Day 3 of ESaC

Vulnerability. I did not expect to feel so exposed and vulnerable in a training session. And yet there’s something in the clue of the title of the course which suggests this was going to happen. We’re studying Emotional Skills and Competencies, based on the work of Dr Paul Ekman, who has provided us with a way of readily identifying universal emotions.

Day 3 was all about practising the skills and competencies we were learning about. We took our time to understand the PEER model. Practising and preparing, engagement, exploration and resolution. This model helps you to prepare for encounters which are likely to be highly emotionally charged. Remember, the whole purpose of ESaC is about identifying in yourself when you are feeling emotions, recognising them in others and having better, positive relationships as a result.

In the ‘P’ stage it’s about getting yourself ready for the encounter. The term used was ‘clean down’. How will you give yourself the time, and space, to mentally ready yourself. In ‘engagement’ we’re concerned with how the other person is responding to us, and what we can do to make that more effective. In ‘exploring’ we’re doing exactly that, exploring what new developments you see arising. And in ‘resolution’ we should be looking to see what can we do collaboratively that creates the ideal outcome.

We took our time to think of common situations where we can apply this model, in order that we can practise ESaC so we don’t lose that learning. I was glad to see we were given the time to do this, as it’s often just given five minutes at the end of a training session. We then had to conclude by practising a role play. You know the kind, think of a situation, describe it to the other person, see what happens with the conversation. I couldn’t shake a conversation from my head I thought I should have and decided to go with it. I couldn’t have guessed I was so unprepared for the conversation and where it would take me emotionally.

I’m glad we did the exercise as it raised the importance of getting the PEER model right. Crucially, for me, it highlighted just how triggers create that ‘spark before the flame’, and how you choose to react is very much in your hands. I’ve come away from the training feeling very motivated to learn more about these triggers I experience, and how they affect me.

I hope you’ve found the review of the 3 day course useful. For any questions do get in touch, or just leave a comment below.


Day 2 of ESaC

Today. Today we’ve started venturing into the detailed learning of what it means to understand emotions in others. As a reminder, the 7 universally recognisable emotions are: sadness, happy, anger, fear, contempt, surprise and disgust. We were taken through the micro expressions people display when they experience this emotion. We were also taken through the theory of how an emotion triggers an automatic appraisal process which leads to an action. There’s a lot to go through, so let’s get started.

First of all we we’re taken through the emotion timeline. That is, from the moment we experience an emotion, how do we move to action. This is at the core of self-awareness on the topic and leads itself to helping us to understand how to manage these emotions when we feel them. I can’t reproduce the timeline or go into detail about its facets due to copyright restrictions.

Essentially when something triggers an emotion in us, we are physiologically hardwired to ready the body for action. We cannot change this as it’s been evolutionarily passed down to us. This all happens within milliseconds. Our experiences will add information to this readiness in order that the body prepares itself in the right way. Most of the time we can trust this automatic reaction. Part of this automatic reaction is the micro expression seen, and part of it is physiological readiness. Up until this point, we’re not conscious of what’s happening. From the point of readiness is when we can determine what action to take. We can either trust that an instinctive action is appropriate for the situation, or we choose to act differently. Once we’ve acted we start to return to our base line – or our normal way of behaving.

What I like about this model is that it helps to give a process to what happens when we feel an emotion to when it is initially acted on. We were taken through the model to help us see how for any of the seven, we can pick a distinct trigger for an emotion and track the path to action. It’s hard to capture just how significant this level of personal insight is. The purpose in doing this exercise is so that we raise our self awareness to enable us to understand how to manage our emotions better. What is crucial about doing this following the Ekman methodolgy is that it’s steeped in scientific research, not just observations and intuition about human relationships – hard data about the human condition.

We moved on from there to learn how to display the seven emotions. I really enjoyed this as it was a good opportunity to practice the facial expressions that go with each. I posted the pictures up attempting to show: base line, sadness, anger, contempt, disgust, happy, surprise and fear. What I found in practicing these was that when I display some of the emotions, they are more subtle (especially contempt!) than they should be and can be.

