PrimeWellness – The extra weight of COVID-19

PrimeWellness – The extra weight of COVID-19

Making sure we focus on our physical, emotional, and mental health is now more important than ever. This pandemic is not going away in the short to medium term. We are going to continue to experience lockdowns and disruption to our daily routines at least for this year. So why not draw a line in the sand and make a deliberate choice to focus on your health. And if that muffin top is one of the things you want to lose, then let’s get started. Remember, it takes one small step at a time.

Read More – PrimeWellness – The extra weight of COVID

Author: Dr. Leanne Wall (BSc., MBBCh., Grad Dip Counselling)

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Why mental health first aid should be on your radar

Why mental health first aid should be on your radar

Do you know someone who has a mental health illness? What do you think your level of knowledge and skill is to recognise and support someone struggling with a mental health problem? These were some of the questions posed to members of the Prime Team at a session Dr. Leanne Wall recently ran on mental health first aid in the workplace. For more, please click Mental Health First Aid.

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Get Out Of Your Own Way!

Get Out Of Your Own Way!

Do you spend a lot of your day focusing on the negative? Glass half empty?  When something negative happens to you, what do you tell yourself? Take a minute to think about what you said to yourself recently when something didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. Was it kind and helpful? Or did you turn on yourself? PRIME WELLNESS – Click here to read more!

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Is Low Emotional Intelligence Affecting Your Relationships?

Is Low Emotional Intelligence Affecting Your Relationships?

The ability to manage our emotions, as well as be aware of the emotions of others, are critical skills to master if we want meaningful relationships in our lives. Where IQ was always touted as the key to success in life, what we now know from years of research, is that emotional intelligence (aka Emotional Quotient or EQ) is one of the most important ingredients to a happy, healthy, and connected life.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

EQ is the ability to understand, use, and manage our own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. “People with well-developed emotional skills are more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity,” says Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional

Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  Goleman argues that “People who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”

How does a person with low emotional intelligence show up?

Generally speaking, people with low EQ cannot accurately perceive emotions in themselves and others. They are quick to blame, make excuses, judge others, and are ultimately self-destructive, particularly in the context of relationships. They can be challenging to get along with both at an individual and social level and difficult to work with because they cannot respond to even the most well-intended and constructive criticism.

 

Are we born with emotional intelligence?

The short answer is no.  Research shows that we are not born with emotional intelligence; instead, we learn these essential skills through lived experience. Foundational blocks are laid in our childhood and our primary carers, usually, our parents, play a massive role in teaching us these skills. If you came from a loving family with emotionally intelligent parents, the likelihood is that you developed these skills growing up.  However, if this was not the case, you may have struggled to navigate your emotions growing up, and the ability to forge close relationships has been a struggle most of your life.  People don’t seem to get you and you them.

What do people with low emotional intelligence have in common?

Several behaviors flag a low EQ. This list is by no means exhaustive but will give you an insight into the struggles these people face.  Perhaps as you read through each one, have a think about whether any resonate in your life and if yes, what you can do to change them.  

1. They don’t develop meaningful relationships

Think of someone in your life that struggles to make friends. Perhaps it may be you? What we know with certainty, is that humans are DNA wired for connection. We all need meaningful relationships to thrive, be happy and live long, healthy lives. Strong and lasting bonds are formed through the mutual exchange of ideas, showing empathy, being compassionate, and offering support to the people we care about.

However, when we lack essential EQ skills, we tend to go through life alone because we find it very difficult to form friendships, especially meaningful and lasting ones.

Not only are we unaware of our own emotions and behaviours and their impact on others, but we are unable to calibrate the other person’s feelings and therefore often ‘put our foot in it.’ If the friend is courageous enough to give us feedback, we have the opportunity to make it right. However, most friends will say nothing, and instead ‘drift’ away from the friendship over time. The end result is that we miss out on the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships, which leads to self-imposed isolation.

We can, however, break this pattern by getting to know other people better through resisting the temptation to talk more than we listen. If a person feels heard, they are more likely to share more details about their life. This results in meaningful exchange and the opportunity to build trust in the relationship.

