Emotional Intelligence, Neuroscience, and Altruism

The last few weeks we have looked at some of the latest neuroscience discoveries relating to altruism, empathy, and helping behaviours. This research got me thinking about how all this research relates to leaders and organisations.

The Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (the MSCEIT)

Since 2007, I have coached over a thousand leaders and professionals on the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (the 139094596MSCEIT). This ability measure of emotional intelligence involves four main areas – recognising, using, understanding, and managing emotions. When I debrief people on their results – of course – most people are interested in how they can improve their scores.

Emotional Intelligence Is A Muscle

I have often said to clients during debriefs that emotional intelligence is like a muscle – the more you exercise it – it grows. Neuroscience seems to agree.

What I have found through the numerous debriefs I have conducted is that people who score highly on emotional intelligence often:

1)  display an interest in emotional intelligence

2)  consider emotional skills to be important

3)  use their skills daily

People who score highly on the MSCEIT overall also generally display most of or all of the following, they:

1)  look for emotions

2)  actively consider how emotions can be utilised

3)  think about the emotional aspects of situations

4)  plan emotionally for situations

What Does Neuroscience Tell Us About Developing Emotional Intelligence?

As discussed in the last few weeks, not only have neuroscientists discovered that people with large amygdalas tend to display more empathy, they have also found a link between facial expressions, empathy, and altruism.

I don’t know if Mayer and Salovey have yet considered the impact of these discoveries on their emotional intelligence test. What I do know is that these findings relate directly to the MSCEIT.

If the MSCEIT is a good predictor of facial expression recognition, then neuroscience tells us we can begin to predict leader’s empathy from their facial recognition skills. Furthermore, recognising emotion is said, by Paul Ekman, the world leading authority on emotions, to be a highly developable skill. If we can train leaders on facial recognition, then maybe we can enhance their empathy too.

What Does All This Research Mean For You?

This latest research is very exciting. What we know is:

1)  Emotional intelligence is developable (it includes a variety of skills, empathy is one of them)

2) Competence in emotional facial expression detection assists us with feeling empathy for others

3) Feeling empathy for others, increases the likelihood that we will display altruistic behaviours towards others.

 Increase Your Emotional Intelligence Today!

Research indicates that emotional intelligence improves with age, and with training.

As mentioned, emotional intelligence is a muscle. The more we use it the stronger our ability. We can all increase our emotional intelligence today!

These 3 steps will help you increase your emotional intelligence – no matter your current skills:

1)  Pay more attention to emotional information (Look at people’s faces as they serve you at a restaurant, colleagues at work, partners, friends, and children. The more you look. The greater your skills. If you would like some other more formal ways to develop these skills, contact me).

2)  Pay particular attention when people appear fearful (If you do notice they are worrying about something – ask if they have any concerns. The more you tune into a friend or colleague’s fear response, the more you will be creating neural pathways for empathy).

3)  Once you have seen a friend or colleague’s distress and found out more about the source of the distress, ask if you can help. Helping someone out, not only benefits the person receiving the help, it benefits you too – making you happier, healthier and more connected.

Take Away

Seek out others emotions and you will find an enormous number of benefits from a single act. Improving your facial recognition skills, particularly in detecting suffering, will help you to be more empathetic and altruistic, and this will lead to a more connected, happier and healthier life for you and others around you.

The takeaway is: look more and you will naturally help your way to a happier and healthier life!

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