Daniel Goleman is the name most associated with the field of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) purely because he was the first author to publicise the topic rather than the person to coin the phrase. Goleman’s first book of the same title was intended as an academic tome for psychology students and, in his own words, no one was more surprised than he when this book sold some 4 million copies worldwide.

Since this first work was published in 1995, Goleman has written numerous books on the subject and The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights is one of his latest offerings. This work, he explains, intentionally focuses on actionable findings rather than serving as an exhaustive technical review of the scientific data.

Goleman is well known for his four domains model of EQ (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management) and this work loosely follows the same formula.

Brain wiring

He offers fascinating insights into the wiring of habits that make routine behaviours so well entrenched but proffers new findings around brain plasticity saying this can help us understand how to change habits that no longer serve us. (Please see my previous blog post – Rethinking the Brain -about brain plasticity.)

5 Stress triggers @ work

One of the findings in the book that caught my attention was the top five negative emotional triggers in the workplace which Goleman views as follows:

1) Condescension and lack of respect

2) Being treated unfairly

3) Being unappreciated

4) Feeling that you’re not being listened to or heard

5) Being held to unrealistic deadlines

These areas tap straight into the Amygdala – the structure in the brain that deals with survival – and thus this area triggers potent emotional reactions such as high levels of stress and panic.

Stress, diabetes and heart disease

Goleman claims recent research reveals how the biological effects of stress are even worse than had been thought previously and this endangers our health in many ways. Cortisol – the stress hormone – increases abdominal fat and insulin resistance so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the body becomes more prone to diabetes, heart disease, and artery blockages. This stress hormone also impairs the transmission of signals in the brain literally making it nigh on impossible to think straight. Combine these symptoms with a plummet in the functioning of the immune system and it starts to make sense that stressed people get sick more often.

Frazzled or flow?

Goleman believes that leaders need to know whether their team is frazzled or in flow. Unlike the unhealthy physical consequences of being frazzled, flow is the very best way to harness emotions – especially in the service of performance or learning – as flow states channel positive emotions. Although we know that positive emotions lead to greater creativity, Goleman adds that the downside of being positive is a tendency towards being less discriminating.

Pollyanna or curmudgeon?

Positive Pollyannas often deny the value of negative moods as grouches are thoroughly unpleasant to be around. But curmudgeons pay greater attention to detail, are able to finish tiresome tasks and are more likely to think for themselves. Did I hear anyone mention the word ‘accountant’? Digs at number-crunchers aside, Goleman believes it’s about a healthy mix of both and he shows that people who flourish in life – who have rich relationships, rewarding work, who feel that their life is meaningful – have at least three positive emotional events for every negative one.

Gut- feel explained

One of the most extraordinary findings in the book gives us further clues about gut-feel. Goleman explains why the gut exchanges information laden with emotional content: some parts of the brain cannot communicate with each other and are reliant upon nerve clusters in the gastrointestinal tract to relay messages and it is this that gives the notion of ‘gut feel’ some serious scientific validation.

For people who don’t like to read, Goleman’s latest offering has the advantage of being a short book but for those who are new to field of EQ, this is not a good starting point or introduction as he makes the assumption that the reader is already familiar with the basic principles of EQ.

This book started life as an e-book but for those who prefer cutting down trees, it is now also available in hard copy.