5 elements of emotional intelligence

The duality of emotions and intellect is already has accepted as a fact nowadays and have got across on every area of our life. We understand more those emotional factors which come from our feelings and also we understand to listen to our intuitions is not a weakness but means having opened mindset and positive attitude. It seems like emotional intelligence is the same important factor as genetic characteristics and cognitive knowledge and experiences. If we were able to balance both we could have a great chance to have successful social relationships, successful carrier and deliberate completed life. Often we can see that somebody has great successes in business but the private or social life is weak and poor or the opposite. This can show the missing balance between intellect and emotional intelligence (like Steve Jobs). If the balance is missing we try to compensate but mainly on the wrong side, like working harder and pushing to have more and more success in business and this is exactly what most of the people do who are out of the balance between heart and mind. We should be aware of how our emotions are so important. Not so sure if we are always aware of what we feel and how our actual emotional condition influences our “working mode”, our mindset and our health and happiness.

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I’m sure we all have experienced that there are days when we feel today everything is going to be fine, there are no problems and everybody is nice at our working place. Maybe a small experience or feeling (which didn’t seem recognizable in that moment) triggered the process to feel this “easy going mode” (feeling satisfied, happy, believing in good, kindness etc.) This mode has given us a positive feeling and we are beaming. With this mode we influence others around and that’s why they are acting positively with us but also in this mode we don’t detect significantly negative signs. We have infected our environment with a positive “virus”. If we want to find out how somebody is good or bad or what this person is thinking in that moment, we can try to adjust our facial expression to that person’s and then wait for what kind of thoughts or feelings are coming up in our mind or in our heart. This exercise comes from Edgar Allan Poe writer from the XIX. century and it’s brilliant.

Why do we need to look into someone? Why do we need to understand and care about others? Why can’t we just live as we feel like it, alone and don’t carry about others?

Actually we can but we must consider its consequences which are we are alone, we are not going to be accepted by any community and become lonely and burned out. We are social animals! We can go on with a behaviour like not considering other’s feelings and thoughts and having friends but those people around will act on the same way as we do and the outcome is the same, being lonely but surrounded by people. This is a big epidemic phenomena nowadays. Surrounded by people but being lonely.

How do we know if somebody’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is high?

It has several component and including several outward forms. If we want to know how our EQ is or just want to know how its outward forms are I suggest you to map 5 areas which are;

– Relationships, communication: How are your relationships with other people? Do you communicate easily with them, honestly without playing? Do others usually understand you easily or you need to use long time explanations?

– Empathy – NOT SYMPATHY: Can you be empathic with others? Are you able to feel what they do like putting yourself into their shoes? Are you able to attune to others even when it’s not important to you?

– Self-identity, authenticity:  How is your self-confidence? Low or too high? Are you authentic? Showing and acting like the way you are and the way you think or/and feel? Does your self work according to your scale of values consequently?

– Adaptability: How can you adopt changes? How do you handle stress? Are you able to learn from your own mistakes?

– Creativity, positive attitude, openness: How creative are you? How positive your attitude is to take challenges? How is your problem solving management?

If we need to highlight one from these 5 areas, I would choose empathy. On the one side these knowledges, sensitivities and competencies are not able to be separated from each other strictly and on the other hand empathy is the base of the others.

Researches proved that just from body posture, body language and from mimicry we are able to sense each other’s mental condition. So if we want to attune to somebody, try to take over the other’s body expression, after the feeling is coming by itself.

Interesting thing is supposedly this kind of technique works immediately with negative feelings especially with anger. If it’s true we must consider that how our negative feelings and messages are harmful. Would be very good to see ourselves from outside and being able to perceive if another person is just attaching own negative mental condition to us. Just think how is your day when your boss is coming to work in a bad mood or your partner is angry? I’m not even talking about all of those negative news from the media. We must consider those attached negative feelings can have serious consequences.

The emotional intelligence is improvable, hundreds of books have been written about it, what it is, its necessity and how to improve it.

Try to pay attention to others emotional condition, what kind of feelings do you get from them? What do you radiate from yourself? Are you understanding other people and their emotions?

Do you believe in that if everybody improved on the area of empathy our world would be a better place?