2. They are not self-aware

Last week I witnessed a road rage incident. Two drivers in front of me literally got out of their cars and had a fistfight. I was stunned, as were most of the drivers stuck at the traffic lights. I instinctively locked my doors. Neither men showed any awareness of their behaviour and eventually, after what seemed to be ages, got back into their cars and drove off.

This is an example of a lack of emotional awareness and the impact we are having on others. In addition, the inability to self-regulate is a key indicator of low EQ.  With low self-awareness, we sometimes cannot identify our own emotions and what is coming up for us, and therefore consequently lack understanding of our own behaviour.  Emotional eruptions of frustration, irritation, and anger are common, and we tend to react in the moment without thinking about what we are saying.

Emotionally intelligent people have a genuine and realistic understanding of themselves, their emotions, how they are showing up in life and the impact they have on other people. They are in tune with how they feel, but they do not let their emotions rule their lives. They respond to situations rationally rather than react with emotion and often when they feel their feelings becoming more intense, they push the pause button to allow themselves a bit of breathing space and get their emotions under control. They are mindfully present when responding to any situation.

Genuine introspection and getting to know ourselves can help us develop self-awareness, compassion, and social intelligence.

3.  They are self-focused

Have you ever spoken to someone, and the minute you start sharing something about your life they immediately take over and start talking about themselves? Perhaps they have a better example than you or a more exciting story to tell? Because people with low EQ are unable to process or understand the emotions of others, and the need to give them space to share, they tend to draw every conversation, circumstance, and situation back to themselves. Regardless of what we talk about, they seem to have a valid reason to steer every topic of conversation back to them. A sure way for the other person to feel unheard and shut down.

Not only do they steer the conversation to their world, but they also tend to take over the conversation, asking rhetorical rather than open-ended questions. This type of questioning is usually intended to grab or keep your attention, but not hear our response. The kind of question also doesn’t allow us the opportunity to respond.

People with low EQ cannot truly open themselves up to being fully available to others, but usually will not allow others to open up, either. They are often emotionally manipulative, calculating, and inherently controlling.

This pattern can be broken by honing our skills of actively listening, instead of listening to talk. Allowing the other person to speak until they have nothing more to say, before we interject with our opinion, our story, or our point of view.

4.  They are never wrong

I cannot help but think of my older brother Grant when it comes to this point. I remember once he said with a cheeky smile, “I am never wrong. Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.” Most of us probably know someone who has an opinion about everything, and they often think they have the only idea that matters and cannot possibly be wrong. And if they are found to be incorrect, they struggle to apologize and admit their mistake. In fact, they often argue with others in an attempt to force or sway them to their point of view. And if the other person doesn’t come to the party, they simply ignore them and their position as irrelevant. They usually show little sympathy, cannot empathize with others, and can sometimes be perceived as bullies.

This pattern can be broken by learning to see, hear, and feel the emotions of others and by learning to shape our own responses and reactions accordingly. Acknowledging that we cannot always be right and that sometimes other people know more than we do is crucial to building trusting relationships.

5.  They are never at fault

Does this ring a bell?  Do you know someone that regardless of the issue is never at fault? A low score in an exam is the fault of the instructor or something wrong with the exam. A difficult conversation with a client is often the client’s fault for not listening. A project that misses a deadline is the fault of someone else in the team.

People with low EQ struggle to accept blame for anything. They cannot see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Their inability to admit a mistake, also means they can never learn from their mistake and therefore are likely to make a mistake again. At which time they will probably blame the same scapegoat over and over again.

Receiving feedback at the best of times is difficult. Our primitive brains feel threatened when we receive feedback and tend to become defensive. Being aware of this natural inclination to become defensive is a starting point to managing feedback. Seeing feedback as an opportunity to learn something, identify a gap that you were not aware of or do something differently is gold.

We can break the pattern by acknowledging the mistake, figuring our part in it, and identifying the lessons to be learnt.

Where to from here?

The first step in developing emotional intelligence is knowing that we lack it in the first place. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learnt and the ability to do so is entirely within our control.  So if you think that perhaps your EQ needs some attention, why not start today. Maybe take the bold step of asking a loved one if any of the above behaviours pertain to you. Yes, I know it will be a hugely courageous step but do it anyway. Or perhaps you see within yourself what your floors are and that this is an area you need to spend more time focusing on.

