to excuse poor behavior as “being true to oneself” nor from our role and responsibility to be a positive force in the world. Self- and other-awareness become critical because we do not live in isolation.

There is the saying we have on the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain: one walks alone, but one never walks alone. We can only abide by our own pace and cadence. How fast or quickly or beautifully one walks in comparison to others makes no difference. Yet we cannot walk without consideration for others around us, to not litter and harm the earth along the way, or to bypass a fellow injured pilgrim without stopping to help.

 

What advice do you have for people who would like to become coaches?

What is your highest intention for doing so? Keeping that in mind can help discern if coaching is the most appropriate way to make the kind of impact you want. Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not. Reflect on your philosophy and approach. Reflect on your own working preferences and styles. Reflect on your own biases and triggers. Do you have find fulfillment and get energized from coaching relationships? Do you have fun?

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience as a coach?

My own mindfulness practice continues to be a work in progress. I try to bring that into my work, although I fully recognize I am a neophyte. One reason I have always loved connecting with people is being inspired and energized by those who seek to intentionally live their authentic selves. The great thing is that there are so many incredible people out there with a shared sense of purpose to help the world be a better place by helping people to thrive, be kind, and serve a greater good.

 

 

Recommended Reading:

 

For further reading, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Empathy, and Coach & Mentor.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

*Please note: While the first cohort of the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification is now full, you can click here to sign up for updates on future cohorts.

 

 

 

 

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The Vital Role of Resilience in Emergencies

**Update: all 12 Wild Boars, their coach, and the rescuers are now safe! A true effort, from those who cooked and fed the volunteers, to the schoolchildren who prayed, to the frogman who stayed with the team. A moment of gratitude and respect for Saman Gunan.

 

Much of the world has been riveted to the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach in Thailand. As the eighth “Wild Boar” is now in the hospital, it goes without notice how much mental fortitude, mindfulness, and emotional balance has played a role in the survival of the soccer team for two weeks in claustrophobic, frightening conditions, and in the innovative problem solving and collaborative action of an international team of planners and rescuers putting the young men’s lives over their own.

The boys look skinnier than usual, but seem to maintain their humanity and humor. They joked about getting fried BBQ and asking their teacher not to give them too much homework. How do these young boys and their coach, barely older than them at 25, have the fortitude to maintain their calm despite great uncertainty of their rescue?

First, let’s take a look at what happens to our brains and bodies in emergencies.

Our brains are designed to react quickly to threats for our survival. When we’re under sudden attack, stress-related hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood our bodies, our heart rate goes up, and our vision decreases up to 70%. All these physiological changes compromise our cognitive flexibility to come up with the wise or innovative solutions. Our fight/flight/freeze default take over our prefrontal cortex – our brain’s executive functioning area, and we have an amygdala hijack. Our ability to logically think is greatly reduced. We go into autopilot, reduce our capacity to consider wise or innovative solutions, or fail to make the choice that will actually get us out of trouble.

Have you ever been caught in a tight bind and made the wrong turn? You’re not alone. We hear unfortunate stories of people who have met their doom because of a sudden wrong decision in the heat of the moment. According to psychologist John Leach, 85% of people respond inappropriately in a crisis. In 2011, George Larson was one of 17 survivors out of 65 because he was one of the few with the wherewithal to get himself out of a burning plane before it exploded. In airplane crashes, it is common for passengers to scramble for their bags from the overhead lockers first. It’s easy for us to say now “that wouldn’t be me,” but in an emergency, even the “smartest” of us get stuck brains.

Daniel Goleman uses the analogy of a basement and balcony. In emergencies, whether catastrophes like tsunamis or getting stuck underground in a cave for weeks, we often go to the “basement,” our brain’s primitive threat response system. But if we are to respond with greater wisdom and flexibility, it is important to “go to the balcony,” and view the crisis from a broader perspective and get as much information as possible to  make a wiser decision of how to proceed. This requires our prefrontal cortex to stay in the game.

