Emotional intelligence: An Essential Mind & Skill Set for Social Workers


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Social workers deal with complex situations that require a high degree of of self-awareness, situational awareness, creative thinking and collaboration with others. Emotional Intelligence is a model for personal and professional development that cultivates these skills that empower social workers to manage a high degree of stress effectively. Emotional Intelligence is also a way to sustain creative energy for the challenges of the work and prevent burn-out. This power point was created for the Power of Social Work Conference, presented on March 21, 2014 in Albany, NY.

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Emotional intelligence: An Essential Mind & Skill Set for Social Workers

  1. 1. 2014 Power of Social Work Conference Albany, NY EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: An essential mind and skill set for social workers
  2. 2. Every response we give to another person is like music and lyrics. The intellect (lyrics) composes the message, and the emotions (music) provide animation, meaning, and unspoken energy. “The skill to combine intellect and emotion in this dramatic and powerful fashion is emotional intelligence, and it possesses the power to elevate even the common exchanges of everyday encounters from the base level of you-and-me to the sublimity of I-and-Thou!” Howard Hopkins, retired teacher, Montreal www.canadone.com/ezine/july04/eq_interview.html
  3. 3. “a multifactorial array of interrelated emotional, personal and social abilities that influence our overall ability to actively and effectively cope with demands and pressures.” Bar-On, R., & Parker, J.D.A. (2000). The handbook of emotional intelligence. San Francisco: Josey Bass. Emotional Intelligence (EI)
  4. 4. Its what you think about what you feel. EI: the integration of emotional and cognitive competencies
  5. 5. “The ability to recognize the meanings of emotions and their relationships and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional Intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotion, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions and manage them.” Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. In R.J. Steinberg (Ed.), Handbook of intelligence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
  6. 6. Social workers navigate complex systems made up of individuals at different hierarchical levels who must constantly interrelate. EI is an essential mind and skill set for navigating complex situations and environments
  7. 7. A study exploring communication in the medical field found a profound disconnect among members of the same surgical team. Communication was perceived to be: **poor by the anesthesiologists **adequate by the nurses **good by the surgeons  “Teamwork and Communication in Surgical Teams: Implications For Patient Safety” Peter Mills PhD et al Journal of the American College of Surgeons Volume 206 Issue 1 2008 107-112 Roles, teams and systems influence stress levels and perception
  8. 8. “In essence, emotional intelligence is the capacity to respond to stress-inducing events, people and situations in a conscious, creative way. As such, EI is not about emotions per se but more about the way in which individuals effectively integrate emotions with thoughts and behaviour and so can act to reduce aversive emotional experiences.” Slaski, M & Cartwright, S “Emotional intelligence training and its implications for stress, health, and performance” Stress and Health 19: 233–239 (2003
  9. 9. “Emotions are a signaling system” “Emotional competence requires being able to pilot through the emotional undercurrents always at play rather than being pulled under by them.” Daniel Goleman, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, 1998
  10. 10. The stress response is a biochemical event activated by the amygdala in the brain, which triggers the fight-flight- freeze response within milliseconds at the perception of a threat.
  11. 11. “…the architecture of the brain gives the amygdala a privileged position as the emotional sentinel, able to hijack the brain.” Goleman, D. Emotional Intelligence: Why It can Matter More Than IQ. New York: Bantam Books, 1995
  12. 12. Lieberman, M.D., “Social Cognitive Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes.” The Annual Review of Psychology, 2007. 58:259–89 Neuroscience has found an inverse relationship between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s executive function where rational thought and judgment sit.
  13. 13. “When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem solving, because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. It is like losing 10 to 15 IQ points temporarily, which explains “what was I thinking?” So we are thinking but with less capacity and brain power.” Lieberman, M.D., “Social Cognitive Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes.” The Annual Review of Psychology, 2007. 58:259–89
  14. 14. The amygdala is hard wired to be able to react quickly to danger signals and keep us safe. In modern days, its direct path to behavioral centers of the lower brain can cause issues with the amygdala being “hijacked” by emotional or psychological stimuli.
  15. 15. The ability – or intelligence - to ‘read’ and manage emotions in the self and others is a moderator in the process of dealing with the stress response. Slaski, M & Cartwright, S “Emotional intelligence training and its implications for stress, health, and performance” Stress and Health 19: 233–239 (2003 Emotions are contagious
  16. 16. Emotional intelligence grows through increasing connections between emotions and higher cognitive functions Groups with supportive, reliable feedback mechanisms for enhancing communication and interpersonal skills Creative experiences in group s, e.g. improvisation, role- playing, journaling or art Mindfulness training & practice Individual coaching to develop self-awareness Storytelling classes and podcasts
  17. 17. EI is the use of brain and mind to engage with the tensions of a complex situation rather than react to them.
  18. 18. Self-awareness is power