Picture: http://www.eschoolnews.com

7 principals to have a stable and well-balanced relationship

John M. Gottman American clinical psychologist and relationship researcher has been studying this area since decades. He defined 7 principles to build up and maintain stable and well-balanced relationship. His main focus is to study dynamics of marriages and the transformation of them. According to his research results he is able to predict if the relationship is going to be stable or the partners are going to be separated. His principles also can help to prevent our relationship from breaking up.

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  1. Deep friendship

The ideal relationship is based on a deep, accepting and loving friendship. This feeling can be a kind of a stable base for the future development. If the attraction, sexuality and intimacy were based on this friendship the relationship would face and deal with difficult times easier. There are also critical communication characteristics and if they are used in conflicts, they can be a bad sign for the future development of the relationship. These communication characteristics are, critic, contempt, defense and building up walls. If we can see these communication characteristics are appearing, becoming used, that can show the frailness of the relationship, which also can show that the mutual strong respect – the friendship might have suffered a damage. The problem with using critics is it doesn’t tend towards the conflict, it’s aimed at our partner. Contempt is very destructive because its aim is to humiliate the partner, its message is that we don’t consider our husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend as our partner and equal anymore. With using defense the problem is that it’s a kind of covert counter-attack and usually just rouses the conflict. When we build up walls around us, when we don’t even consider to react on to our partner’s arguments that can make him/her to feel or think like we don’t have more energy or motivation to care of the relationship. According to experts these four communication elements are able to shake the relationship and worth to keep eye on it and to avoid or resolve them.

  1. Love map

Love map means a deep and detailed knowledge of our partner. The secret of the good relationship is to be able to “read” our partner’s small fleeting emotions. We must be curious without judgement to know our partner, discovering his/her vulnerabilities, negative and positive characteristics, desires and fears and goals. Very useful often just staying in silence and listen to our partner, just observing.

  1. Not just observing, also listening!

We must give time to attune to each other, like sharing our day with each other after a difficult day, being an active listener. When we listen and react curiously it has a kind of a reward emotional effect in our partner. Common experiences and rituals are able to strengthen our connection and deepen our relationship.

  1. Let it go!

Before we get into an argument, consider that is it really worth to get into a conflict or argument about it? Often we slip into disproportionate fights because of small things and also into those where there is no objective truth. For instance, our partner forgot to replace the empty toilet paper roll. Is it really the end of the world? To let things go is not a sign of being weak, it’s respecting the other’s rights and accepting the other on the way she/he is.

  1. Do if you can!

   Professor Gottman divided upcoming problems in the relationship for two groups. The first group includes all of the resolvable problems and conflicts. If we worked on those together that would strengthen the relation and increasing the satisfaction of a stable relationship. For instance if a conflict is becoming too harsh they are able to break off the argument when they are feeling that they are losing their temper. In this case can help if they share their feelings with each other, if they are able to apologize and showing their love. Here I must mention that, very important also to keep in mind that “we actually love each other” in difficult times or during an argument.

  1. Don’t want to change the partner!

There can be factors in a relationship which on there is no control of the other. This is the second group which includes the unsolvable problems. If a fundamental difference appears between a couple, where is impossible to find the common consensus, to maintain the relationship they must accept this difference and being able to see it from the partner’s point of view. Happy couples are able to build in each other’s goals into their common plans and supporting each other to reach them even if it requires sacrifices.

  1. Find common goals!

In a balanced stable relationship there is always a common principal, a central conception or value which connects the couple even deeper. To establish it, we can create own habits or traditions. If there is something which is important for two people in the relationship that has an incredible cementing force. Shared experiences and traditions can remind us of this force even if we are going through a difficult time period.

According to Professor Gottman a couple’s happiness mainly depends on if they are matched well or not. Not enough to learn and use effective communication or conflict management techniques. The essence of a long-lasting and satisfied relationship is based on if those two people are match well and depends on if they are able to care of their relationship well and accepting each other’s unsolvable differences.

 

Picture: http://www.aestheticsofjoy.com

Innocent chit-chat or poisoning psychological terror?

Backbiting, intriguing, gossips. Whom already has started to work can remember one of these situations. In a working environment but also in family gossiping or even backbiting is almost inevitable. Often just a remark seems innocent but without proper tools, strategies or awareness the ambiance can become a stress source which is able to embitter our daily life.

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Organizational gossip

Gossip is able to shape the hierarchy inside a group. Often is observable that workers trust more in those information which come through informal channels than coming through a formal one. Those people who have extensive networks have more information. The greatest value of gossip is it reaches faster people than a formal information. Sometimes its aim is releasing tension and this is when we talk about curative gossiping.

