Practical Emotional Intelligence: Emotional Fitness

In my previous post I discussed emotional labour, now I wish to discuss another new term emotional fitness.  This is defined as the state wherein the mind is capable of staying away from negative thoughts and can focus on creative and constructive tasks.

Much of the literature on emotional fitness contains two strands:

  1. First there is the comparison metaphor with physical fitness. Physical exercise makes you feel better and have more energy.  Similarly if we have a deeper understanding of our emotions and ourselves we should be able to improve our personal relationships and self-knowledge.
  2. Secondly there is a definite link to Positive Psychology. For example, if you feel unhappy with what you have, emotional fitness “experts” will advise you to take 10 minutes a day to write down what you’re grateful for in the morning, and start the day off right.  If you have a dream you want to go after, the write it down and work out all the barriers – including yourself – that are holding you back and think about how you can get past them.  If your mind is unfocused and dizzy with negative thought loops the meditate everyday right after your wake up, and focus on something you’re grateful for.

Now ringing in my ears is one of the best bits of advice that I ever received as a salesperson and that is to remember the only thing more contagious than enthusiasm is the lack of it.  Positive Psychology says that instead of looking at what is wrong with people, we should study what makes them right. The Positive Psychology movement gained real impetus under the leadership of Professor Martin Seligman when he became President of the American Psychological Association in 1998. While the saying “Laugh and the world laughs with you” may be too simplistic, the movement has defined three components of happiness — getting more pleasure out of life by savouring sensory experiences, becoming more engaged in what you do and finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful.

On the other hand in The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: HOW TO DEVELOP AND USE THE FOUR KEY EMOTIONAL SKILLS OF LEADERSHIP by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey, (the founders of Emotional Intelligence) there was one concept in the book that I found particularly compelling: namely the usefulness of negative emotions.  In complete contrast to the Positive Psychology Emotional Fitness “experts”, The Emotionally Intelligent Manager repeatedly suggests that when considering such matters as budgets, project plans, investments and business plans one should be in a risk-adverse, double-checking, pessimistic frame of mind. These are the occasions when a negative outlook is far more likely to ensure success. Optimists are good at the big picture, but it is well known that the devil is in the detail. Sceptics are good at checking for errors.

Sydney Finkelstein in his book Why Smart Managers Fail also says that mangers and salespeople with a relentlessly positive attitude are dangerous to an organisation. The upbeat mindset shuts out critical information from outside the company. Salespeople in particular may regard customer criticism as “sales resistance” rather than the best source of information about a customer’s needs and desires.

Of course it all depends on the job you are doing.  For jobs that require workers to express positive emotions (for example, service with a smile for customer service), differences in emotional intelligence explain around 7 per cent of differences in job performance.  This is significant.  Being 7 per cent more efficient is equivalent to an extra three to four weeks of work per year.

I firmly believe that the most useful approach to emotional fitness is to use a theory of temperament that allows you to both analyse the temperament needs of a job and the temperament of those people working in the job.  For example if the job requires you to friendly and enthusiastic, say for example the reception of a five-star hotel, you would seek to hire people with a high Mover component in their temperament profile.  On the other hand if you are looking for a new paymaster you want somebody with considerable Doublechecker in their temperament.  There is an ideal temperament match for every job and choosing the right people will dramatically increase the emotional fitness of both your staff and your organisation.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web