  19. 19. “Through increased self- awareness, individuals are more able to detach themselves from events and regulate their emotions in order to prevent them from becoming ‘immersed in’ and ‘carried away’ by emotional reactiveness.” Mark Slaski and Susan Cartwright, “Emotional intelligence training and its implications for stress, health and performance” Stress and Health Volume 19 2003 Research shows that emotional competencies can be improved, with effective benefits on personal and interpersonal functioning. Kotsu I. et al “Emotional plasticity: conditions and effects of improving emotional competence in adulthood.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 2011 July; (96) 4: 827-39
  20. 20. The core competencies of EI combine cognitive and emotional processes Accurate self-assessment: Knowing one's strengths and limits Self-confidence: A strong sense of one's self-worth and capabilities Self-Awareness Knowing one's internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions Emotional awareness: Recognizing one's emotions and their effects
  21. 21. Managing ones' internal states, impulses, and resources Emotional Self-control Maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values Adaptability and flexibility Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence Readiness to act on opportunities Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks Self-Management
  22. 22. Empathy Reading a group’s emotional currents Ability to pick up others’ emotional cues Communication skills Conflict management Teamwork and collaboration Social Competence
  23. 23. We often tell ourselves a story about others’ real intent. Stress can be triggered by the story we tell and intensified if we are unable to check it out with the other people involved.
  24. 24. Communication and other interpersonal skills are most effectively cultivated in social-emotional group situations The key to real change lies in getting people to hold one another accountable to agreements. This is best achieved through dialogue in which we express our stories about what happened, listen to others’ stories and allow the interactions to take the story in a new direction
  25. 25. The effects of conversations gone bad can be both devastating and far-reaching. Research shows that strong relationships, careers, organizations and communities all draw from the same source of power-the ability to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics. Patterson, K., Greeny, J., McMillan, R., Switzler, A Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When The Stakes are High, 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill Books, 2012 It is what you say. And how you say it.
  26. 26. Ask for feedback and listen without judgment – others’ perceptions are not without bias but they can be useful in our dealings with them Some ideas about how to develop the core skills of EI
  27. 27. One study found that writing that focused on thoughts and emotions about stressful events resulted in a greater awareness of the positive benefits of the stressful event. This effect was apparently mediated by greater cognitive processing during writing. “Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression “ Philip M Ullrich & Susan Lutgendorf, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 24 No. 3 244- 250 Write in a journal about emotions at the beginning and at the end of the day – be alert to patterns and specific “hot button” issues that show up repeatedly.
  28. 28. Structures that support expressive writing that redirects the stress response A “holding space” in which we are sufficiently free and sufficiently safe to let go enough to experience bodily, “felt” shifts through the writing process. The “holding space” may be: • The private journal and journaling time; • A supportive group in which some writing might be shared or discussed; • A consistent practice of writing; “Beyond Expressive Writing: Evolving Models of Developmental Creative Writing” Sophie Nichols, Journal of Health Psychology, Vol. 14 No. 2 (March 2009): 174
  29. 29. Key emotional intelligence skill for social workers: Situational awareness Situational awareness is the capacity to rapidly grasp an existing situation, let go of assumptions and become aware of preconceived ideas we impose on it, either unconsciously or consciously.
  30. 30. 6 Seconds That’s how long it takes to shut down the stress response by replacing thoughts about a fight or a problem with thoughts related to positive emotional experiences Physical activity that enhances bodily awareness, e.g. yoga or yogic breathing helps bring the pre- frontal cortex back in play while keeping emotions in focus
  31. 31. 5-minute stress reduction through mindfulness practice
  32. 32. The freeze-frame technique is a useful tool that can rapidly de- escalate the stress response. Practice it several times daily and it becomes a new habit of mind. 1. Stop. Find a quiet place to be alone. Disengage from anything external. 2. Shift focus to the area in and around your heart. Feel the breath come in as if directly into your heart and out through your solar plexus. 3. Activate a positive feeling: bring up an image – a place in nature, favorite person or pet or a richly emotional positive memory. 4. Ask yourself what would be an efficient, effective attitude or action that would balance and de- stress you in dealing with the stressful situation. 5. Observe any change in perception or feeling and sustain it as long as you can Freeze-Frame: One Minute Stress Management by Doc Childre, published by HeartMath, www.heartmathstore.com Freeze-Frame: A 5-minute stress-resilience technique for shifting out of the stress response
  33. 33. There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences. With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked behind others In regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more Marks on your preserving tablets. There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid, And it doesn’t move from outside to inside Through the conduits of plumbing-learning. This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out. RUMI “Two Kinds of Intelligence Translated by Coleman Barks Emotional Intelligence: 21st century concept, 13th century wisdom
  34. 34. Lifestage Trainings: Creative Experiential Evidence-Based 496 Smithtown Bypass Suite 202 Smithtown, NY 11787 www.lifestage.org Contact Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP at 631-366-4265 or lifestage_2000@yahoo.com