Optimism & Reframing

By Dr Granville Ed D’Souza

Optimism and Reframing

Optimism is more than thinking positive. It is not about persistently using positive affirmations and expecting events will be in your favour. It is not just about focussing on positive thinking and avoiding negative sentiments since there is place for healthy scepticism.

I don’t believe in defining what optimism is because you’ll then land up with just one interpretation. I will, however, offer a realistic paradigm and i.e. more often than not, things will eventually turn out alright and if it does not, there are reasons you can find to benefit from the initial setback. Optimists set out believing that they will accomplish what they set out to be/do/have and if the tides change against them, there is a voice that keeps them tuned in to the lessons and gifts when the going gets rough. Optimism is about identifying and manifesting positive outcomes from seemingly difficult ones. And one way to practice this is through reframing.

A reframe involves looking at an incident from a different set of lenses with positive possibilities. There could be negative reframes and positive reframes. Most adults struggle with using positive reframes because they might have gotten used to listening to their own self-criticism resulting in lower self-esteem, self-concept and self-confidence.
Reframing is changing the way you perceive an event and so changing the meaning. When the meaning changes, the response and behaviour also changes. An analogy is that of framing a picture. If you have a painting of Mona Lisa but choose to frame a tiny portion of the background only, you cannot call it a painting of Mona Lisa anymore. A painting of Mona Lisa will also look different when framed in gold as opposed to cheap wood. See how framing (giving meaning to) a picture (content/context) changes its meaning?

Moving From Pessimism to Optimism During a Time of Adversity

Let’s look at an example in the entertainment industry and how to reframe.
Example, during an event, a table of 10 have had too much to drink. They are misbehaving and drowning your voice, disrupting your train of thought and being a total nuisance. The room is getting out of control and people are looking at you to do something.

Try asking these 4 questions:

1. In what way was this incident a blessing?
a) Am finally exposed to a scenario that I will have better control in future if it happens.
b) A new challenge has expanding my repertoire of skills
c) When it happens again, I will know exactly what to do.

2. What lesson did I learn that I can use if I face something like this again?
a) What assistance can I get from organizers in future occurrences?
b) Pick the brain of other experienced emcees
c) Ask yourself, “Have I misbehaved before with or without alcohol?”
d) Are they misbehaving because of me or have they gone out of control because of alcohol?
e) Can I devise a pattern interrupt (a moment of attention towards them for a minute that is humorous and light- hearted)
f) Start thinking and asking about other unforeseen moments.

3. What would I not have learned if this did not happen?
a) Handling people who have lost some of their sanity momentarily.
b) Handling situations which were not anticipated.
c) Calming my own nerves and realizing that my emotions help me be more alert and sensitized. It’s not that I am losing it but it’s a direct consequence of my body telling my mind that something must be done.

4. What aspects of this situation can I change, influence, or control if something like this happens again?
You can’t control what has already happened. You can influence what could potentially happen and you can have full control of what happens when you are clearly in the know and experienced. Hence, if something has gone wrong, look to the future and strive to always be better. The least you can extract from an unforeseen incident is wisdom for the future. It teaches us lessons for life. The biggest of names… From Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Jack Ma frequently talked of failure as necessary steps that made them unforgettable success stories. They experienced mammoth obstacles in the form of mistakes and rejection and considered them necessary steps towards unparalleled success.

You Can Take Charge Of Your Emotions

By Dr Granville Ed D’Souza

You Can Take Charge Of Your Emotions

“We cannot always control our thoughts, but we can control our words, and repetition impresses the subconscious, and we are then master of the situation.”
— Jane Fonda, TV actress

Managing your emotions consists of acknowledging the interplay between our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Thoughts are almost always going through our minds. Sometimes we refer to this phenomenon as our ‘inner voice’ or internal narrative. Studies have shown that the average person has around 50,000 thoughts each day. Some of the thoughts that are constantly circulating in our heads are conscious thoughts, but many of them are unconscious thoughts of which we are not even aware.

Many of these thoughts underpin or cause an emotional response, affecting our mood and behavior. Because of the direct and indirect influences, the resulting emotional response may feel strangely out of sync with the reality of our lives in the moment. For example, we may suddenly become despondent or depressed for no apparent reason because the smell or sound of something triggered an emotional memory.

Interplay Between Feelings and Thoughts
The key to managing emotions and moods is to make sure that we are aware of what we are thinking and that those thoughts are in alignment with the life we are living and/or wanting to create. Directed thinking is one way to take charge of our emotions. It enables us to engage both our thinking and emotional parts of our brains thus the ability to manage feelings that are appropriate to different situations.

When we choose to take charge of our emotions, it doesn’t mean we are watering down our strong emotions. What it means is that we will be able to rationally think about the emotions we are having and have control over the reactions to those emotions. Positive thoughts often cultivate positive emotions and negative thoughts create negative emotions. One directed way to change how we are feeling is to change our thoughts accordingly.

For instance, anger is okay, but hitting someone or slamming your fist into the wall because you’re angry isn’t okay. Hitting is not a result of the feeling but an action we are choosing. We’ve all heard the saying, “Feelings aren’t right or wrong; they just are.” It is also important to understand that just because we are feeling something doesn’t mean that we have to react to that feeling. Everyone should take measured consideration of their feelings before acting on them. Feel and listen to what your heart is telling you. If you choose rational decision-making and only follow your head, you are cutting yourself off from the emotional intelligence that can help you make a better decision.