There was good opportunity to take the Micro Expression Training Tool (METT), which you can also do here. It’s an interactive tool which provides you with information on recognising micro expressions and feedback about selections you make. This was really useful as it tests the learning gained from practicing the micro expressions.

Towards the end of the day we had probably the most pertinent discussion for the L&D community – what about body language? Without doubt, there is no scientific research which shows that non verbal communication through body language means any set of behaviours. That is because, unlike the micro expressions which are universally understood, body language is completely contextual. A backward ‘V’ sign in the UK has one meaning, and something very different in European countries. Importance of eye contact has a myth of indicating truthfulness, but this is not borne in anything. Eye movements that are meant to indicate remembering facts, or making up lies are completely untrue. I could go on. Importantly, very importantly, all L&Ders need to be very careful that we do not describe body language in terms of fact, or science, as there’s no scientific research that currently supports any of it. What we should be careful to do is help people to understand they need to be aware of the persons mannerisms they are with, and notice significant changes to the norm, and from that infer that something changes, but we cannot attach meaning to them.

Today has been full of learning. I’m glad that Paul Ekman International has decided to make this training public as it will only help to strengthen the way many of us use what knowledge and experience we have in delivering interventions, in working with others, in coaching, and in self awareness.

Day 1 of ESaC

I’m attending a three day course called Emotional Skills and Competencies. It’s run by DPG Plc, whom I came into contact with via Mr Mike Collins whom I met at the first L&D Connect unconference. This is my how I’ve found day one.

The course focuses on helping you to understand emotions in you and others. It is completely built on the work by Dr Paul Ekman. Followers of this blog will know I hold Dr Ekman in high regard in the field of psychology, body language and insight into human behaviours. That, for me, automatically puts this course a par above anything on emotional intelligence that is in the open market.

Essentially, Dr Ekman has provided us over 40 years of research and development into what emotions humans feel, how they are displayed facially and physiologically, and what process we automatically goes through whenever we feel an emotion. Dr Ekman has found there are seven universally recognised emotions – sadness, surprise, contempt, happy, anger, fear and disgust. When we feel one of these, there are distinct facial and physiological reactions that accompany each one. We’re hard wired to react in these ways, and we can’t escape it.

It’s been useful to spend today understanding these emotions, and how there are other descriptors which we may associate with each emotion. For example, With ‘fear’ we may also feel anxiety or apprehension, with ‘sadness’ we may feel gloomy or despair. Through understanding the emotions we are able to increase our self awareness, and recognise the ‘spark before the flash’.

We’re starting to learn that when working with others, before you can start to ‘read’ them using these techniques, you have to create a base line from which you understand what is ‘normal’ for that person. From that point, once you start to observe reactions from them, you are able to determine what change that person is going through, and how you should best respond to them. Ultimately, what this course is trying to help us to achieve is how to have more productive and constructive relationships.

As we’ve been going through the course, two things come to mind. This is a must attend course for anyone who deals with other people on a regular basis. Learning about emotional competencies in this way is a sure fire way of helping everyone to understand how to recognise emotional reactions they are feeling, others are feeling and therefore how to work better with others. This isn’t restricted to HR, L&D, OD, Coaching professionals. This is anyone in the business world who regularly has to present, influence, facilitate or lead others.

The second thing is this is proper learning and development. We’re getting first class training from Phil Willcox and Aaron Garner, who have been trained by Paul Ekman International. Where discussions are meandering into other realms of hearsay and myths, we’re being given quite clear guidance on what scientific research has proven and what it hasn’t.

More tomorrow.

Thoughts from the #eqsummit

I’ve had an interest in the area of emotional intelligence for a while. From when it first came to the fore, many people were sceptical about the latest fad and dismissed it. There are a few reasons for this. It was new and only a handful of people actually understood what it was. It hadn’t been fully developed or thought through, so the full breadth of what it could offer hadn’t been realised. It felt too new age and not thorough enough to be taken seriously by major organisations or practitioners.

