Emotional intelligence and the new paradigm

Let me be controversial: No one can upset you or make you angry, despite what is taught on some leadership trainings. Emotions are not triggered. Your feelings do not come from other people or external events…

I know we are taught to be ‘self-aware’ and ‘self-manage’ our emotions by counting to ten or asking ourselves, ‘Will this matter to me in three month’s time?’ Believing that emotions are triggered by an external event is the equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the Earth. It looks like it does, and we call it ‘sunrise’, but it’s just an illusion that looks very real. In the same way it looks like the guy pulling out a little late at a junction causes us to be angry.

Our brain works by best guessing what is happening in the outside world. The information coming in through our senses uses only 10% of neurons which are used to create a picture that comes from our optic nerve to the optical cortex. The other 90% of neuron activity provided to the cortex comes from other parts of our brain. Have you ever seen a stranger and you think it is someone you know? At first you think it is them, then you realise it is not, but they look very like them. Well this is because your brain is sending out predictions about what is going on based on the data or concepts it has stored in our ‘script.’

This means that even though it feels like emotions are triggered, we are actually predicting them based on concepts being fired out by our brain. In other words, we are totally, 100% responsible for our feelings of calmness or anger. So, when some-one cuts us up in traffic, we are sending out predictions about how we will respond although it feels like our anger is ‘triggered.’ This is all good news because it means that we are 100% personally responsible and all we have to do is recognise that we are predicting what is happening.

Now here is the juicy bit! Our physiology is changing all the time depending on whether we are tired or hungry but our brain does not know this and fires out predictions based on how we felt (our valence) last time a similar situation occurred. This is why sometimes a driver can cut us up and we are not bothered yet another time we might use our horn.

Once you consciously recognise that you are predicting and saying, ‘It’s just me valence’, then the negative thoughts dissipate. We will teach you how to do this on our Leadership and NLP programmes.


Steve Kay