Finding Your Flow
Emotional intelligence attains its highest state in an experience described as “flow” or “being in the zone.” University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found this period of peak performance in individuals who managed to harmonize thought and emotions. It is very common among elite athletes who suddenly whip the ball or bat effortlessly to feel as if their concentration completely drowns out the crowd and the competition. In this ‘flow’ state, emotions are not constrained or ignored but harnessed in a directed way. The hallmark of this state is also felt among musicians who describe the rapture of getting caught up in the moment but feeling simultaneously relaxed and in control. Time slows down. They feel and think through an action. A surgeon performing a delicate and dangerous surgery feels highly charged mentally and focused on the task at hand.

According to Daniel Goleman, “flow is a state of self-forgetfulness, the opposite of rumination and worry: instead of being lost in nervous preoccupation, people in flow are so absorbed in the task at hand that they lose all self-consciousness, dropping the small preoccupations — health, bills, even doing well — of daily life.”

Paradoxically, a high state of concentration and mindful focus are required to reach this state of ‘flow’ in which the self can let go and overcome emotional turbulence. This experience stands in contrast to emotional hijackings, in which our nervous systems completely hold our brains hostage. Take, for example, forced concentration that is fueled by worry and tension. Our brains in this state show increased cortical activity. But when concentration is effortless, the bare minimum of mental energy is expended.

Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard University, used this idea of flow to mount a movement in educational reform. He believed in the idea of multiple intelligences among children and advocated for making learning fun for kids in order to recreate the optimal conditions of ‘flow.’
Flow is an internal state that signifies a kid is engaged in a task that’s right. You have to find something you like and stick to it…you learn at your best when you have something you care about and you can get pleasure from being engaged in.

Channeling emotions and regulating our moods toward a productive end, and tempering them with thought rather than letting them impede our thinking are hallmarks of achieving emotional intelligence. Emotions can guide our actions rather than be our stumbling blocks.

Emotional Intelligence In Customer Service

Emotional Intelligence In Customer ServicePrior to conducting our Customer Service Workshops, we sometimes have to meet customers to access what the level of service of the company is like. Having interviewed a number of customers here in Singapore, many revealed that what was lacking in our service providers is the human touch. We observed that most service providers were so focused on the facts or fault finding, or on just solving the issue, they seemed to forget the human aspect of the interaction. Namely being less “automated” in their responses or having more empathy.

A number of customers said that “being heard and respected” was more important to them than having their issues resolved. The majority said they would prefer that the staff communicate with them either in person or by telephone, instead of e-mail or text messages.

Here are some steps to take (VET):

1. Validate the customer’s emotions.
Notice the customer’s facial expressions, observe their body language and listen to their tone of voice, the speed or the pitch. Any change could be telling you that there is something wrong. Recognize that their feelings are real. You could say “I understand what you must be going through” or “I sense you are feeling…”

2. Explore with the customer what they are going through.
Ask questions to find out what is the underlying fear, anger or disappointment. Give the time to speak, without interrupting, justifying your actions, making excuses or blaming others. You could say “That must be so frustrating for you, please tell me more about the issue.”

3. Transform the energy to something useful and effective.
Let the customer know your immediate actions of what you are going to do next. Do not focus on all the things you cannot do and then gather agreement from the customer. By providing an alternative, you give the customer an opportunity to consider other options that may not have occurred to them. When you are unable to offer a solution or alternatives, ask the customers for suggestions like “What would you like us to do now?” or “How else can we support or help you?”

Remember that there will be times when you have to say no. When you apologize sincerely and inform the customer of the facts, it would be hard to argue with the truth. Customers usually respond positively when they understand the reason you are unable to meet their request or what prevents you from meeting their needs. Saying “It is company policy” is an excuse, that means nothing to a customer. Be gentle and ensure that the customer does not feel personally rejected. It is important for you to keep calm and manage your voice (or you may sound impatient or frustrated). Your effort demonstrates that you value their business and are willing to help. This can turn into a gain for both your customer and you.

The EQ Competency Framework

The EQ Competency FrameworkEmotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive emotions in ourselves and others. It is the ability to use appropriate emotions to create the best outcomes and to understand how emotional reactions create different outcomes. Having higher EQ helps one accept challenges and adapt to new situations quickly. Upon learning and practicing Emotional Intelligence, you will more easily recover from setbacks and handle situations with a clearer mind and awareness of its causes and potential consequences. You will also have the tools to think resourcefully and adapt to adversities that come with significant stressors faced in the course of the day.

The EQ Competency Framework has 9 EQ behaviours that are observable and measurable. We created this profile based on at least 15 years of performance standards and measurements so that each one who eventually takes this profile can influence change through clearly defined behaviours and corresponding actions.

The model consists of 3 zones.

1) The ‘Core’ Zone represents ‘Purpose’. We begin with Purpose because it forms the bedrock of why we are in this life for. When our direction is clear, our “Why” in life bears a deeper meaning and it gives us a drive that is engineered from within. This is where Passion and Purpose reside.

2) The ‘Self’ Zone represents EQ with Self. The 4 competencies represented are ‘consciousness’, ‘emotional management’, ‘optimism’ and ‘self-efficacy’. When your purpose is clear, it’s important to address the relationship we have with ourselves. In other words, the quality of our thoughts and feelings, how effective we are as a result of how we speak to ourselves and our ability to handle our emotional state and effectiveness at handling tasks.