Let’s go back to the question: how does the young Thai soccer team have the fortitude to maintain their calm despite great uncertainty of their rescue?

Undoubtedly, there are many factors, and researchers will probably be eager to learn about their survival. A few early indicators suggest that mindfulness, meditation, compassion, cognitive flexibility, collaboration, and resilience have played a huge role. The boys’ soccer coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, is a novice monk. Reports indicate that he taught the boys how to meditate as they sat in dank darkness without any indicators of how they would get out. He taught them to refocus their minds away from hunger and fear, and to maintain emotional balance and build resilience during this harrowing ordeal.

Now as the first eight boys are safely in the hospital, divers continue these efforts, recognizing that the most difficult part is not the lack of the boys’ ability to swim or visibility – the divers are there to guide them. The most difficult part is for the boys – and divers – to maintain their mental focus and calm for each of the 11-hour trek through tight passageways underwater so that they do not get an amygdala hijack and panic. If that happens, then they are in real trouble.

There is also the mental fortitude and resilience required of the remaining boys and their coach as they watch their mates leave the cave, not knowing if their mates survived and not knowing if they too will be rescued. The team of rescuers are rescuing the mentally strongest last. There was a 10-hour gap between the rescue of the first and second group to replenish oxygen, and now another long gap until the next group. Ten hours is an eternity once you see your mates leave. Being left behind can pose additional threats to the body’s survival instinct, and so they will have to draw from even greater reservoirs of mindfulness and emotional balance.

Then there are the rescuers. These rescuers have clearly stepped up to the balcony rather than the basement. They have taken as much into account to make the decisions to begin rescues now rather than wait for more heavy rains. Additionally, their emotional balance has allowed them to put aside any personal differences to form an international coalition of 90 divers – 40 Thai and 50 non-Thai. There are 13 medical teams each with their own ambulance and helicopter, and 30 doctors await. There are the engineers who pumped out water. There are others ready to activate Plans C, D, and E, from Elon Musk’s submarine to Pairojana Toontong’s inflatable tube. There is Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy Seal who gave his life ensuring the treacherous path has oxygen. Their collective diversity of perspectives, languages, cultures, and experiences fuels the cognitive flexibility, trust, and clarity of when to act, and is indicative of how a sense of purpose can lead to greater connection and team performance. This team’s sense of empathic concern has moved a global movement from just sitting by and feeling badly for the boys to putting their own lives at risk. Watching the rescuers is to watch true leadership and teamwork in action.

Finally, the emotional balance the boys’ families are demonstrating is a lesson in compassion. While some are chiding the coach for being negligent, and Ekopol himself has already apologized to the families, the children’s families are focusing on how Ekapol has helped their children survive. He is said to be the weakest, having given his share of food to the boys. One mother said: “when [Ekapol] comes out, we have to heal his heart. My dear Ek, I would never blame you.”

As we write, we continue to send our collective thoughts for all to return safely.

Recommended Resources:

 

 

Interested in cultivating your own Emotional Balance? Reserve your spot for the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence. During twelve, two-week online experiences, you’ll explore the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence through facilitated, group learning. You’ll discover the science behind each competency, why they matter, and how to apply them to positively differentiate yourself.

For a taste of the Foundational Skills, join our two-week Emotional Balance experience. In this portion of the Foundational Skills of EI, you’ll build your resilience, self-awareness, and focus.

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Control (or Emotional Balance), Empathy, and Teamwork. The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

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The Lasting Benefits of a Retreat or Pilgrimage

Fancy adverts for retreats offering yoga by oceans or a fine wine often grace the pages of magazines on mindfulness and wellness. Then there are the less advertised retreats, those done in silence or without the luxuries of a 5-star restaurant or indoor plumbing.

Regardless of our preferences or current goals, time away from our “regular” lives is meant to help us reset and renew in some manner. In a world that doesn’t stop moving, our brains are constantly under fire, and as we now know, chronic stressors can have long-term implications on the way our brains function, our emotional balance, and our capacity to maintain healthy relationships. While some retreats allow participants to delve deeper into self-reflection, and others are meant more for pleasure, they all help us press the pause button and find space.

