Looking Behind, Looking Ahead – The Tenets of Emotional Intelligence

January 10, 2018

Like a lighthouse, guiding us through rough waters, the guiding principle of the Lifelong Colleague steers and supports us every day in Roseman’s College of Dental Medicine. Students, faculty and staff are expected to make each and every interaction reflect a sincere desire to develop one another as lifelong colleagues during the program, and throughout their professional careers. It is the goal that the collective experiences, memories, and relationships made at Roseman, as a part of a life’s journey, will stand the test of time.

Every person has a journey. That journey can be professional, personal, familial, spiritual, or physical. Our journey puts us in contact with many other people, the countless relationships and experiences that touch and shape us. Think about those people that most impacted your journey or developed you in a positive way. Were they a beloved first grade teacher, a middle school baseball coach, a first girlfriend, a college professor, a fellow volunteer, a colleague, a supervisor? Why did they impact you? What traits did they have? What lessons did they impart?  Were they “emotionally intelligent?”

The very same skills and traits that are part of the Lifelong Colleague concept–embodied in true Emotional Intelligence–are not limited to those in Roseman’s College of Dental Medicine. In fact all people, regardless of training or profession, have varying degrees of emotional intelligence. Some perhaps practice these skills more frequently, or they have mastered them with proficiency. Everyone can likely name someone who lacks emotional intelligence.

As we move into a New Year, many have had time to quietly reflect on their experiences in the past year and set personal goals for the New Year. In fact, over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and according to the University of Scranton, only 8 percent actually stay on track and achieve success. As we look in the mirror at ourselves, consider whether these skills, the key elements of Emotional Intelligence, could help you in your journey–whatever journey you taking.

One of the tenets of Emotional Intelligence is Emotional Self-Awareness. Emotional Self-Awareness means having a deep understanding of personal emotions and how those emotions affect performance and behavior. Emotional Self-Awareness is recognizing the personal triggers and inner signals that stir emotion, and being honest enough to speak openly about emotions rather than denying their existence. Emotional Self-Awareness is controlling the propellant behind our actions.

Those with Emotional Self-Awareness are not impetuous or reactive. They are honest about themselves, even to the point of being able to laugh at their own mistakes. Those with Emotional Self-Awareness have emotional insight and are able to step back and see complex situations from a “big picture” perspective. They are not reflexive and thus avoid the swirl of a myopic racket.

Emotional Self-Awareness is a key component of the Lifelong Colleague Commitment. Developing Emotional Self-Awareness creates an environment where colleagues foster tolerance and acceptance of their own peculiarities as well as those of others, where interactions are honest and authentic, where exchanges are constructive, and where the culture of mutual approbation is embraced.

Accurate Self-Assessment is a key competency of Emotional Intelligence and a necessary skill to effectuate the Lifelong Colleague Commitment. Accurate Self-Assessment is being aware of personal capacities and abilities as well as personal limitations and boundaries. It is being aware of both strengths and weaknesses. Accurate Self-Assessment includes welcoming constructive criticism and being open to honest feedback, even at the risk of learning something that may be contrary to self-perception. It is admitting to the absence of omniscience and accepting situational ignorance. It is a willingness to consider other possibilities rather than insisting on individual correctness. It is recognizing when to seek assistance and being willing to do so without amplified anxiety over peripheral perceptions. It is finding balance between what one thinks he/she knows and what one actually knows.

Accurately and honestly self-assessing requires courage for sometimes the person “behind the curtain” is a part of ourselves that we would rather leave unattended in the dark corners of our hunched-over subconsciousness. Accurate Self-Assessment requires embracing vulnerability and being willing to expose the ugly, weaker parts of our self in order to develop them into strengths. The ascension toward personal growth and self-actualization starts at the trailhead of Accurate Self-Assessment.