3) The ‘Other’ Zone represents relationship with Others. The 4 competencies represented are ‘empathy’, ‘trust’, ‘influence’ and ‘connection’. When we are clear about our direction (Purpose), demonstrate emotionally healthy habits and have resourceful thoughts, our relationships with others are harnessed. We are then able to influence and build healthy relationships with others which forge long term growth and mutual respect.

Interpreting the Competencies

When you have a clear sense of purpose and meaning, you will be able to find different ways to achieve your goals as well as see short and long term opportunities to achieve your goals. When you set these goals, you focus on what is important to you, how it contributes to your long term purpose and make them easy to understand. Thus you are able to be inclusive and make others the focus your long terms plans. This competency is about making a difference and a strong score indicates your willingness to stay the course in spite of challenges that come in the way of your pursuits.

Being aware of your emotions and behaviours will help you to understand your experiences with reason and compare present experiences with other similar ones from the past with greater insight. By reflecting on past experiences, you will also be able to improve on your decision making. As you can see the consequences of your actions in detail, you become more alert to changes in your mood. Thus you understand how your actions affect others and it helps you choose appropriate behaviours in different situations.

Emotional Management
If you are strong in this competency, you are able to stay calm and act responsibly when faced with challenging situations. This ability helps you to withhold any judgment, to clarify in a frank and honest manner, and keep thoughts positive as you wait for better outcomes. By managing your own emotions and having appropriate self-restraint, you are able to prevent outbursts.

An optimistic person is able to maintain a positive and hopeful outlook, they see new possibilities even in challenging situations, consider opportunities to act upon and look for solutions patiently. They develop solutions that are feasible, talk about solutions with measured confidence and accept changes so as to progress.

This competency is demonstrated through the ability to stay the course and take action to achieve results, to do more without being asked, to reject requests that you are unable to fulfil, to try out new ideas and to answer queries courageously. You manage work with sustained focus, are detailed and can complete work with quality and timeliness.

There are 2 parts to trust here. The first is that you trust others and the other is that you are trustworthy to others. These include behaviors like giving time for others to express their opinions patiently, listening without prior judgement, keeping your commitments consistently and fulfilling obligations by putting in extra effort. People with higher ratings on trust admit their own mistakes readily without reservation, understand other people’s poor judgement or mistakes with openness and follow-up on agreements so that things go as planned.

Being able to influence means that you can affect others through a mutually respectful partnership, accept other peoples’ beliefs to gain mutual respect and encourage others to see your point of view patiently. When you are able to offer ideas that are accepted by others, can handle challenges to gain agreements, are willing to guide others when they are in doubt and persuade them into action with facts and benefits, you will be able to integrate other people’s views into your plans and follow through more effectively.

This competency requires having the ability to establish rapport easily, start conversations with ease and listen to other people’s intentions carefully. This will help you narrow the distance between you and another person and relate to them as a friend rather than an outsider. It requires learning to resolve differences with others firmly as you handle disagreements with tact and logic. You will also be able to accept feedback willingly and give feedback to others with care.

People who are empathic take the effort to understand the circumstances influencing people’s decisions and learn to link other people’s feelings to their circumstances appropriately. A higher rating on this competency reflects a choice to readily give personal attention to those who need it, the willingness to adjust your advice so that others can accept it easily and provide appropriate support on time while you encourage others to resolve their challenges independently.

EQ Interview With Dr Granville Ed D’Souza: Leading With EQ

1. In your opinion, what does having high EQ as a leader mean in the workplace today?


Effective leaders use Emotional Intelligence in their leadership to achieve buy in, trust and commitment. Emotional Intelligence, or EI, describes an ability or capacity to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, and of others. If this is done effectively, they can better marshal the inner resources to influence, communicate and convince others. Quite often, we learn tactical skills, strategies which are cognitive in nature. This can never be understated. However, when these are executed without sensitivity to the other person’s feelings and devoid of empathy, it can come across as transactional.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence necessitates the employment of a soft approach (intra-personal skills and interpersonal skills) with the hard (cognitive and tactical strategies). Every leader wants to get the desired results and i.e. meet the KPIs (Key Performance Index) and ensure success and profit for the company. Sometimes they overlook a very important indicator and that is keeping their people, happy, motivated and excited about their work. Afterall, these factors are highly consistent with productivity levels.

What do the top one hundred profit making companies like Wal-Mart, General Electric, Bank of America, Nestle, and Hershey’s have in common? While each of these companies live and breathe their own set of values, they stand out as being the critical one’s that breed a culture of EQ amongst others and they emphasize leadership, integrity, empowerment and teamwork. You would most likely witness as a customer of an EQ organization if Emotional Intelligence was integrated into the organization philosophy, mission and values. EQ culture is cascaded at every level within the organization. And this has to start from the very top, i.e. the leadership.

2. How can a leader lead his/her people in these times of uncertainty?

In times of uncertainty, a leader with high emotional intelligence should focus on these aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

Mood and Emotional Contagion

Emotional contagion is likened to the involuntary ‘passing on’ of emotions or moods from one person to another. It happens with pleasant as well as unpleasant moods.