Mobbing

Gossiping can have useful role in an organization however very important to make a difference and setting up a border between informal information exchange and mobbing. Mobbing is an often repeated (few times or more per week), permanent psychological terror. Mobbing has several forms, can appear in lack of communication opportunities, in making social relations impossible, in hindering professional work but also in undermining reputation and/or respect. The continuous tension causes anxiety, the worker’s psychological capacity worsen which produces more stress situations. Long-lasting stress has several negative outcome, like worsen physical well-being, can cause depression and worsen capacity. It’s able to make even deep changes in behaviour.

How can we cope with stress?

We have several options to cope with stress caused by organizational gossiping. We can use problem centered coping style when we focus onto the situation, trying to change it. In this case we also can work on our personality, important not to blame ourselves and develop a proper self-esteem. Improving our communication technique is always essential, we might need a confident and determined manner and effective assertive tool for self-assurance. We might need to learn and practice efficient conflict management techniques. We also can involve the higher level of leadership into the solution. If more people turn against us, we can try to talk with every each of them, we can look for alliances or a support group.

We also can choose the emotional centered coping strategy as well. If the situation seems like unchangeable we can change its understanding and decreasing our emotional reactions. In these cases often help using humour.  The most important is to intend time for us, for recreation, like dong sport, listening music or reading.

“Pay attention to who talks badly about you behind your back and not what he or she is saying”

Picture:www.crosswalk.com

 

The destroying power of refusal

When someone is breaking up with us or we can’t successfully fit into our working environment or when our family doesn’t care about us or when our friend doesn’t call, with different intensity but we all experience almost a paralyzing pain. Refusal is one of the most frequent emotional wound what can be caused by others. Why is it so painful being refused and how we can protect ourselves from it?

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People live connected, having several different kind of connections, like family, friendship and working relationship. There are just few people who want to live alone without any connection with others. In some civilization social exclusion had been or is the heaviest punishment.

There is a kind of connection need which is a basic human motivation. Human is a social animal.

People feel a strong need to have a minimal long standing and positive connection with others around. Theoretically trend anybody it doesn’t focus just one certain person. However it’s not completely independent from the subject of the connection, because interactions with unknown or disliked people doesn’t satisfy this need of connection.

If we have a basic need of connection, how do we react if it doesn’t happen or being jeopardized?

It causes a similar reaction in the activity of the brain like pain. (Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., Williams, K. D. (2003) Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Sutdy of Soical Exclusion. Science, 302, 290-292)

The research results suggested that the neuroanatomy base of social and physical pain is the same. Mental pain is just one of elements which influences or well-being when we experience refusal. Our mood worsen, our self-esteem decreasing, we feel anger and aggression and after all these emotions physically our body is reacting as well. Like decreasing appetite, less good quality of sleep, stomachache, headache etc.

Paradoxically when we are down we are susceptible make our mental situation worse with destructive thoughts. When we experience a physical hurt immediately know and act to treat that injury. But when it comes to mental pain we are susceptible to accept the situation without doing anything constructive (Dr. Guy Winch).

There are methods which can work as a mental first aid, supporting development of our self-esteem, reducing pain and helping us to move on.

  1. Stop self-scourge

It’s not useless to go through and examine what we did wrong in those situations, what we can learn and do differently next time. It’s important how we see and do it! The punitive and critical view is more unbeneficial than constructive.

For instance: after an unsuccessful date to think that “Next time might be better not to talk about my ex-boyfriend on the first date” – This way of examining the situation and taking conclusions is constructive. “I’m a hopeless looser!” – This way is very subjective and destructive. People who take this conclusion, they miss to see the difference between doing a mistake and being someone. Often they forget not all of the refusals are personal. Most of the times circumstances and self-adjustment play the same important role in the situation and the refusal is not personal. (There are some personality disorders when the feeling of being refused is pathological).

  1. Strengthen your self-esteem

The main problem of refusal is we take it personal and it influences our self-esteem. With stable self-esteem we are able to do a more objective examination and evaluation of the situation. Being more realistic and not forgetting our strengths as well, not focusing just on our deficiencies. If we have got refused in specific roles (like a partner, friend or colleague) spending time with collecting positive characteristics (five with examples) in that role help us to see we might have made a mistake but that doesn’t define us as a person. Also important to think why those characteristics are important to others.