At the end of the day, most of us want to go through life having relationships that are happy and resourceful. Healthy relationships are also critically important for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Author: Dr. Leanne Wall

E: leanne@drleannewall.com

W: drleannewall.com

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Why giving feedback in your personal relationships may not get the result you want and what you can do about it.

Why giving feedback in your personal relationships may not get the result you want and what you can do about it.

When you partner or someone close to you asks, “Can I give you some feedback?” how do you react? If you are human, your stress response will immediately switch on as you instantly brace yourself for what no doubt will be feedback on how you have messed up.  In the same moment, you start worrying about the impact of the feedback, how you will need to justify your actions and perhaps retaliate with some feedback of your own.

This is a sign that your primitive brain, responsible for your survival flight, fight or flee response is switched on and in the driver’s seat. With its seatbelt securely fastened, the primitive brain has detected a threat (i.e. incoming feedback) and initiated a cascade of stress hormones to be dumped into your system.  It also switches off all those parts of the brain (i.e. our thinking brain) that require either too much energy to run in this perceived crisis or may try and prevent it from fighting, fleeing or freezing.  This allows the primitive brain to focus on one thing and one thing only – getting away from the danger in front of it. Yes, that means that our primitive brains cannot differentiate between a perceived threat of receiving feedback to a real threat of being eaten by a lion! The kind of life-threatening event that occurred back when we lived in caves and gathered nuts, fruit and seeds for dinner.

Your brain and feedback.
Logically, getting feedback from someone is not life-threatening. Even if the feedback is hurtful, spiteful or maybe even has a ring of truth to it, you are not going to die. You are still alive and kicking once the words are said. However, most of us have not developed the ability to receive feedback without feeling a level of anxiety. Our first jump is often to the negative and that this feedback is probably a personal attack on who we are or what we have done. Even feedback that may be constructive and resourceful to the relationship. All the primitive brain perceives is a threat, and it responds in the same way it would have 100,000 years ago when we were faced with a real threat, such as a hungry lion.

Understanding our primitive brain’s default position and need to keep us safe and out of danger provides essential context for the person giving the feedback. Let’s assume your goal is to help improve your relationship rather than intentionally be critical and undermine the other person. Even if you’re coming from a loving place that is well-intentioned and genuinely invested in the relationship, it doesn’t mean the other person will be open to receiving your feedback.

The minute the person you’re offering the feedback to gets that you are about to deliver negative or critical feedback, their sympathetic or flight, fight or freeze nervous system switches on like the lights on a pokey machine when you’ve just pulled a winning four cherry combination. This activation serves the purpose of preparing their body for intense physical activity, the kind of action you need when you are running away from someone who is chasing you down a dark alley with a machete. In the process of preparing for the sprint of a lifetime, the person’s ability to thoughtfully receive and consider the feedback you’re offering, no matter how well intended, has gone walkabout.

Their brain literally can’t handle it. And this is the reason why giving negative feedback has been shown time and time again to have very little correlation to improving relationships. Even if your partner looks like they are fine on the outside as you string some well-intended sentences together, their brain is not in the right state to effectively receive, consider and apply your input.  All the required resources to do this have already shut down at the mention of ‘feedback’. It’s like the hamster wheel is turning but the hamsters not home.

More positive feedback isn’t the answer either.
Let’s face it, receiving feedback at the best of times is not a pleasant experience. The reason why we have this visceral negative reaction to feedback is that we’ve learnt growing up or been trained to believe that most if not all feedback is usually critical, and seldomly positive. Years of being reprimanded by parents or teachers have left their mark. Particularly if you grew up in the 1960s where physical punishment at school was commonplace, and teacher’s seldomly gushed with compliments.

Looking at your personal relationship perhaps providing positive feedback when your partner does something great is also not commonplace. So what if you suddenly start showering them with tons of positive feedback? Will this teach them that not all feedback is negative and therefore tame their primitive brain from climbing into the driver’s seat when they hear the word ‘feedback’? Unfortunately, this tactic still has its problems.