Leaders must recognize the mood they evoke in the office. They must be cognisant of the need to inject enthusiasm and excitement among their charges. This is especially required in times of uncertainty. This can happen by the words they mutter, the emotional expressions conveyed and how much latitude they give others to make decisions. Certain leaders unconsciously create stressful workplaces as they are used to instilling fear and pressure, shutting away from staff, blocking the channels of communication between them and the levels below thus creating barriers within the organization. Other outdated negative practices include emphasizing on individuality, giving attention only to a certain few and ignoring the rest thus creating factions and cliques. As a leader, recognize that your every word is scrutinized, your actions, modelled by those who respect you and if they don’t, their behaviours are totally in opposition to yours. This can result in tension and emotional dissonance (discord or disharmony) in and around the space you function with your colleagues. When tensions mount, silence fills the air, suspicions loom and distrust surfaces like a disease.

You are not born with or without optimism. You can learn it. The Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman says that optimism or pessimism is present in our language. When something good or bad happens, just by our verbal explanations, we affect the mood and unconscious impetus to act in others and ourselves.

What kind of energy are you projecting to your team members in times of uncertainty? The last thing they need to have is another energy sucker consuming the urgently needed positivity that remains in the office. Leaders need to observe their patterns and words whenever they speak. They need to refrain from projecting despondence and a defeatist mindset by not saying, “Don’t even waste your time on it”, “Are you absolutely sure you know what you are doing”, “I don’t think this is possible”, “I don’t think this will go well”, “Why must this always happen to us”, “This is the story of your life”, “I have a bad feeling about this?” Or are you using these phrases which exude hope and possibility… “Let’s just give it a shot”, “Why don’t you try again”, “ Just a little more effort and we’ll get there”, “Great job!!”, “It’s OK, let’s just push on”.

It is untrue to say there is no place for pessimists as they serve us in many ways like crisis planning and keeping a check on complacency, comfort and over-confidence. Hence, leaders have to be realists while ensuring that they inspire energy, hope and possibility when they speak to their staff about their performance, the potential they bring with them and how they can be a part of the vision the leader beams to all.

Self-directed and Action Oriented

During unpredictable periods, an effective leader who is EQ trained will be aware of his challenges and his/her strengths, conscious of the patterns that cause the team to burn-out and perform poorly. They have a clear vision and purpose, are self -directed and able to orchestrate their vision and translate this to their team to perform and succeed especially in times when guidance is most needed. They are aware of their mood and energy and how people feel in tough times hence a sense of well-being for the team becomes the focus. They are adept at stepping up at the appropriate time to inspire, motivate and shake up the group.

3. How should a leader communicate to his/her people when downsizing?

Empathy and Authenticity

Empathy is seldom synonymous with leadership because it does not summon the “macho” image of the tough guy who sits at the top. So what does empathy mean in leadership circles? The word embraces one of the farthest yet simplest moral guides in the history of human behaviour – treating others like we would like to be treated, attempting to place ourselves as much as possible in the space others are in with the intention to see what others are seeing and feel what they are possibly feeling.

The test of your empathy levels is evident in how easily you pick up on other people’s feelings and how strongly you are affected by those feelings. It is difficult to feel in exact measure another’s pain, their despair, anxiety and frustration, even their potential anger and rage, however, it is the effort at trying to be in such a state that differentiates the empathic one from those expressing sympathy. Sympathy can sometimes be expressed easily by saying, “That must be difficult” or “I know what you mean” and not meaning it.
Dev Patnaik mentions in his book Wired to Care that empathy can give us a reason to come in to work everyday. It helps transform jobs into careers and careers into calling and this in itself offers employees meaning in their lives. By the same token, when giving bad news e.g. downsizing, leaders need to show how they too would feel if in the same position. They need to be authentic in their response. Authenticity requires honesty, sincerity and frankness. The leader should give as much explanation as possible so that those affected leave knowing reasons behind the exercise. They need to practice patience, compassion and understanding as emotional states distort peoples’ thinking and discussions can get heated up. Allowing affected parties to vent and express is critical to allowing them to feel cared for and respected. The process allows people to calm themselves when they know they are being listened too.

Hope and Optimism

Optimists have expectations that things will eventually turn out all right, and if they do not, there are reasons to explain the initial setbacks — roadblocks that are only temporary and can be changed. Great leaders are inspiring and they offer a perspective of possibility. They allow people to see a new beginning. When downsized, people feel disenchanted, confused and hurt. It requires time to allow staff to see the light at the end of the tunnel but this is absolutely necessary.

Optimism is about identifying and adopting the necessary steps to sustain continuous action toward positive outcomes. Optimism is more than just ‘thinking positive.’ Optimists believe they will accomplish what they set out to do, and even if it takes time, or if they encounter obstacles and problems — they are not discouraged. Leaders need to offer this perspective in such a time. The leader may even explain that difficult times call for tough actions and that tough times always build resilience and strength in anyone and with the right attitude, a better opportunity could come around the corner.

Optimists have a different definition of failure, which they consider as opportunities to shift and adjust before starting over again.

4. What is the main emotional equation that helps you to lead?

A formula I choose to live by is Awareness + Purpose + Engagement + Strategy = Passion & Commitment.