  1. Connect

Very important to make ourselves understand that even if somebody refused us that doesn’t mean we are worthless. We must remember there are other people who love and respect us. Through this we are able to experience the security of connection which supports the feeling of being able to connect. Look for those people who care about you. Refusal doesn’t influence our personality being able to be loved.

Being refused is never simple. At the same time alleviation of the pain and the recovery of self-esteem can help to overtake it and move on.

Also important that every each difficulty has its own treasure which comes in knowing ourselves better and deeper. Often to change perspective or getting known ourselves better is difficult just doing by ourselves. With professional help it’s easier in a consultation where you become the center.

Picture: http://www.stockfresh.com

 

Prejudice – locked into box

“Blond women are stupid, politicians are corrupt and psychologists are lunatic.” Where do our prejudices come from? Why it is so difficult to quit on this method? What can we do about it?

Who are those people being more susceptible to use prejudice so often?

Prejudice is a kind of an opinion which is not based on expreiences but has a very strong emotional charge. Prejudicial people don’t consider facts. If they heard something which is the opposite of their opinion, they would disregard or using creative argument method. In this case they try to include the information into their world concept by creating absurd explanations.

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Where does our prejudice come from?

Most of us believe in the power of righteous world, so we blame victims for bad things which happened to them. Like when we hear about a raped woman, immediately prejudicial people think, probably that woman were dressed and behaving too provocatively. This kind of mindset leads to being unrighteous to the subject of prejudice. In our case we truly believe never can happen with us. When we are watching the news and hear terrifying things we believe those things are so far from us even tough according to statistic data it could have happened to us as well. This is an optimistic bias.

The reason of using prejudice can be a self-justification as well. Like when we want to believe that member of a group is more inferior to us. In this case we easily can associate negative characteristics to them and easier to discriminate. If we see a person or a group negatively it’s easier to reject them as well. Like if we think people with glasses are ruthlessly ambitious people, we can think that we have the right to behave with them badly because they deserve it, they are the favorites of teachers anyway.

Using prejudice is very common if we are in the low social class because in this case it’s important to know that there are people, groups even lower than us. Also common if we are not “okay” with ourselves, like having a fragile and low self-confidence or being emotionally immature.

The base of using prejudice also can be in a situation of competition. For example if in a country there are no enough jobs, people often start to blame minorities for it. This’s used so often by politicians in their campaigns.

Also common that we are looking for a scapegoat. In this case we are not able to release our frustration on that person or people who we are really upset with and we are looking for a “weaker opponent”. We are not able to wreak our anger on that person because that person is too powerful or the consequences might be so serious. For instance, if someone gets offended by a boss, this person high likely is going to release his/her anger on a waiter or on a child. Unfortunately releasing anger on a child is very common even if that child is not a direct causing of the anger. Releasing anger in a family and on its members is kind of a safe movement for parents. No visible consequences as they see. Innocent children are the perfect victims for it, perfect punching bags, first because they are not able to defend themselves, second easily can take a role of being the scapegoat because they don’t have the ability to see what the real problem is behind the abuse.

There are people who are more susceptible to use prejudice and stereotypes than others. They like to find the answer first for everything, but very often they don’t collect enough information to have an objective view and wrongly pigeonhole others. If they got an information which doesn’t support their previous conjectures, they would ignore those information. If they became a boss (not leaders), they would most likely behave autocratically and using a very typical sentence – Because I said so!

How can we resolve prejudice?

We must see that very prejudicial people have one thing in common, it’s that they have a little information about that specific group or people and not having connection with them. When they get more information or get in touch with them personally that prejudice can be slowly dissolve. It requires an opened mindset, which can be learnt.

Don’t hide behind your prejudice because most of the times you just cover your fears and ignorance with it and becoming blind for being objective and not being able to see the reality.

Picture: http://www.bbc.co.uk.com

Overeating

It’s Christmas and this is a perennial topic. Feast, the table groans under the rich food. We are just eating and eating, stuffing ourselves till we are ready to burst. Stress? Anger? Why does some people eat that amount of food which are unhealthy and limit quality and time of life?

Most of the people know the relation between overeating and gaining weight. Obesity is one of the major national health problem in Western countries.

