Emotional Intelligence When Hard Change Must Come


I frequently write what I feel I must learn, and so it is today.  Daniel Goleman teaches about “emotional intelligence” and the practice of “self-regulation.”*  It’s a practice especially necessary if you are facing the fact that reality must give way to major change. 

Here’s the story.  The governor and legislature are under enormous pressure to craft a grueling budget compromise.  Taxes will need to be raised.  And painful cuts will be implemented.  Many legislators will face mighty resistance when they vote to enact these necessary measures.  It’s death to the status quo and perhaps political death, too.  Such realities are hard to face.  People march or muck through them as Kubler-Ross described how we confront death: through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.   

Jennifer diagnosed the illness and prescribed a treatment program seven months ago.  But the stages had to be walked.  Republican leaders and many Democrats spent months in denial and helped keep the media and public in that unfortunate state.  Voters became increasingly angry.  Bargaining – with band-aids on deep wounds – continues.  And some are just depressed.  The personal and collective emotions can be overwhelming. 

Given such hard realities, the search begins for a scapegoat! – a search rooted in the stages, I suppose, of denial and anger.  It’s Engler, they say.  It’s Granholm.  It’s Dillon.  It’s Bishop.  It’s DeRoche.  It’s the whole bunch of ‘em!  For me, some days the emotions have felt as real as a tazer-charge or the descent of the dementors — especially when I’m feeling for my besieged yet battling wife.  I too wish for a simple enemy:  those bloody Republicans; or the media, whom I lash in my thoughts for provoking public anger, instead of helping the public to understand and accept, then make tough choices and move on.  Sometimes I feel the depressive, thousand-pound pull of the prospect that our fiscal illness may continue indefinitely.  Maybe in your  family or organization or state you too have at times been in denial, lashed out (or wanted to), or just gotten depressed about potential loss.  If so, you know these emotions are INTENSE!   Well, that’s where Goleman’s wisdom about self regulation comes in, with solid advice for all of us who must confront the death of some untenable reality: 

“Self regulation, which is like an ongoing inner conversation, is the component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings.  People engaged in such a conversation feel bad moods and emotional impulses just as everyone else does, but they find ways to control them and even to channel them in useful ways.”  Here’s to self regulation — becoming aware of, controlling and channeling our powerful emotions to face the tough realities before us.  Practice the inner conversation to  Lead with your best self, 


* See, e.g., Goleman “What Makes a Leader?” Harvard Business Review, November-December 1998.