Retreats may provide us with physical refuge, but they can also serve as liminal spaces. Liminal, from the Latin root limen meaning “threshold,” refers to the notion of the in-between, a place of transition, the after-the-before and before-the-next. Liminal spaces generally refer to those places and even states of mind in which we feel uncomfortable. The sense of uncomfortableness often stems from a place of uncertainty. For many of us, uncertainty can give us great anxiety. For many obvious reasons, we find security in knowing what we’ll be doing, who we’ll be with, and where we’ll be living. We are creatures of habit and often squirm when we have to endure upheavals, whether big – a job loss, divorce, relocation, or small – ever get upset because your regular coffee shop runs out of your preferred roast? However, these transitional times require us to sit in the discomfort because, well, we have no other option. And it is often during this discomfort and in these spaces that we find growth.

People have sought out such spaces for thousands of years in search of meaning and purpose. One such liminal space is the famous Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. Rare would be one who has walked this Catholic pilgrimage who was not changed in some capacity. While there are many paths to Santiago, the most popular is the Camino Frances, an 800-km walk from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in southern France to Santiago in western Spain. Several years ago, I spent 30 days walking the Way, carrying with me everything I needed, food notwithstanding. For 30 days, I woke up at 4:30am and walked until I was tired. For 30 days, I kept my cell phone in my pocket for emergencies and occasional check-ins. For 30 days, I met pilgrims from all over the world walking for different reasons: honoring religion, recovering from divorce, celebrating beating cancer, sightseeing, adventure. Whatever the reason, each pilgrim entered a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual liminal space of their own.

Such liminal spaces force us to confront ourselves, our thoughts, and our emotions and to remove the façade many of us carry. One conversation I will never forget was with a young Dane, who was a good foot taller than me. As we walked, he said to me, “you’re only the second American I have met who truly seems happy.” He articulated his observation that as a generalization, he found Europeans more willing to be upfront about their struggles, and the Camino was a way for them to confront their transitional discomfort. On the other hand, he found Americans were generally eager to express a mirage of happiness and upbeat engagement that crumbled as the Camino became not the escape they hoped for, but a journey that required them be naked with themselves.

The Camino, like many liminal spaces, can leave its pilgrims feeling unsettled, whether because we wished we paid more attention in Spanish class, or that we didn’t have ten pairs of shoes to choose from, or that we weren’t really sure where we’d be sleeping that night until we stopped for the day. Much of this journey is done in silence for hours, and for some, its entirety. During this time, we are alone with nature and our thoughts and for many, it is the first time to be so, and it can be uncomfortable.

Pilgrimages and retreats can be extremely challenging for those of us with an underlying mental condition and even those who do not have a regular practice in mindfulness. For example, there are reports every year of tourists to Jerusalem, a rather powerful liminal space, who exhibit symptoms of the Jerusalem Syndrome, a disorder whereby individuals who had no previous signs of psychosis suffer from an acute episode when there. On the Camino, while not common, it was not unheard of for pilgrims to seek refuge in a bottle after a few days because the discomfort of silence and the space was overwhelming. Sadly, there is an increasing number of pilgrims who bring their iPhones to drown out their inner voices with other people’s noises.

Fortunately, mindfulness and emotional intelligence can help us to seek out liminal experiences for their capacity to help us grow and transform. When we are able to bring a greater awareness of our emotional states, we become more willing to step into physical and mental places of discomfort. We are less susceptible to external and internal triggers, we ruminate less, and we worry less about the unknown. Mindfulness and emotional balance allows us sit in presence because we are less preoccupied with what happened or what will happen. By expanding our awareness – and awareness of awareness – we can be more readily available to act with wisdom and discernment and to listen to our inner voices with kindness, without being swept away by their cacophony.