Several researches showed that the main reason of overeating is a neurological malfunction which works similarly like addiction. It can be cause by psychosocial factors, stress, depression or environmental elements. Lee and his colleagues published in Science & Society scientific review that there is a similarity between drug addiction and several types of overeating. In both addictions’ background there is a mechanism which is after an expedient behaviour (like eating chocolate) dopamine (happiness hormone) production follows which has a kind of behaviour reward nature. Sugar, fat and salt have a significant effect on our brain. For instance sweet foods have a kind of nice and painkiller effect so the taste of food often gets connected with our internal reward system. With frequent ingestion of sweets its taste links up with the emotion of settling. The reward center in our brain also gets activated by effects like external stressors, depression or the feeling of helplessness. When we get affected by them immediately we want to ease our internal tense. Most of the times we don’t even have time to recognize our appeared emotions, we suddenly discovered that we are standing in the kitchen and having already chocolate or cake in our hand. If our brain has already learnt that food/sweet provided comfort before in similar situations then it’s going to be one of the main coping mechanism (maladaptive) for dealing with negative emotions, like being angry, stressed or sad. (Emotional eating).

Environmental factors

Our environmental factors subconsciously stimulate us to overeat. We eat more when more people are around a table and we are willing to eat till we are ready to burst. (Cohen, D. A. 2008)

What can we do to avoid overeating?

We are all the time in a hurry in this fast word and multitasking which means very often we eat while doing other things, like working, watching TV or travelling. If we split our attention we are not able to pay attention to our internal conditions and what we eat and how much. We don’t even chew our meal properly. Try to focus to the taste of your meal, its texture like a kind of mindfulness exercise. Eat slower and chew properly (min. 30 times) your meal and you are going to feel step by step how much food is enough for your body.

Use smaller plates and glasses to avoid environmental factors. Put smaller amount of food onto your plate.

Pay attention to your emotional condition, be more aware how you feel. Most of the times we eat because of our emotional internal condition. Recognize when you are sad, angry or stressed because recognition is the first step to handle overeating. Look for another relaxation technique, like sport, meditation, taking a walk or talking with a friend. If you feel that it’s too challenging for you, look for professional help.

Eating to ease internal tenses is a maladaptive coping mechanism to handle negative emotions.

“We eat to live, not living to eat”

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a lots of love and joy for the holidays!

 

Psychology of blaming

If an unexpected, bad or tragic thing happens in our life, we start to look for its cause. Often we don’t want to know just its cause, also we look for who caused it. “Whose fault is it?” “Who is the responsible for it?” Why is it so important to blame someone for what happened, looking for the scapegoat?

Principle of causality

Looking for the guilty one has few very simple and obvious reasons. One is the characteristic of our way of thinking, like we interpret our world in a relation of cause and effect. It’s clearly visible in children. The principle of causality is a very important element of our socialization and education, part of our motivation to understand our world. Also psychological factors are behind.

What is in the focus of attention?

The other simple reason is the focus of attention. If we are in a situation like actively, then our focus is on the outside world and on other people’s actions. Since mainly just external factors are in our focus, almost natural to see that the cause of our current situation is caused by an external factor. In an experiment psychologists asked people to talk about their own life stories. The subjects attributed more responsibility and attached more importance to themselves when they told their life stories when they sat in front of a mirror. Why? Simply because in this case they got into their own focus of attention.

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I’m a good person!

The background of blaming doesn’t consist of just mental and perception factors, also consists of emotional factors. The most important of them is the protection of our self-image and self-esteem. The principal of causality would automatically make a question that how we are guilty or responsible for this situation or happening. Did we make a mistake? If the answer is yes, that would debase our self-esteem and this is when the well-known cognitive dissonance is starting to work. We are motivated to maintain our – positive or negative – self-image. If this self-image is positive, the consideration of doing something bad can cause tense inside. We can reduce this tension on a several way, like shifting responsibility upon another and blaming someone else is guaranteed as a successful solution of reduction this tense. Of course these kind of solutions don’t support our personal growth. We also can amplify this kind of exemption to our family, our working place or to our community or even to our country members. They get exemption to take responsibility. We truly believe when we say, someone is an adult, that is automatically means that person takes responsibility for own actions. If we start to observe truly ourselves we will see, how many times actually we don’t take responsibility for our actions. It requires a proper self-knowledge which allows and supports to see ourselves as we are truly and after recognition we are able to change.

Why is blaming others so dangerous?

