Trae knew exactly what he was doing. When him and Paul got into arguments (which was almost daily), Trae knew exactly what buttons to push that would set Paul off. He would do it on purpose. For Trae it was entertaining; fun, enjoyable to watch the reactions he could provoke. But one day Trae pushed it too far and Paul had enough. What started just as an argument, escalated quickly and ended up in a full out physical brawl. Paul was fed up with the antics and he came in hot swinging punches. Trae defended himself but the wrath of built up negative energy was too much to be broken up on its own and the correctional officers had to intervene. Both Paul and Trae were sent off to solitary confinement, but because Paul took the first swing, he was given the blunt of the punishment and got shipped off to a different, higher security prison, and lost his time off for good behavior. While Trae also spent time in the hole, he was ultimately allowed to return back to the minimum security camp.
The foundation of Paul and Trae’s story gets into the concept of emotional intelligence. While most of us are familiar with the concept of IQ (Cognitive Intelligence), emotional intelligence (EQ) focus’s on the understanding of ours and others emotions, and how they influence over our daily lives. Paul may have had a high IQ, but his lack of EQ and ability to control his emotions led to his downfall.
Our brains are like computers. A computer operates off of a series of operating systems such as Windows which sit on top sending signals through a series of 0’s and 1’s below it, executing each click and command we give it. Our brains are hardwired in a very similar manner; it operates off of two systems: System #1 and System #2. The way it works is first any stimulus traces up your spine and into your System #1 which is governed by the Limbic Brain. Your Limbic Brain is fast and decisive but it runs of feelings. It’s where you emotional responses come from and is responsible for feelings such as trust and loyalty and is where human behavior stems from. System #2 on the other hand, is governed by the Neocortex. Stimulus will pass through the Limbic system first and then move into the Neocortex which is slow moving and responsible for rational and analytical thought. Because System #2 is the last in this chain of events and operates at a much slower rate than System #1, our emotional responses typically come first with analytical thought coming in at a slower second. To have a strong EQ it is important that both System #1 and System #2 are communicating and working with one another. Now that you understand how our brains work, you can see that Paul’s overbearing System #1 ended up putting him in a far worse position then he was already in.
The good news is that EQ is something that each of us can work on and improve on on a daily basis. But you need to acknowledge it exist and how it works. Our brains will always give preferential treatment to our emotions over our analytical thoughts, but becoming aware of this process is key to fine tuning it to become beneficial for you. In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the authors outline four area’s that makeup our EQ and how to improve upon them:
-Self-Awareness – Simply the understanding and being aware of your emotions and why certain situations make you feel the way you do. Once you become self-aware, you are able to focus on your strengths and acknowledge which areas you need to work on and begin doing so.
-Self-Management – Is using your awareness of your emotions to manage your reactions and behaviors appropriately in different times and scenarios. Sometimes no action is an action in itself.
-Social Awareness – Being aware of the emotions in other people to gain an understanding of how they are feeling. In building this understanding, you have to increase your perception of how others may be feeling by watching their body language, tone, facial expressions and the words coming out of their mouth while setting your own feelings aside.
-Relationship Management – Is using your own self awareness and social awareness to manage interactions with others successfully. A big portion of relationship management is building connections with those around you, including these that may be different then you, into meaningful relationships.
Being able to learn and master these four areas allows one to become a highly emotionally intelligent individual. EQ is not just a necessary skill in social conversations, but as one can see it is just as important in all areas of life including the workplace and relationships. So take the time to really think about how you react in these scenarios and what you can do to slow down your emotional reactions to gain a better understanding of yourself and others around you. If Paul would have done so, it may have just saved him a trip the SHU.