  • One of the key components of EQ is Self awareness and awareness of others. Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you process information and give instructions. Do you facilitate or use a command and control style? Have you noticed how you react when you are upset with your charges and if there is something worth shifting?
  • Purpose. Mastery of vision and purpose requires that the leader has the ability to set a team direction and goals based on a strong personal philosophy. This inner compass also provides resilience and strength to overcome obstacles because of his/her focus on what matters. It is the inner motivator, the rudder that propels the leader and the group forward. When our actions are consistent with our words and philosophy, trust and team cohesion become a solid foundation on which the teams obtains it’s strength.
  • Engagement is all about communication. Effective leaders are frank, sincere, willing to approach difficult news as much they are with good news. They communicate with respect and clarity ensuring that the team is clear about all expectations and no one is left in the dark. They adopt an open door policy and invite candid as well open discussion.
  • Strategy. Great leaders mix the soft with the hard. It’s no use having all the people skills without much ability and knowledge. EQ leaders are able to fuse their experience at work with their talents thus combining their feelings with their sound mind. It’s not about EQ vs IQ but a fusion of both. When leaders can harness their cognitive talents with the benefit that emotions like anger, fear and disappointment bring, they produce exceptional results matched only by the very best in the field.

The combination of these 4 elements invokes extraordinary passion and commitment which in turn propels leaders to the top.

5. How can a leader express EQ effectively in a stressed workplace?

Whether in good times or bad, emotions are predominantly at play in the workplace and they have a direct effect on the wellbeing of staff. Leaders have to be at the top of their game to prevent challenges morphing into crises. Here are 4 fundamental competencies a leader needs to display in tough times.

Purpose: Understanding and communicating the goals and aspirations of the department company fosters commitment. Every staff must clearly understand what their role is, how they are progressing and where they should be moving towards. When staff are just tackling day to day chores without the broader vision in place, a company might as well hire part-time staff. The “Why” or purpose sets in motion a sense of belonging, clarity of direction and intrinsic reason to be part of the family. This in turn instils commitment and a strong reason to give 100%.

Navigate Emotions: In difficult situations, the leader’s behaviour and attitude is fundamental to the culture and atmosphere that is cultivated. The term emotional contagion simply means the ‘contagiousness’ of the emotional presence of people around and too many times we’ve heard of the adage that fish rots from the head. A toxic leader evokes toxic feeling, permeating fear and insecurity across the team. A leader’s ability to calm the storm and nurture trust and emotional strength will instil belief and faith in how the team rides the storm.

Resilience: Effective leaders are steadfast in their approach to challenges. They adopt a mindset of hope and possibility while not ignoring the undercurrents of difficulty. Instead they focus on what is possible, take immediate action thus overcoming immediate threats and increasing the security and well-being of staff around them. They facilitate action and rally their teams. They appreciate the lessons from the difficulty and use this as fuel and energy to encourage staff to learn from such challenges. This inevitably allows them to be emotionally stronger and tactically sharper.

Be Dependable: Effective leaders are congruent in their words and actions. They build trust by consistently acting out what they commit to. Additionally, they nurture such a culture with commitment such that everyone in the team is expected to walk the talk. They are quick to reproach unsavoury behaviour thus modelling traits and qualities reflective of performance teams.

6. Why and how can a leader improve their EQ?

A leader can arrange to be EQ profiled as a first step and then seek to address the weaker competencies that hinder performance while giving more focus on harnessing his/her strengths. There are a few ways a typical leader can improve these competencies. A first step is to have a good feel of what EQ is all about and how such practices should not be seen as a one-off, quick-fix 2 day workshop. It’s a life- long commitment to tackle the weaker areas and sustain the effort since we are vulnerable to changes in every area of our lives in the corporate world as well as in our personal lives.

Following an EQ workshop, a competent consultant can coach the leader on the competencies that need to be addressed. This simply takes the form of weekly exercises and discussions on a goal the leader has set and deciding how to marshal the required EQ competencies to reach the intended target. To keep on track, a pre and post profiling 4-6 months apart would allow someone to know if progress has been made. If one is actively doing weekly exercises on a weak competency for at least a month to 6 weeks, changes will be evident.

7. How has EQ helped you to become a better leader?

The best reminders come to me during my leadership workshops when I listen to leaders who both practice constructive and destructive behaviors, attitudes and mindset. I am reminded continually that EQ is about an intra-personal and interpersonal combination of strengths. Quite often, leaders learn skills to handle encounters but may overlook aspects closer to themselves like their self control, awareness and a clear understanding of how emotions build wisdom. The basic blocks of EQ calls for us to introspect and dig deep within ourselves to understand our past baggage, accept them and use past experiences as wisdom for future decision making.

Knowing and practicing EQ has helped me understand that effectiveness comes from understanding the EQ building blocks and consciously practicing them in every encounter with whoever I encounter. The practice sessions should be actual daily encounters and the appraisal of it’s success is directly proportionate to the quality of relationships leaders have with their staff.

Practicing EQ as a leader necessitates that I keep reminding myself that consistent and sustainable results ensue when the leader models what s/he preaches. This requires measuring your own “EQ temperature” and taking the necessary action on my own to keep improving myself which in turn allows me to accept the challenges other’s face with a lot more empathy and understanding. I frequently profile myself by using different tools to assess where I am at. At least some kind of measure gives me more feedback than if I used nothing and made wild guesses about how I behave with others and handle situations.

8. Tell us about an instance where EQ has successfully helped you solve a problem at the workplace.

From the outset, it’s important to understand that EQ is not about being ‘nice’. A leader cannot afford to be a pushover because tough decisions have to be made. Hence, when unintended behaviors become habitual and no one addresses it, the one’s who display such behaviour find it very convenient to play it out repeatedly to get their way.