Shifting responsibility upon others to protect our self-image keeps us from learning from our own experiences and mistakes which is one of a requirement of personal growth. It’s the same for those people who have a negative self-image, who always blame themselves for everything because this is in tune with their self-image. This negative distortion keeps them from growth as well. Finding the guilty means we found a scapegoat, we hold the scapegoat responsibility for bad things and we are able to overwhelm with them our negative feelings and anger. Making scapegoats also a very strong cementing force of a group. Like, “together we hate the boss”. Image of the enemy increases a group cohesion which usually doesn’t end up on a positive way, we already have experienced it from our history.

Faith in the righteous world

Why do we look for a scapegoat even if bad thing actually didn’t happen with us? When we are not involved. Like when we see an accident on TV. “Why did he go there?” “Why didn’t he take care of himself?” Or “He must have been drunk!” We say these things without knowing exactly what happened. This kind of behaviour protects our belief in the righteous world. To admit that bad things or tragedies happen with good or innocent people that would shake our belief which is us and our beloved ones are safe. This is the same heart breaking feeling like an attack against our own self-image since the world image is also part of our self.

Instead of looking for a scapegoat we can try to observe ourselves, understanding our actions and take responsibility for them. It’s emotionally challenging indeed but we will be able to see our real self instead of a fake picture what we paint day by day to others. The real danger is when this self-image is quiet far from the reality and nothing sticks. If blaming is permanently present in a relationship that is a real toxin, drop by drop everyday which is a staright way to suffer loss. Here it comes a great book which popped up in my mind while I was writing this post. I recommend it! Oscar Wilde: Dorian Grey

 

Empathy – practicing I.

Practicing empathy on weekdays

We can see practicing empathy like an opportunity which occurs if some special conditions are attained. Since we have limited time usually in social interactions and our focus can be easily disturbed, that’s why conditions are not attained in most of our social situations. To reach deep level of empathy like level 5-6 not just quiet environment is necessary but also it requires experience. These two conditions attains mainly when we have therapy with a professional. Improving our empathic ability has several ways, like looking for professional help. This way is trustworthy and the success is guaranteed. The other one takes time, possible to fail. The key is in both ways make an effort to overshadowing ourselves and psyching up with other people. Make an effort to pay more attention to another and try to feel him/her but also in the meantime observe our own emotions and impressions.

With practicing we can achieve that this ability is able to become an attitude, which makes us to live our life and acting with people more circumspectly.

How to start?

I collected some disturbing attitudes which prevent us to be an empath. Here they are:

  1. During my talks I’m starting to think about things which are nothing to do with the other person has to say;
  2. Instead of listening to another after few words I am already thinking what I am going to say;
  3. I start to label the other person on the basis of what she/he says;
  4. I filter information from the other person according to what I have known about him/her;
  5. I often interrupt the other person;
  6. I often interrupt the other person in his/her train of thoughts;
  7. I often sit like the other person can’t keep eye contact with me;
  8. I don’t give nonverbal signs of listening;
  9. I don’t pay attention his/her nonverbal communication or I easily can misinterpret it;
  10. I use labels like “after all she is a woman, isn’t she?”;
  11. I preach – I tell to the other person what he/she should do;
  12. I establish a “diagnose” very fast and persist in it;
  13. I push away the other person’s fear instead of understanding them. Like “Oh it’s so foolish” or “It is not relevant”;
  14. I use clichés like “Which done is done!”;
  15. I often undervalue topics and saying like “You should not be sad because of this!”
  16. I often give fake satisfaction saying like “Don’t worry it can’t happen.”;
  17. I often become inpatient when another tries to explain the situation detailed;
  18. I often doesn’t accept the other person’s feelings saying like “It’s stupid that you feel like this.”;
  19. I play and change the subject getting more attention;
  20. I often stay in silence and just listen without saying a word.

First step is to observe ourselves if we have one of those attitudes or some of them. After we could have identified try to avoid them, like if we feel like to interrupt the other person force ourselves not to do it, keep our focus on what she/he is saying. Some of these attitudes are about stereotypes what we have and some of them are connected to lack of communication skills. Like not giving eye contact or not saying “I see” or not summarizing what she/he said. Profound self-knowledge is essential to become an empath or improving our empathic ability.

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Do an experiment! Observe yourself which attitude you have from the list above. Trust me it is not that easy as its sounds. After recognition try to find the answer why you have this attitude, what its origin is. Or how often you do it and how it influences your social relationships. Test yourself!

