Imagine you are running one day, enjoying the view, nodding your head to fellow joggers as they pass by. To anyone that nods back, you seem like a happy guy in his early 30s but you know the man too well to know that he isn’t. At least, not mentally! But what does being happy mentally even means? Well, Chade-Meng Tan’s book, Search Inside Yourself, has an answer. Being one of Google’s personal growth pioneer and engineer, he manages the professional as well as personal growth of his trainees using mindfulness-based emotional intelligence at a physiological level.
Picture a bad day at work. You just came out of your boss’s room without the evaluation and appraisal you expected. You decide to not think about it further and get back to doing your work. Before you get to your desk, the smell of freshly brewed coffee captures your attention and you decide to have a cup. But as you push the door open, so does John. John, the guy who got a glowing appraisal and who is stopping everyone to boast about it. John had decided to celebrate his win with a cup of coffee and as you two collide into each other, the hot coffee spills onto your shirt and ruins it. Not to mention, it burns the hair on your chest. What would your reaction be? Wouldn’t you want to just punch him? However, if you resist the impulse, take a deep breath, and accept his unapologetic sorry, that is you having emotional intelligence. Chade-Meng believes that it is one skill – having good emotional intelligence – that is a game-changer in terms of how we react to different situations we face every day. Situations where conflict is the most likely outcome yet we keep it together because we know there is no point in it.
5 Aspects of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be broken into smaller pieces to help understand what it is.
- Self-awareness – Noticing and understanding your own emotions
- Self-regulation – Being able to control your own emotions
- Motivation – Intrinsic motivation helps provide fulfillment and lasting happiness. What fuels you inside?
- Empathy – Understanding emotions of people around you
- Social Skills – Influence others through communication and leadership
Start by looking inwards and understanding why you do the things you do. When you are driving to work and someone cuts in front of you, what is causing you to immediately slam the car horn and hollering an expletive? We do not know the other person’s story. A husband could be rushing their wife to the hospital to give birth. A son could be hurrying home on high emotions because he just heard of a family emergency.
Once you can understand your own tendencies and behaviors, you can begin to practice self-regulation and controlling your emotions. That is, instead of honking the horn right away, you can take a deep breath and think clearly before making any actions. This self-control is paramount for handling your own emotions and can then focus outwards to other people. Learning empathy and social skills will let you use your emotional intelligence to spread compassion and love to others around you.
Practice Controlling Your Emotions
How does one learn emotional intelligence and excel at it? That too is stated clearly in the book. Let me ask you this: who do you think will be better at decision-making and emotional intelligence? One who speaks without thinking or one who thinks before they speak? If you choose the latter, why? It is because you understand that someone who thinks before speaking has a sharp and open mind. They evaluate every thought that comes to their mind and then decides if it’s worth sharing. Where do you think that clarity of thought and a clear mind come from? From someone who practices mindfulness and meditation. Meditation trains their attention span, offers clarity of emotions, allows them to see things from different perspectives, opens doors for self-assessment and when all of that merges together, it leads to self-confidence and self-awareness.
Try for Yourself (3 minutes)
Try a simple meditation exercise for yourself, it will only take 3 minutes. Begin by sitting comfortably, where you can be relaxed but still alert (no sleeping!). You may either close your eyes or leave them open.
- Start taking slow, deep breathes.
- Bring your attention to your breath. Try to visualize your breath, thinking about air coming in and out of your lungs
- If you feel your attention is drifting, don’t be hard on yourself. Gently nudge your brain back to the breath and continue to inhale…and exhale…
- Continue this exercise for 3 minutes
I hope you feel a bit more refreshed or calmed after these 3 minutes are up! And don’t worry if your mind wandered off; that is normal. The more practice you have, the easier it will be.
Visualize a mother serving burnt toast for breakfast to her kids and husband. The eldest kid leaves the table without eating it while the younger one waits for the reaction of their father who is often quick to lose temper. But instead of putting the plate away or lashing out, he takes a spoonful of peanut butter, dabs it on the toast and eats it without making excuses. The younger kid, who was hoping that the father will react angrily, watches in surprise and mimics the same. Then, on the way to school, he asks his father why did he that. He tells his son that his mother is going through some tough times at work and is stressed out. “Had I reacted in the manner your elder brother did, I would have only added to that stress and hurt her feelings. So, I ate the toast.” That is empathy. Being there for someone in small ways through understanding and compassion.
Search Inside Yourself stresses the importance of empathy toward others and being aware of your own emotions. With many real-life examples, techniques, and simulations he uses with the best and brightest minds at Google, Chade-Meng Tan shows just how you can practice kindness, sincerity, and empathy towards others and apply it to both life and work. Think of it as a crash-course to happiness, health, and self-enrichment to improve productivity, relationships, and happiness at work as well as outside of it.
Chade-Meng Tan teaches about meditation, mindfulness, and emotional in a very light-hearted, fun, digestible manner. I resonate with his values and teachings about emotional intelligence and how impactful it can be. I would recommend the book to learn about his mindfulness exercises and incorporate it into your life. See if it can make a difference in your daily interactions. And please help spread kindness, you can really change the world. #WorldKindnessDay