The idea of Intelligent Emotions is gaining ground as a more satisfactory explanation of a form of Intelligence in this area than is explained by traditional models of Emotional Intelligence.

At its simplest EI describes the extent which you are sensitive to the emotions and feelings of others particular when you say or do something which impacts on them in some way. It also describes the extent to which you are emotionally sensitive to the actions, words and deeds of others.

Essentially it is about emotional sensitivity to the world around you. There are those who now argue that this may be less “intelligent” than popularly advocated. Those interested might read “Neuropsychology for Coaches” (Professor Paul Brown & Virginia Brown) which convincingly focusses on the importance of understanding emotion by looking at “intelligent emotions” rather than at Emotional Intelligence

The significance of this idea in the context of Mental Toughness is that it resonates well with the Emotional Control sub-scales in the 4 Cs model.  Indeed it might be that Emotional Management is a better descriptor. A simple way to understand this is as follows:

Imagine going to the theatre to watch a great actor play a well-known character, say, Hamlet. The theatre is full, there are 500 people in the audience.

Actors are taught not only to say the words but to use body language, gestures, etc. to communicate the full meaning of their performance. This ensures that the audience understand not only what the character is saying but also understands why the character is uttering these words. This includes the emotions and feelings behind the words. A good actor will reach most, if not all, of the audience in this way.

Actors are often trained to “exaggerate” emotions and feelings to ensure that this full meaning is communicated to the audience.

Now…. imagine you are in the audience.  Whose emotions and feelings are you reading?

Mostly you will be reading the characters emotions and feelings. Not those of the actor who is standing in front of you.

Moreover you may well also be responding emotionally to what you are receiving.

So where is the “intelligence” – in the transmitter (the actor) or the receiver (the audience).

A great actor is perfectly capable of playing, convincingly, a wide range of characters some very different from their own character.

What might this mean in practice?

Most of us work with other people. Some like managers, teachers, coaches, trainers, etc  have a special role. They impact on the mood and performance of the people around them. We all do in fact.

Imagine you are, say, a leader of some sort. You have suffered a series of personal setbacks. A relationship problem, a family pet has passed away, a serious financial problem has arisen. This could dampen your mood significantly. If you go to work and show colleagues and staff your true emotions you are likely to dampen their mood which will impact on a host of things – the atmosphere, performance, etc. In turn this might affect your mood even further.

However if you have the emotional control to do so, you could decide to set aside in your head what is happening and decide that you will go to work (or school) and show people a more positive set of emotions and feelings. This has to be authentic in that you show a set of emotions and feelings that you would typically present if you were truly content. Anything else probably wouldn’t work.

The result should be to maintain or even lift the mood around you which ….. should feed back positively to you and, despite what has happened, help to improve your mood and feelings. A form of cognitive bias modification if you will.

The suggestion here then is that mentally tough individuals understand how to deal with adversity and setback but also understand how to maintain a positive persona and a positive outlook. That is they can manage their emotional response in such a way that it impacts on the emotions and feelings of those around them and where useful, it helps to lift their own emotions and feelings too and remain positive in the face of adversity.

This is consistent with our understanding of how the emotional control scale in the 4 Cs model might work.

It doesn’t mean that a mentally tough individual is insensitive. They can simply manage their emotions.

Finally, there is no suggestion here that individuals should never share their true feelings and emotions. That is more about time and place. There are clear benefits in sharing what you truly feel – but perhaps to those who can be trusted to deal with this and who are perhaps capable of understanding and supporting you. There will be times and places where you have a responsibility to maintain atmosphere and managing and masking your emotions will be more appropriate.

It’s an area that will be researched further and it does generate interesting questions and comment. It has the potential to be important and powerful for a large number of people.

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