When we build our emotional intelligence, particularly though mindfulness meditation, we build our capacity for resilience and balance, allowing us to better manage the subtle and the tumultuous disruptions of life. As Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson wrote on the impact of meditation in Altered Traits, “the after is the before for the next during.” In other words, after we meditate, we can make long-lasting internal changes, which alters how we were before the meditation, setting a new baseline before the next practice. With repeated practice, we find strength in stillness and courage in balance.

This practice doesn’t require us to go on a 30-day pilgrimage or a mountain retreat. While those can be valuable and transformative experiences, we can also sit in our bedrooms to enter liminal spaces with awareness and a beginner’s mind, enhancing our ability to embrace life’s constant uncertainties with curiosity and presence.

 

Recommended Resources:

 

Altered Traits audio cover

 

Interested in learning more about mindfulness and the science behind it? Listen to Daniel Goleman read his book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, written in collaboration with neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. This audiobook, available as a download or on a reusable USB drive, is the perfect accompaniment to your commute or workout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to work with Belinda and help others develop their Emotional Intelligence, we encourage you to apply for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. This in-depth program, akin to a professional degree, draws upon a range of evidence-based concepts and practices, including the Emotional & Social Intelligence framework. Coaches will gain meaningful new insights to impact their personal and professional lives through online learning, one-on-one guidance from a Meta-Coach, a coaching practicum, and more.

 

 

 

 

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Mindful Diplomacy: The Case for Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Mindfulness practices have traversed from the world of yogis to the C-suite. Notable leaders, such as Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner, and Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow” Chade-Meng Tan, are driving a sea change in corporate culture to develop employee engagement, wellness, and productivity not through bonus schemes, but yoga and emotional intelligence training. It’s almost impossible not to read about mindful eating, mindful schooling, mindful walking. An emerging field of research suggests that the state of being aware and present result in improved mental, emotional, and physical health, greater concentration and attentiveness, and increased productivity.

Only three years ago, mindfulness had yet to really make its way into the jargon of international diplomacy. For all that was written and taught about cooperation and getting to “yes,” little could be found about the role of mindfulness, despite diplomacy being a most obvious place to benefit. In 2014, former ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr noted that despite efforts to depend less on military might to shape foreign affairs, the U.S. approach of declaratory diplomacy and sanctions have only led to more entrenched, adversarial positions. He argues that this approach to “diplomacy,” whereby the U.S. cuts off dialogue, communicates disapproval, and exaggerates differences, seems predicated on the idea that diplomacy is only used when “the enemy lies prostrate before us.”

In other words, talk is for the weak.

Or is it? Much of the corporate world has embraced competitive collaboration as desirable, even necessary, in today’s interwoven, interconnected world. Leaders who have witnessed personal transformation from mindfulness and emotional intelligence training are transforming corporate cultures in which mutual inspiration and collaboration bring more profit, as well as more fun and possibilities to achieve greater societal good. While civilians break bread together and find more commonalities than not through citizen diplomacy every day, and businesses create partnerships to innovate and increase market share, international diplomatic efforts sometimes seem stuck fighting in the sandbox.

Valuable Lessons for High-Level Communication

What, if anything, can be learned from the world of mindfulness in a world of zero-sum tacticians? In an early article written about mindfulness and diplomacy, former South Korean ambassador Seok-Hyun Hong offers an alternative approach based on the Eastern philosophies of Daoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism that:

1) human relations are far more complex than good versus evil, and

2) harmony is a worthy goal.

Such an approach challenges the traditional hegemonic worldview of one winner. Starting from a different predicate establishes a foundation from which dialogue may be nuanced, respectful, and authentic, and diplomacy becomes a genuine effort to find balance of powers.

