This excerpt beautifully describes both the promise and challenge of EI programs.
How Can We Train EI?
Emotional competencies can change, but only through positive development by experiential learning, habitual self-reflection, and long-term meditative work. Intellectual exercises or reading assignments by themselves are unlikely to work, because emotional responses do not emerge from the part of the brain where higher-level mental functions occur, like reasoning and language. Instead, they come from the interior limbic system in the brain, where emotions like anger and fear emerge.
Goleman calls this the “primal brain,” and according to him we often unknowingly act according to these primal emotions. This process is called negative habituation, and is why, without positive, habitual self-awareness training, changing EI competencies is difficult.
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For example, a stress management class can have some impact but may not suffice in the long term. These workshops typically target learning skills at the cognitive, exterior level. Skills at that level are highly perishable. They do not become a positive habit.
The trick to learning EI skills is to become competent and aware of emotional responses as they happen. Unfortunately, our own responses, often invisible to us, emerge from the primal brain. Students will not just learn these skills or pick them up on their own; they need to learn how to practice emotional self-awareness.