Self-Confidence is a vital element to success and is another of the competencies of Emotional Intelligence. Self-Confidence naturally follows both Self-Awareness and Self-Assessment, and consists of a strong sense of self-worth and individual ability. Those with Self-Confidence recognize that though they have not yet experienced everything, they enjoy an inner assurance that they have the necessary judgement, abilities, and skills to tackle new challenges. Self-Confidence is having the fearless mindset that one can accomplish what one sets out to accomplish and welcomes the opportunity.

Authentic Self-Confidence should not be confused with counterfeits, such as self-centeredness, arrogance, or conceit. Where Self-Confidence is backed by undaunted optimism and undeterred accomplishment, counterfeits are full of bumptious bravado and a narcissistic need for self-imposed significance. While both are recognizable, Self-Confidence is perceived as “presence” – poise under pressure and the character, style, and effectiveness to which others are drawn. Self-Confidence attracts; self-significance repels. Self-Confidence allows for diminished individualism and increased collectivism.

Self-Management is a prominent feature of Emotional Intelligence and is antidotal for emotional hijackings. Self-Management liberates from enslaving emotion, provides space for unclouded critical thinking, and allows for sharing harmonious dialogue in the face of opposing opinion. Self-Management fosters emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement, initiative, and optimism, all competencies of Emotional Intelligence.

When William Ernest Henley wrote his now famous “Invictus,” he concluded with the empowering declaration, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Being the “captain of one’s soul” is the crux of Self-Management and describes the coveted characteristic that allows an individual to have control over their emotions rather than permitting emotions to govern.

The systems in the brain responsible for thought and reason and those for emotions are separate, but have closely interwoven connections. Thought and reason occur in the neocortex while emotions originate in the amygdala. The amygdala scans what happens to us from moment to moment, ever on the alert for an emergency. If there is a perceived threat, the amygdala can commandeer other parts of the brain, including the rational centers in the neocortex, for immediate action.

Think of how some people behave at a sporting event when the officials make a questionable call. Think of road rage. Think of David Banner and the Hulk. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves emotionally hijacked – swept away by emotions such as anxiety, anger, or fear that are better suited for handling physical threats rather than the subtleties of office politics, the challenges of home life, or the delicate dance of interpersonal relationships.

Those who are mastering Emotional Self-Control are learning to control their emotions. They keep disruptive emotions in check and are less likely to blow up and lose control. They do not act impulsively and they are less likely to get impatient or show frustration. Those with Emotional Self-Control stay poised under pressure and behave calmly in stressful situations. They use the higher centers of the brain responsible for thought and reason to control the amygdala and the emotions of the lower limbic system.

Emotional Self-Control is an important principle of Emotional Intelligence. At Roseman, as we work together to address the challenges that naturally arise in interpersonal relationships, application of the principle of Emotional Self-Control will make the University a better place to learn and grow.

That said, these skills are widely applicable to any relationship, any work environment, any significant journey in one’s life.

As we reflect on the New Year, and time’s passing, consider those people that made an impact on your personal journey, someone that in one way or another, earned the title of lifelong colleague, or perhaps, lifelong friend, or lifelong mentor. Did these people practice elements of Emotional Intelligence? Are the components of Emotional Intelligence skills that you wish to learn, practice, or strengthen? Can we have one skill but not another? How do we “practice” these skills every day, until they become finely honed?

Check back next month as we highlight ways to exercise these skills every day. Until then, may the start of your New Year be peaceful, and full of positive moments, interactions and experiences.

L. Kris Munk, DDS, MS
Associate Dean for Graduate Education and the Director of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Roseman University of Health Sciences

Dr. L. Kris Munk is the Associate Dean for Graduate Education and the Director of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine located in South Jordan, Utah.  He completed his undergraduate dental education at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, followed by a General Practice Residency and an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency at Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado.  Dr. Munk has a Master’s Degree in Organization Development and Leadership from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was the former Site Director of the Idaho Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency at Idaho State University and was in private practice in Idaho Falls, Idaho for 24 years before accepting his current full-time appointment at Roseman University.