Webinar presenters Cheryl Stewart and Michael Brown answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Emotional Intelligence: Learning More about Self-Expression and Emotional Expression. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Mike, many of our agencies across the US are dealing with de-escalation issues, use force issues, and just simply maintain managing stressful situations. How do you think incorporating a deep but practical approach to EQ in criminal justice settings could shape law enforcement’s interactions with our communities?
Michael M. Brown: So, thanks for whoever asked that question. I’ve been through the tactical communication and de-escalation thing throughout my career. But what I enjoy about EI as an alternative or baseline for the escalation is, I used to teach my students emotional mind versus thinking mind. Drill that in your head. So, learn to identify and recognize when you’re being emotionally triggered, and you just say to yourself, thinking mind, thinking mind. So, that’s why I think EI works better as a de-escalation technique and then it also talks about self-talk. So, if you look at the videos, with those two gentlemen, being talked about by an audience and a crowd, their self-talk is what helped them de-escalate. The internal things, internal messaging that we tell ourselves, and I use the example, that if you say “Man, his crowd is really pissing me off,” that term pissing me off as a strong emotional connotation, and you’re likely to get triggered. However, if you change your, your internal language and say, “Oh, my goodness, what a clown show?” We typically tend to do what laugh, at clowns, so it’s easier to maintain laughter from this clown show than it is to not get triggered by them really pissing me off. So that self-talk that we teach in EI and the cognitive control, wise owl versus the guard dog that we teach in EI, I think, is something that we’ve missed on verbal judo tactical communication. Not that those aren’t good, but I think EI is a better foundation for de-escalation.
Audience Question: Piggybacking that, then, Mike, is EQ being formally incorporated to academies or in academy training, and, if not, what are some simple ways that it could be?
Michael M. Brown: So, believe it or not, there’s a lot of talk now about that. And when you introduce this webinar event, you again connect their emotional intelligence to de-escalation. It’s just a matter of time. EI hasn’t actually been around that long, and I think like everything, it’s just a matter of awareness and getting the word out.
Audience Question: If intelligence increases with the study. What is the easiest way to increase our emotional intelligence?
Cheryl Stewart: So, again, reflection and looking inward. Developing the skills of independence and recognizing that sometimes you have to spend time alone and understanding. Journaling is one good way; I always encourage people to do it. Writing and trying to sift through and process and understand why you are feeling a certain way. Also, observing and watching, paying attention to different behaviors, looking at things from a bigger picture perspective, and being empathic when you approach people. Understanding how they may feel about things. So, it’s really a journey, but it’s one that really starts with understanding you. And sometimes, the journey for self-discovery means you have to spend time alone reflecting on, whether it’s what happened today, how I responded, what brought a certain situation on, looking at the different elements, and trying to kind of determine how could I have made that better? It really is about thinking it through and understanding other people’s perspectives. But I hope that that makes sense. It’s really a journey. You evolve. And try not to be too hard on yourself because this is not something that happens overnight. I can read and study a math problem and take the test tomorrow. And an A or B may determine, or an F, how well I’ve done. But with this, it’s not the same as an academic type of environment. This requires experience, and it requires, again, understanding you, who you are and why you feel a certain way.
Michael M. Brown: So, remember those four core abilities, starting with self-awareness, like Sheryl was saying, one of the things that Goleman teaches is that during our developmental years, we pick up a lot of who we are, the older we get. We have to spend more time unlearning that bad behavior and re-learning new behavior to increase our emotional intelligence level.
Audience Question: Cheryl, you talked about journaling and so, for those of us, and I’ll be really honest with you. I’m not a journaler. I’ve never really been a big journaler. Where do you start? I mean, for those of us who have never journaled, and it feels kind of foreign, I mean, what’re some simple ways to get started?
Cheryl Stewart: And so maybe it’s not for you, I know that there are people who don’t like journaling because they have issues with privacy. I’ve heard close friends say that. So, they don’t like writing things down because they’re afraid you just don’t know what type of environment I live in. People might find it. I completely understand. If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, then what you have to do is determine what works well for you, to vent on, and reflect on what has transpired. It could be going to the gym. It could be taking a walk. In elementary school, middle school, and high school, but the teachers make you journal, then they graded and give it back to us. And I remember, as a teenager, writing about dinner, always, because the food was like an important part of the family structure for us, and I’m thinking, I’ll write about what we’re going to probably talk about at dinner. Figure out, again, reflection, what works best for you. A lot of people take runs, if you’re a runner, or if you’d like to bike. That may be your way of clearing your head and thinking through, and trying to decipher, what is the best approach of how I can handle different scenarios and situations. It’s your personal preference.
Michael M. Brown: And I’m not a journaler either, I don’t even know that was a word. For me, it is coping mechanism. So, when I use the donut polling question, the donut thing used to be a trigger for me, and what I did is I learned and find and coping mechanism, and my coping mechanism is that you will never see me eat a donut in public. So, if I’m stops or motorists and they make a donut comment, then I’ll say I don’t eat donuts, now what? And then instead of getting trigger, that just leaves in a position where I turn to table on, so you just sit there and just wait till I write you the citation.