I once intervened when I noticed bullying and favouritism being practiced by a middle manager. It was glaring yet seemed like an unconscious pattern that had gotten out of hand. I refuse to be confrontational in my approach but I never leave any stones unturned. It is my strong belief that avoidance is a reflection of poor communication and fear to face up to the truth. The truth can sometimes hurt but it speaks loudly enough for everyone to know what is expected in the organization.
When giving feedback, I adopt a simple 5 step strategy

  • How much we (the company) value you (the offender) and mention what the offending party is really good at. This will keep them receptive and open.
  • Offer examples of how they have stood out or what they have done well.
  • What behaviors you notice that need to be corrected and the consequences of carrying it on.
  • Ask them for their views and opinions about what they are going to do about it and when.
  • Tell them that the issue will be discussed in a week to see if additional help was required.

I consistently use this to good effect and it helped stop this behaviour by checking with the team and some of the victims.

9. What happens when leaders prefer to use authority or an iron fist instead of EQ at the workplace? Tell us about an instance when this happened and the consequences.

When leaders are dictatorial, controlling and formal, their charges become risk averse, insecure and rule bound. This style of leadership translates to stiffness, fear and eventually disengagement among staff. The degree of communication vertically and laterally is greatly reduced and the culture transforms into one where people become a lot more task focused and less people-centric.

Bank of America is committed to “doing the right thing”. One of their values advocates that every employee has the freedom, authority, and responsibility to do the right thing for each of their stakeholders, and for each other. This speaks volumes about the level of trust and empowerment handed down to staff if they were to make a difference. Such initiative and proactive behaviour in turn determines how incentives and rewards are assessed and awarded to staff. Such practices motivate and inspire employees to do their very best for both the company and their customers so that everyone wins. It becomes easy to also detect who does not fit into the culture of ‘everybody wins’ and they have strict rules about staff being congruent with such values.

Leaders must allow for participation and that means allowing everyone to have a voice by promoting engagement at all levels. People start to take initiative and the energy around the office is vibrant, active and happy. There are less masks and a greater degree of authenticity and intentionality.

The Attitude of Gratitude

By Dr Granville Ed D’Souza

The Attitude of GratitudeHave you ever tried stopping everything you were doing and put a pause on the thoughts that were running through your mind? Try doing it randomly as often as you can and notice whether it’s mainly negative complaints or expressions of joy and thankfulness. If it’s the former, great, you recognize what your mind is occupied with. If it’s the latter, that’s great too because of the gifts you’ll receive emotionally and mentally when you adopt an attitude of being thankful for whatever you have in your life. While it might be a harder to be thankful for the challenges that you grapple with, one can learn to see the benefits of it which usually come later if we are open to it.

I have been practicing being thankful for 10 things at a time done 4 times daily and have been having some amazing results in not more than 2 weeks of doing this consistently. Here are a few…

Letting Go
I have found that I have been able to set free feelings of anger when I come into contact with inconsiderate acts of selfishness and greediness- my 2 hot buttons in life. This has been evident by my not having to “enforce” my rules on others and ensuring that when I see it, I don’t have to take action by myself and immediately like I used to through reprimanding the other party.

The Smallest Things In Life
I seem to be able to appreciate the smallest things that happen daily mainly because I have conditioned my mind 4 times a day to be thankful, it’s almost become a habit. This practice allows me to think of having something as simple as having a bed, enjoying the comfortable mattress, having a roof above my head and coming back to a home where food is cooked. These are the simple things I have taken for granted all my life because I always had it yet so many others right this moment are in search of their next meal not knowing if they will be fed this afternoon or tonight.

Easy Listing
I was driving to attend a meeting this morning and decided to start the first of my daily exercises while driving and I started with being thankful that I had a car… here is where the trail of thankfulness started. Since I had a car…

  • I did not have to leave a lot earlier.
  • I could sleep more and have better rest.
  • I can be in total comfort while on my way to work.
  • I enjoy the view and observe people on the way, something I enjoy doing when in a public place.
  • I can enjoy the radio in the comfort of my own space and talk on the phone without having to adjust my volume.
  • I am not inconvenienced by the time schedule of public transport.
  • I can appreciate the brilliance of Man to create such a wonderful invention.
  • I can sit in comfort while moving from one place to another.

The list can be endless if we focus on what’s really going right!

Domino Effect of Gratitude
This effect looks at how being thankful for one thing makes you thankful for the next, i.e. related reasons which spill over very naturally into others. When I now focus on gratitude on one line of thinking, it leads me immediately to the next related line. What does this mean? For example, I’ll pick my new bicycle that I bought this week. I am thankful that I was able to afford such a beautiful bike. I am thankful that I am physically and mentally able and that my limbs are in tact to ride this bike the way I choose to. It allows me to either exercise for leisure and pass through places cars may not necessarily be able to do so. This offers the opportunity to experience the serene spots in Singapore which offer peace and tranquillity not seen in many parts of the world. It progresses to my being thankful for having that time to take a break and bike around the estate where the roads are perfect for cycling with no bumps and crevices, etc.

Gratitude Starts From The Mind
What your mind is most focused on and consumed by occupies your reality. Just by what you choose to think, you create energy fields within your body which affect your emotional well-being. As you think, so you become. Likewise, complaining, chiding and not having anything good to say about people and your surrounding sets you up for noticing the blotches, specks and cracks among life’s treasures. If that’s what you seek, that’s what you’ll find. It is in your hands to determine your happiness by learning to be grateful.