By all means, give out all the praise and recognition you can muster in your relationship. Make sure it’s authentic and honest, with no trace of sarcastic undertones, because most of us can spot ‘phoney’ a mile off. This, in itself, will probably improve your relationship. However, research shows that it requires at least five pieces of positive feedback to adequately balance one negative piece of feedback. That’s a heck of a lot of positive feedback in my opinion! It is also a tough habit to create and maintain, not because you lack the desire to do it but because we are focused on so many other things during the day that takes up our energy and time.

Making a sandwich of feedback.
Something I learnt in my corporate days was this concept of sandwich feedback. What it essentially means is that you sandwich crappy feedback between two fresh and yummy ‘slices’ of positive feedback. So, it may go something like this… “I love how hard you work to help put food on the table, however, please put the toilet seat down after you pee, but overall you are a great hubby.” Sorry to tell you but this doesn’t work either because of what psychologists call conditioning.

The reason being is the person you’re giving feedback to gets used to the fact that after every piece of positive feedback, negative feedback is likely to follow.  Like the lingering stench after you have emptied the bins on bin night but not washed out that liquid residue at the bottom. So even when you are complimenting them on the beautiful dinner they just cooked, they have become so conditioned to expect negative feedback to follow, their pokey machine lines up another four cherries and starts glowing like a Christmas tree. Within milliseconds the primitive brain climbs into the driver’s seat, and you know what happens after that. Worse yet, the two separate pieces of great feedback you so carefully planned, have lost their impact and the primitive brain is already changing lanes and heading for the hills.

There’s a better way of giving negative feedback.
To really make an impact in your relationship, you need to evolve the way you give negative  feedback from feedback being merely to correct or punish, to feedback that inspires growth and wanting to change. This is the difference between saying, “Don’t you dare get in my face again!” and “How could you approach me differently next time?” The first way may trigger some memories of you being dragged into the principal’s office to be reprimanded with a cane (only in my schooling days), while the latter takes a more collaborative and constructive approach. We are in this together.

Why does this approach make all the difference? Remember that critical feedback leads to our sympathetic nervous system lighting up and sending us into survival mode. However, when we focus on non-judgemental and ‘future looking’ statements, the primitive brain does not feel under threat.  Instead of the sympathetic nervous system switching on it stays nice and quiet, and the parasympathetic nervous system turns on instead. This is the rest and digest nervous system, which has the opposite impact on how receptive we are to the feedback message. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for calming us down and opens up our minds to receive the message, consider new possibilities and grow from the experience.

Below are several examples of what you could say:

  • Instead of saying, “I wouldn’t have done it that way,” say, “What do you reckon might happen if we tried XYZ?”
  • Instead of saying, “You need to improve how you talk to my mother,” say, “Based on what you know about my mum, how could you approach her differently to help her be more open to what you have to say?”
  • Instead of saying, “Your plan clearly didn’t work,” say, “I’d really like to get this done by the end of the month. How do you think we can get there?”
  • Instead of saying, “I don’t understand why you can’t get the garage sorted it looks like a bomb hit it,” say, “It will be so great when we have the garage done don’t you reckon? What do you need to make sure the garage gets sorted?”

This is the difference between demanding and collaborating. It opens up a conversation about how things can get done versus focusing on past failures. The aim is to get the other person to commit to a different behaviour moving forward that will positively impact your relationship. If they renege on their commitments, it opens up an opportunity to have a tougher conversation. It also indicates to them that you consider yourself to be in this together, and are willing to support them as needed.

There’s still a place for tougher conversations.
When you frame feedback in this way, you set the expectations for future behaviour in your relationship. This doesn’t however mean the other person will meet that expectation. They may not rise to the occasion or follow through on the commitments they have made. When this happens again and again, it is absolutely okay to take the conversation to the next level and create a firmer demand for what you need. How these conversations unfold is a different article for a different day, however, here is the key takeaway: those tougher conversations should not be step one of the process of improving your relationship.

By approaching feedback in this way, your create more space for your partner, family member or friend to have a constructive conversation, effectively hear and synthesise what you have to say and be clear on what your expectations are. If you do this well, you will potentially eliminate the need for more challenging conversations to take place later on.  The more open and honest we are upfront about what we are feeling or what we need helps create healthy relationships where conversations can be had, and we feel heard and appreciated.

Author: Leanne Wall
E: Leanne@drleannewall.com
W: www.drleannewall.com

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