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Demand the Why, Don’t Settle for Just the How-To

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Demand the Why, Don’t Settle for Just the How-To

By: Susan Dunn

Don't settle for a laundry list, find out why you're supposed to do something and you'll remember it longer and use it better!
I’m with the childhood development scientists who recently authored "The Scientist in the Crib." Their rationale? "While popular books about science speak to intelligent, perceptive adults who simply want to learn, books about babies typically just give advice, heavy on the how-to and light on the why.”

I find this true of education about emotional intelligence, as well. We get instruction in how-to manage our emotions and those of others, which is lowest level of learning, and not how the emotions work, in other words the why.

Clients tell me they've learned “when you’re angry, take a deep breath and count to 10.”

Well, that’s fine, and, yes, it may work, if you can remember it when you need it. But I’ve found that when you rote-memorize something, and then are under pressure, it isn't there when you need it, nor is it accessible in novel situations.

In this case, if you understand where anger comes from, and why breathing and counting to 10 make a difference, you will be able to apply this knowledge to new situations, and new emotions.

When we become angry – which is an automatic knee-jerk reaction coming from the brainstem - our body goes on full-alert for fight-or-flight, which takes our breath away.

Attractive members of the opposite sex can do this to us, too, as that’s a brainstem reaction --sexual attraction. This “fight-or-flight” reaction is also affectionately called “The 3 Fs” and I’ll let you connect the dots on that one.

When “fight-or-flight” takes over, our cardiovascular system gets ready to hit, run, conserve blood in case of an injury, and shut down systems to conserve energy, including thinking, because thinking would slow us down.

Our self-preservation instincts will always take precedence, because if a bull is charging toward you and you stop to ponder, “Is that bull a bos Iberius or a ...” you will be impaled on the horns of more than an intellectual dilemma.

When you force yourself to breathe deeply, you’re sending oxygen back to your brain, and allowing yourself time to move from the brainstem to the neocortex, so you can think before you act – words being “actions”, as well as hitting people or throwing things.

The more you can respond instead of react, the more likely the outcome will be beneficial to all concerned.

Now you know why you count to ten, and can apply this to other circumstances requiring thoughtful responses.

For optimal personal and professional development, ask WHY. Don’t accept a simple HOW-TO list.

About the Author

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, GLOBAL EQ. Emotional intelligence coaching to enhance all areas of your life - career, relationships, midlife transition, resilience, self-esteem, parenting. EQ Alive! - excellent, accelerated, affordable EQ coach certification. Susan is the author of numerous ebooks, is widely published on the Internet, and a regular speaker for cruise lines. For marketing services go here.

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