Next week I give you exercises and characteristics of an empath.

Sources: Joseph P. Forgas: Interpersonal Behaviour. The psychology of Social Interaction (1985)

Daniel Goleman:  Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman: Social Intelligence

Self-justification II.

In my previous post you could have seen that how easy to cheat ourselves sometimes. We can say that self-justification is a kind of excuse or comfortable lie in a contradiction to uncomfortable truth. If people commit themselves to an attitude a communicator can cause dissonancy and to decrease this tense condition the best way is to distort proofs or refuse them. The more we are committed ourselves to an attitude all the more we are willing to refuse every counter-arguments. It can show that to decrease dissonancy also drives us to a distortion of objective world because generally people do not like to see or hear things which are contrast with their own core believes or wishes.

Dissonancy and rational behaviour

Very often dissonancy deduction behaviour is very irrational. Because often this means wrong adaptation and can prevent someone from cognizance of important facts or finding real solutions for a problem. In the other hand it has a rational function as well which is protection the self, the ego; through it we can maintain our positive self-image which is we are good, smart and man of merit. We can look at this self-defence mechanism as very useful but sometimes can cause fatal consequences. (Generally people especially nowadays are willing to choose a comfortable lie rather than the painful truth even if it is still a lie.) Several studies prove the illogicality of dissonancy deduction. (Jones, E. – Kohler, R. 1959). Well it is always comforting us if all of the wise people are on our side and all of the stupid are on the other (which is not real but that is how we want to see and believe it).  We do not process information on an objective and impartial way. Quite the contrary, we distort them onto a way they fit into our previous conceptions. (Lord, C. – Ross, L. – Lepper, M. 1979) We all can point out in our behaviour that we can behave rationally and irrationally as well. There are people who are able to handle dissonancy better than others depending on circumstances.

Dissonancy like a consequence of decision

After making a decision nearly always people experience dissonancy – especially after a decision which required a lot of time, money or effort. It is because the chosen alternative hardly completely positive and the rejected is never completely negative. After a difficult decision people like to get enough calming about the rightness of their decision so they are looking for information which can confirm it. After a decision making people highlight the positive side of the chosen option and decrease negative ones of the refused and the opposite.

External and internal justification

Several times happen that people say the opposite of what they think or they believe. For instance; Christina and Maria are not too close friends but they are shopping together. Maria is trying a dress on and asking Christina’s opinion. Christina’s first thought is this dress looks awful but since she doesn’t want to hurt Maria’s feeling she says that; “This dress fits you well, you look so pretty!” Theoretically, Christina’s content of consciousness about herself is like she is an honest person is not compatible what she just said. To release the dissonancy she needs a new content of consciousness which can be that it is important not to hurt people’s feeling. “I lied not to hurt someone!” It’s an effective way of dissonancy deduction  and it was determined by a situation. It’s called external justification. First we always look for external justifications and if we don’t find any we try to find internal ones which means changing our own attitudes which fit what we said. Like “That dress did not look as bad on her”.

Where from we get our core believes? Do we get them? Some part of it yes from our parents and from our closed environment and society by socialization and some part of it through our own experiences.

According to Charles Darwin, the key of survival depends on the ability of adaptation. What if someone is not open-minded and has strong core believes (incorrect or outmoded way of thinking) without flexibility? Well, there is only one thing constant in life which is the change. Our world is changing daily and we are forced to adapt those changes. If we are not opened for new information or ideologies and having lack of flexibility, we can experience cognitive dissonancy over and over again almost daily. So how we can avoid to face with frequent dissonancy? A common solution is isolation. Information and social isolation. Easier to put our head into sand as a denial than looking for dissonancy deduction solutions all the time. Inflexible people do it so often. They look for friends who are almost the same, same ideology same view, same culture, same classes of society, same education or religion and they avoid social interactions with other people which can create an opportunity for dissonancy to appear by talking about several topics with those who are different. Inflexible and closed-minded people are mainly who judge others, continuously defending themselves and their point of view and believe they are always right. Do you know a person like that? I am sure you do!

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These kind of people actually live in a bubble which is their own prison.