Managing My Grief And Loss

By Marion Nicole Teo

Managing My Grief And LossMy father recently passed away unexpectedly. Suddenly my father was gone even though on the day he suffered a massive stroke, I had seen him and he had seemed his normal self. The grief I experienced was intense – this was my Dad, the man who had brought me up, cared for and loved me, and who had taught me so much. He had loved all of us – my Mum, my siblings and my sons. I was comforted by my faith and in knowing that he went without much suffering, that he was at peace and in a better place. During Dad’s wake, many came to pay their respects and share stories of the great influence my dad had been to them: as their teacher, their discipline master and their principal. We laughed and cried together with family and friends. This, too, helped ease the sadness.

What Others Sometimes Advise

Grief is a natural response when something or someone we love is taken away from us. But it is also a personal and individual experience – each of us grieves differently. The grief and loss that we go through depend on our personality, our coping style, our life experience, our faith and the nature of the loss. Healing will happen gradually and there is no right or wrong time frame. What is most important is that we are patient with ourselves and allow the process to naturally unfold.

I have experienced deep loss before, when I was first divorced, but I have learnt not to ignore my pain or push it as far away as possible. I now know that it can only make it worse in the long run. For real healing to take place, I have to face my grief and actively deal with it. When we first lost our Dad, many people came to me and said that I had to “be strong”, show a brave face to protect my family and not cry. But by showing my true feelings, I knew I could help them and myself.

Crying is not a weakness, and neither is feeling sad, frightened, or lonely. Though crying is a normal response to sadness, it is not the only one that we might experience. Just because some do not cry, it does not mean that they do not feel the pain just as deeply as others. Instead their pain could be shown in other ways. Our experience of loss and grief is different for each person and no one should tell you how you should feel or whether or not you should show it. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It is okay to be angry, to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you are ready. Going forward does not mean you have forgotten about the loved one or that they are no longer missed.

Grief Can Occur In Stages

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “5 Stages of Grief” back in 1969. They are Denial (This can’t be happening to me), Anger (Why is this happening? Who is to blame?), Bargaining (Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.), Depression (I’m too sad to do anything) and Acceptance (I am at peace with what happened). One does not have to go through all or any of the stages, but still able to resolve the grief. We also do not need to experience the stages in this order. Do not try to fix ourselves in some stage of the cycle or worry about what we should be feeling. It is important to know that there is no typical response to loss. Our grief is as individual as we are.

I can identify with some and I know I had to deal with those emotions in order to heal. When it first happened, I could not believe it as Dad was generally healthy for his age. I found it really hard to accept what had happened. I tried to numb myself in those two days that he lay in a coma, and even denied the extent of damage to his brain. I kept my hope alive, expecting him to wake up and that all would be alright. I tried to think of signs that we may have missed or what we could have done to prevent the stroke. There was regret and guilt about the things I did or did not say or do. And I had moments where it was all so overwhelming; where I felt like I was in a bad dream, and moments where I even found myself questioning God. The sadness was deep, and it came with feelings of emptiness and helplessness. Our family endured a roller-coaster journey that had frequent highs and lows, ups and downs, and despair.

Coping with Our Grief

In sharing our feelings as a family, we found support in one another, and in others who mourned with us. This sharing allowed us to understand that we were not alone, and in expressing our feelings and experience, we learned to accept Dad’s sudden passing. Our family found ourselves within a network of support from relatives, friends and people who just wanted to help: whether it was with the wake, the funeral arrangements, in preparing meals, saying prayers or just offering their shoulder for us to cry on.

As a family, we wrote our last goodbyes to Dad in a card, saying all the things we hadn’t had a chance to say to him And we’ve created a photo album celebrating his life. But in the days after Dad’s passing and funeral, the stress took its toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I needed to look after my body by getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. I found that spending time with others and going to church also helped me through this difficult time.

Letting Grief Run Its Course

Father’s Day was a trigger for me. And I am sure there will be other events that will reawaken the memories and feelings. I talked about this with my sons and they had similar feelings too, as it is still so raw for all of us. But we decided that we wanted to find ways to honor our Dad and our Grandpa– this article, for me, is part of my healing journey as I remember my Dad and come to terms with the deep loss our family is faced with.

The Usefulness Of Learning About Micro-Expressions


A micro-expression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans according to emotions experienced. They usually occur in situations where people have something to lose or gain. There are 7 main micro-expressions that are usually spotted and are labelled. These are similar to the Basic Emotions of contempt, anger, fear, disgust, joy, sadness and surprise.

Micro-expressions are usually displayed when someone is consciously trying to conceal how they are feeling or when someone is not consciously thinking about their feelings. They are very brief in duration, lasting only up to 1/25. Macro-expressions last from half a second to about 4 seconds. Like poker faces in a gambling situation, experts are supposed to be able to be so neutral in their expressions that opponents would not have a clue about their opponents luck.

Unlike regular facial expressions, it is difficult to hide micro-expression reactions. Micro-expressions express the six universal emotions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and surprise. Over the last 35 years, Paul Ekman has travelled the world and all the continents and through his detailed research , has concluded that universally, everyone expresses similar emotions when they are exposed to situations they would cause such emotions. His expanded his list of emotions, including a range of positive and negative emotions not all of which are encoded in facial muscles. These emotions are amusement, contempt, embarrassment, anxiety, guilt, pride, relief, contentment, pleasure, and shame.

The training of micro-expressions helps tremendously in influencing. Sales and negotiations can be deftly strategized if one is adept at reading such micro movements on the face. All this does fall under the umbrella of our EQ Training in EQ Asia.