Host: You know, I’m so glad Cheryl, you mentioned the journaling isn’t for everybody. I know now that you kind of describes different ways of doing things. I know one of the ways I processed the way the day had gone was on my drive home and just having that peace and solitude in the car, and it just being me being able to process. So, I’m really glad you gave people other options. That’s fantastic. Thank you for doing that.
Audience Question: How does mental health affect EQ?
Cheryl Stewart: That’s good. Because when it comes to reality perception and social interaction, it could have some type of bearing on it. So, when I talk about low, high, and overused. That can be wherever you are. If you ever take the assessment, if you even look at certain key terms or words that fall within, those particular categories of low, high, and overdone or overused. Then maybe, I’m not a doctor, but if you exhibit certain behaviors, it could indicate that there may be depression on one side like if it’s too low. For example, your ability to interact with people and it’s very low, it could indicate that maybe there may be some type of mental stress or mental health issue impacting it. If it’s overdone, then that may also be the case. So, it does, it can impact it, but I’m not a doctor. And so, what you probably as an individual and other people around you, people that are close to you that you trust, can see you don’t utilize these skills the way that you should, then maybe the feedback that you receive in certain situations can kind of indicate that maybe I should ask or see a doctor.
Audience Question: So, does our emotional intelligence, is it affected, or does it vary depending on how much sleep we’re getting, or the quality of sleep that we’re getting, or if we’re going too long between times where we take a food break or have a meal? Is our emotional intelligence affected by those things, too?
Cheryl Stewart: I would think it could be a trigger.
Michael M. Brown: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Because, again, if you go back to our trigger words, that traffic stop with a donut, that lack of sleep would make it easier to trigger me, it will affect myself talk, myself management, my self-awareness. All those core abilities in those five domains that Cheryl spoke of it can definitely be affected by a lack of sleep.
Audience Question: So, then knowing that Mike and knowing that so many of our officers are just being stretched to the brink there. They’re not getting a lot of time off. They’re being asked to work overtime and double duty and all that. What can we do to help our agencies protect their officers in this way? I mean, is there anything that can be done?
Michael M. Brown: I think, as an individual officer, the way you’re going to help yourself, is, again, that self-talk and that self-awareness. Remember the Snickers commercial where folks are really grumpy until they get a sneaker. It’s crazy as it sounds, that self-awareness to understanding what’s driving this. Again, this is what’s going to help you. So, if you know me when I get sleepy, I’m this way. So just as self-awareness leads you to self-management. Now, did I know that? How do I regulate this? You feel it, when you’re working, you’ll feel it. You know, once you feel it, that’s where, that cognitive control mechanism comes in, emotional mind versus thinking mind. Those two words for me are critical. There are constantly said to my staff, their emotional mind thinking mind, and I’ll ask them based on decisions they made, was that emotional mind or thinking mind?
Audience Question: How does self-awareness shift or change in fields like criminal justice or law enforcement when situational awareness is different than the average? Meaning, it’s known that officers are constantly living in a heightened state, with a slew of physical concerns over time. How is the officer’s self-awareness maintained, despite the huge difference in everyday situations or a career lifestyle? Can you kind of talk a little bit about that, Mike?
Michael M. Brown: Yeah, I think law enforcement is actually easier for self-awareness. So certain jobs, if you’re a librarian, if someone says something to trigger you, it totally catches you off guard. But for me, when I put on a uniform in the morning, I’m mentally putting on my code of armor, and asking what can penetrate my armor is it being called the N-word. If so, how do I deal with it? Is it being said to me that I pay your salary? So, all of the things that they can throw at me, I already noted when I put on it, that visionary suit of armor in the morning. I think, is easier for me to look at my own self-awareness because it is the career field that I’m in. I know what’s going to happen. F the police, I already know it. So, it’s easier to prepare. That self-awareness is easier.
Cheryl Stewart: Another thing is, being aware of having a level of flexibility and agility and stress management. Because the data changes so quickly when you’re on the front line. And then when you’re responding to a call, that could mean you may have to draw your weapon, you may actually have to use it. But being aware of that. But also, being aware of the fact that you may receive new data and new information as you get to the call. And once you arrive, there you’ve gotten there are so many things coming at a person and that’s why law enforcement really should be reimagined in a way that seasoned and mature individuals. The process by which its officers are recruited, and the assessment, and the types of testing that they have to kind of go through in order to become the training, in general. To the academy, though, it really should be for someone who is at a certain level of maturity and professionalism. Not entering into the workforce for the first time or someone who’s just a novice. It really is something for a seasoned individual, and because that requires a level of thinking that needs life experiences in addition to the other components.
Michael M. Brown: You really want to be self-aware? Look at your vulnerabilities. We all have vulnerabilities. That’s why a plastic surgeon makes so much money, address those first. If you’re extra tall, be self-aware and be able to cope with that. Again, because if I want to trigger you as a civilian, I’m going to look for any nuance about you that is different. And I’m going to throw it in your face. And if you haven’t come to terms with that on your own. Like, for example, with Cheryl’s hair. So, I didn’t know, but as soon as I saw her, it stood out, and I didn’t do a —— but by standing out. That’s what we look for things that are salient. Things that make us unique. For a lot of us, that’s our insecurities, if you want to be self-aware, focus on those that make you feel insecure first because that is what’s going to trigger you.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Emotional Intelligence: Learning More about Self-Expression and Emotional Expression.