Continuously defending ourselves and refusing new things, facts or others’ point of view take so much energy, make us unhappy and living in a world which can be far from the reality. Living like surrounded by great walls made by us (fears, misbelieves) not just defends us also prevents to develop and experience good things as well. We all have a strong ego defence system but we must see, understand and experience there is nothing wrong with us, if we are or have been wrong or have been thinking on a not correct way. From time to time people learn from their mistakes and able to improve and develop. In ideal case we are able to say that “Yes, I was wrong.” “What kind of lesson can be drawn from it?”

How can we reach that?

  1. Recognize, acknowledge and understand our own defence and dissonancy deduction tendencies.
  2. Realize even if we did something silly or unmoral thing that still doesn’t mean we are silly and unmoral people for good.
  3. We develop enough self-strength to take our own mistakes.
  4. We evolve that capacity to perceive that comprehension of our mistakes are useful and fruitful in terms of growth and learning.

I know it is easier to write down than work on it. If you had found some misbelieves which hinder you from being confident, happy and harmonious with yourself and with others you always can look for help to achieve them. As a therapist I can assure you it is possible to become open-minded and peaceful with yourself and with others just by improving your self-knowledge. If you want to be delivered from your wrong misbelieves, set free from your own prison; contact me and I can show you it is possible.

  A very good friend of mine told me once: Living with refusal just you will be poor.

 

Source:

Aronson, E.: The Social Animal (1999)

Forgas, J.P.: Interpersonal Behaviour. The Psychology of Social Interactions (1985)

Self-justification I.

A last weekend event inspired me to pick up and write about this topic. It was a discussion about eating vegetarian-vegan. Meat-eating people started to explain how plant based eating is not that much healthy and how meat-eating is so beneficial. I was sitting there and recognized how their self-justifications were so strong necessary (it was not) and how their cognitive dissonancy with passive aggression created an argument.

What does exactly self-justification mean?

People generally are motivated to justify their own actions, thoughts, ideologies and emotions, trying to convince others about what he/she has done or did is logical and rational. Like in the example above. Even tough someone knows (proved by science) that eating too much meat and saturated fat (also not eating vegetables) is unhealthy he must justify his own behaviour of believes. It can be done by several ways. To have two incompatible contents of consciousness cause cognitive dissonancy.

Cognitive dissonancy

It is a kind of tense condition, which appears all the time when the person has two contents of consciousness (thought, attitude, view or opinion) but incompatible with each other psychologically. Differently if we consider each of them by itself then an opposite of one follows from another. Since cognitive dissonancy is an uncomfortable feeling people are motivated to decrease it. To keep on two conflicting views means is absurd so those two contents of consciousness or at least one of them must be changed like preferably compatible, consonance or like insert new contents of consciousness which will bridge over the gap between the original contents. Most of the people think that own believes and attitudes must be consistent with their behaviour so when they act contrary to their previous and existent attitudes, they feel motivated to explain and/or justify own behaviour.

How can cognitive dissonancy be released?

Using the example above, there is one person who eats a lot of meat, fried food without eating any vegetables. Once this person is reading a medical study about eating too much meat, fried food and not eating vegetables causes cardio and cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer and obesity. This person will experience dissonancy. The knowledge that he eats on a very unhealthy way is not compatible with that knowledge this way of eating causes for instance cancer. The most radical way to release this dissonancy would be to change the way of eating (but we all know, to make a change in our life, especially major a change, is so difficult) because after that change those two knowledges become compatible with each other. Imagine that, this person will try to change his way of eating but does not succeed. So what else can he do to release the dissonancy? Certainly he is going to do something with the other knowledge which is eating too much meat causes cancer. Like he tries to doubt facts about the relationship between eating too much meat and cancer. He makes himself believe that the experimental proofs are not convincible or he can mention someone who eats on the same way but without any health problems therefore if that person has no any disease he will not have either. Eventually to decrease the absurd characteristic of his behaviour he can identify himself with new contents of consciousness which are more compatible with eating unhealthy. So he might attach more important meaning to eating unhealthy. Like eating so much meat without vegetable is healthy and important and part of his personality. Like “I might not live that long but I enjoy it.” These kind of behaviours decrease dissonancy because they decrease the absurd nature of it. This person justifies his behaviour cognitive thus decreased the danger or exaggerated the importance of his action. Ultimately he succeeded to interiorize an attitude or change an existing one.

What kind of self-justifications can you recognize in your life? How do they influence your life or your self-control? Are you an open-minded person or chained to own core believes?

To be continued….

Source: Aronson, E.: The Social Animal