Perhaps in response to the backsliding on global decency as well as emerging scientific evidence, secular mindfulness is getting recognition as a necessary skill in nation building and negotiation. The notoriously colorful UK House of Commons committed over 100 parliamentarians to take an eight-week mindfulness course and articulated a national commitment to bring mindfulness to its health, education, business, and criminal justice systems. In 2017, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn led a meditation session there with dignitaries from Israel to Sri Lanka. Bhutan, the “happiest nation in the world,” has committed to training all 9,000 of its teachers in emotional intelligence. U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan authored a book on how mindfulness can “recapture the American spirit.” As the world watches U.S. and China play a potentially dangerous game of chicken amid many other conflicts, bringing mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills to diplomacy is critical.

With a practice of mindfulness, players enter negotiations with a beginner’s mind, bringing awareness and equanimity to avoid fixed thinking and aversion to unattended emotions.

 

 

With mindfulness, ego is set aside, as well as the obsession for one predetermined outcome or a battle between “us” and “them.” As lateral thinker Edward de Bono has found, the ability to view things from multiple vantage points increases constructive alternative solutions to problems.

Emotional Intelligence Provides a Clear Framework

With Emotional Intelligence, players refine their abilities to pause and control their thoughts before reacting, learn and grow from criticism, and demonstrate empathy and compassion. It even builds the courage to say “I’m sorry,” when appropriate. Although not traditionally taught in the training of diplomats, it can – and should – be. Dr. Daniel Goleman, who co-created the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, recently announced its Coaching Certification program to prepare more impactful and wise leaders.[1] The model articulates four primary domains to increasing efficacy and agency: 1) Self-Awareness as the foundational capacity of how emotions affect the self and others; 2) Self-Management as the balance of emotions towards goal attainment; 3) Social Awareness as the fostering of connection and understanding of others; and 4) Relationship Management as the interaction with others for the greatest impact.

By staying present and aware, players around the negotiation table can preempt impulsive reactions that often result in greater divides and create barriers for resolution. Consider this: two monkeys are fighting for a banana in a tree. Each has an iron grasp on the banana and pull and pull. Eventually, either one or both will tire and fall out of the tree, or the banana will slip from their hands and be lost forever. If instead, the monkeys paused before acting and were aware of their own emotions and that of their “foe,” they might let go of their tight grips on the desired fruit, gently set it down, and share in its delights.

Obviously, international diplomacy is more complicated than two monkeys and a banana. Yet progress in diplomatic efforts may happen far more quickly when both parties are more mindful of the present, impulses and reactions, and ultimate goals. Mindfulness and emotional intelligence prepare them to lead with authenticity and the mindset of “how to be of service.” As Hong notes, both sides can then stay true to the “deeper commitment to the common causes of humanity [and establish] a balance, not of power, but of perspective, and in the process aspire to a harmony among nations worthy of the name.”

[1] In full disclosure, author is both engaged with the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute and the Daniel Goleman Emotional and Social Intelligence Coaching Certification Program.

 

 

Interested in working with Belinda and becoming a certified coach? Apply now for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. This in-depth program, akin to a professional degree, draws upon a range of evidence-based concepts and practices, including the Emotional & Social Intelligence framework. Coaches will gain meaningful new insights to impact their personal and professional lives through online learning, one-on-one guidance from a Meta-Coach, a coaching practicum, and more.

 

 

Belinda Chiu

Belinda believes in the power of play and the authentic life as a path to a more peaceful, joyful, and connected world. She is known for her directness, honesty, and humor to push people to think harder, work smarter, and relate better.

Belinda has 20 years of experience in university admissions; leadership development and training; career and executive coaching; and strategic consulting. She is a mindfulness teacher and certified RYT© yoga instructor, as well as Myers- Briggs® certified and a Search Inside Yourself Certified Teacher.

Belinda has worked with organizations, such as U.S. Department of Education, GlaxoSmithKline, and University of Denver. She also co-founded Zomppa, a global education nonprofit for children. She is the author of a number of journal articles, The One-Hundred-Year History of the Phelps-Stokes Fund as a Family PhilanthropyWe Are One: yoga meditations for children, and The Ladies’ Practical Guide to the Camino de Santiago: Walk Your Way.

Belinda holds a bachelor’s from Dartmouth College, a master’s from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, and a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.