Fast forward to 2012, and we’re a long way from the 1990s. Many individuals sought to stick with this new thinking and really helped to advance its development. At the same time, studies were being done in other areas of psychology and science that would lend some very useful information to the area of emotional intelligence.

Last week, I attended the #eqsummit which sought to highlight just how far we’ve come in human understanding, and what this means for individuals, organisations, and society. The focus was on what emotional intelligence has been able to uncover and help with. At any conference/summit event you expect a product to be pushed at you. In this respect, you could not fault the PR from Roche Martin. They are a well-established group who have developed EQ tools such as the ECR (Emotional Capital Report)*, which is used by them in organisations to provide a basis for assessment, development, and coaching. It is also used by researchers and independent consultants for similar purposes. Of the 300-400 delegates present over the day, you can be sure Roche Martin will have gained considerable leads and demand for their product.

PR aside, the presenters over the day were well chosen and gave good insight into what using EQ as a methodology has helped them to achieve. Dr Martyn Newman, who owns Roche Martin, gave the opening keynote. He’s a very well polished and practised presenter, and is clearly on the speaker circuit often. His background in psychology and psychotherapy came through strongly, and gave solid credibility to his presentation. He provided links to developments in neuroscience, behavioural psychology, cognitive psychology, and talked about leaders and the top ten qualities they possess. I’m always cynical of these types of lists, and Dr Newman gave a useful way to think of these in the context of EQ:

Self-awareness – is about self-knowing and straightforwardness
Self-management – is about self-control, self-confidence and self-reliance
Social skills – is about relationship skills
Social awareness – is about empathy
Adaptability – is about being adaptable, having optimism and self-actualisation (not in the Maslow sense, but in having a passion for what you do)

He provided an interesting way to think about how early EQ has been present in those who just do it well. He said for years, scientists claimed that running a mile in less than 4 minutes could not be achieved, and if attempted would be severely detrimental to a person’s health. Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute barrier. And not only did he do this, but in the following year, 45 other runners did the same. Dr Newman offered that if there wasn’t a sense of some of the qualities described above present in all of these individuals, then it must have been drugs that made this feat possible.

The ten qualities he described provide a very interesting way to think about EQ. I’ve used the broad categories before, and understand there are nuances to each that need to be understood. A point re-iterated was that unlike IQ, which hits a peak at the age of about 20, EQ is a set of dimensions which can fluctuate and we can be better at them in some instances, and very bad at them in others.

My real reason for attending the summit was to hear from the very eminent psychologist, Dr Paul Ekman. I’ve studied his work on micro-expressions and enjoy the rigour which he brought to the understanding of human emotions. I could talk a lot about his talk, but for a very informative post about this, go take a read on Jon Ingham’s Strategic HCM blog. It’s an excellent summary of the talk. The things that struck me were how he continues to work in this field, and is able to present to a large group when he is over 80 years old. His relationship with the Dalai Lama is not only impressive, but clearly an important part of his life. That they have regular conversations face to face is just awesome.

It’s always useful to get a perspective on how organisations have used EQ to help them improve the way they operate. This was usefully provided by Optus, an Australian based telecommunications company, and Quiksilver, the apparel surfing company. Both companies gave examples of where using EQ helped their senior management and Exec teams understand what they do well when relating to others, where they need work, and how to adapt their communication style for different people. It’s interesting that we forget we have to do this at work. We just assume everyone will understand what we have to say.

I really enjoyed a talk by Andrew Humphries, who has started a social enterprise (called Attitude Academy) in using elearning tools to provide coaching for school children to help them understand how to develop social skills. This is in partnership with schools and is provided on a group basis as opposed to individual children. He provides coaching for clients and through this makes his income which gives him the basis to be able to do the coaching for children.

There was a panel discussion at the end which was a chance to Q&A with the presenters over the day. This was fine, but I don’t think added anything extra to what had been presented. A fair bit to think about from the day, and Roche Martin can hold their head up high knowing they’ve sold their product extremely well.

*I’m not being sponsored to make mention of their product, but it is worth making mention of and taking a look at what it does.