Are You Coping With Stress?

By Marion Nicole Teo


Like everyone else, from time to time, we all get stressed out by a number of things that happen in our lives. Some are within our control and others are not. Some are clear and can be identified, thus allowing us to choose options to take action. But some of the biggest stressors are unclear and vague. Being able to recognize the causes of the stress and then deciding how to manage it is very important to our mental and physical health.

Some common causes of stress in our personal life include taking on a big loan, going on holidays, getting married, moving house, pregnancy, sudden change in health, divorce or separation or death of a loved one.

And at work, our work load, demands of the job, difficult customers, time constraint and deadlines, work conditions, demanding superiors or their personalities, shortage of personnel, attitudes, personality and work styles of colleagues, conflicts, losing or changing one’s job, having a boring job or getting a promotion may cause unduly stress and pressures.

Each time we perceive something that feels like a threat or danger, our body goes into an alert system as part of our survival mechanism to either flee from the situation or fight against the threat. But in this day and age, we find ourselves many times being unable to do both and we freeze instead. On a daily basis, if we are encountering many perceived threats, we are not allowing ourselves to get back into a relaxed state.

I realised that much of my stress was self-inflicted because I would always imagine the worse that could happen over small or silly things. I worried about too many things that were out of my control. When I felt upset, I used to take sweet desserts, have a soft drink or wine as the sugar / alcohol would give me a temporary boost. But when energy levels dropped, I would feel worse.

Are you able to detect the signs of stress? Our bodies are constantly speaking to us and giving us signals. Some of them include backache, headache, insomnia, breathlessness, dizziness, fainting, tiredness, mouth ulcers, upset stomach, pain in neck and shoulders or sweating for no reason. Be aware of your feelings too like prolonged sadness, feeling isolated or loss of pleasure in life. We may also find ourselves picking up some bad habits of overeating, drinking alcohol in excessive amounts or smoking.

There are many ways to cope with stress and the most common advice is to plan, prioritise and organise your day, manage your time and do not accept more than you can cope with, look at things with a different perspective and many more.

Here are some solutions that I have found to be very helpful:
– Do one thing at a time
– Take short breaks to relax
– Keep a balance between work and recreation
– Be gentle with yourself
– Learn to say no
– Be aware of the problem and accept it as a challenge
– Hug a family member or close friend
– Discuss the issue with a friend
– Write your concerns in a diary
– Pray or meditate daily
– Breathe deeply
– Take a warm bath
– Go for a massage
– Care for a pet
– Volunteer to do some community service
– Learn to laugh more! And genuinely!!

Taking A Positive Approach To Life

Positive ApproachDo you consider yourself to be a happy and positive person? When times are bad, do you look for the possible lessons and appreciate your blessings? This is not always easy to do. Whilst on this journey of self-improvement, I found out a lot about myself. It started with being more aware and conscious of my behaviours. Here are some of them:

In the past, I used to be reactive and got upset easily. I was rather impulsive at times and I made judgements very quickly. Though nowadays I still get angry, I rarely lose my temper. When the unpleasant feelings arise, I tell myself what I am feeling, whether angry, irritated, annoyed or disappointed. When it is appropriate, I do share how I feel with the person involved and what caused the unpleasant feeling/s. Once my feelings subside, I am able to be more fair, objective and patient.

I try to avoid negative thoughts about others, myself or the situation. When I catch myself doing that, I tell myself to stop and see the positive in them. I think of the good qualities in that person and think about how to help and not hurt them.

I used to justify my actions, but that sometimes made me angrier as I thought I was not being heard or respected. I then found myself belittling others or exaggerating the facts especially if they did not favour me. What I have found useful is to pull back what I usually would just blurt out. Doing this requires one to hold back and sometimes literally bite the tongue. The brain works in funny ways. Every thought evokes feelings and hence incites all sorts of chemicals in the body. If one is used to reacting, such patterned behaviour requires a thought process to put the brakes on it.

Now I take a little more time to consider my thoughts and feelings. When evaluating a situation, look at the facts and not indulge in wishful thinking. Learn to accept facts and reality and consider your urges and inclinations. Then, ask yourself what and how you feel like responding and in what way does it serve your interests. If a change in behaviour has more pros than cons to both you and the other person, then it is worth doing it. Breaking these habits do not happen overnight and require effort and perseverance. When making a choice, think of the long term consequences and not the short term effects. Also, do not dwell on the past or spend time regretting what you have done.

Here are some things that can help one become a happier and more positive person:

  • Exercise regularly.

    I make it a point to go for a brisk walk at least 3 times a week for about 30 – 45 minutes in the park. I love being with nature and this helps me think more clearly. I also feel fitter and do not fall sick as much as I used to.

  • Take a job that you really enjoy doing.

    Training, sharing knowledge and my experiences is something I really love doing. It does get tiring but each time I get to meet different people from all walks of life. Also, when someone shares with me that they learnt a lot in my class, I get more motivated.

  • Have a sense of purpose.

    Knowing that I have made a small difference in even the life of one person helps me know I am one step nearer to my goal. I was in survival mode for a very long time, just working to earn money and have a decent quality of life. But it was not a balanced life and I was not happy.

  • Forgive yourself and others.

    Letting go of the past has been very uplifting for me. Being able to forgive myself was very challenging as I used to feel that I did not deserve it. Because I had high standards for myself, I also found it difficult to forgive others. But in learning to forgive, I have found a lot of inner peace.