Emotional Intelligence and the power of commitment

Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you.”      Bill Cosby.


saying yes


The wonderful thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be learned. Whilst you are not going to be a master overnight, it actually isn’t that hard and can even be fun  – as long as you are motivated. Like any other skill you might want to acquire, it requires motivation. Even excellent teaching will only yield mediocre results without that vital, powerful ingredient: commitment.

The minute you commit, in this case developing your emotional intelligence skills, something powerful happens inside of you. Your intent and your neurons line up. You are focused and willing to put in the energy required to learn a new skill. You know that you have to water the plant, the seedling, to reap the juicy benefits of emotional freedom and satisfying relationships. You don’t give up, you see setbacks or challenges as opportunities to learn from. But all this doesn’t happen, if you don’t say yes.

Richard Hill, a neuro-psychologist from Sydney, has stated that different neurological pathways are activated when you say yes as opposed to saying no. By saying yes, those areas in your brain are activated that support your success. Do not underestimate the power of saying yes.

By the way, saying yes to yourself or to learning a new skill can also entail saying no to someone or something else as part of the process of saying yes to you. Commitment lines up your intent with your action. Synchronicity kicks in. Things line up in your outer world, your environment as well.

Commitment means that you are prepared to put in the energy and effort to obtain your goal. Success awaits.

Commitment is required if you want to become emotionally competent, and it is also one of the range of skills that make up one’s emotional intelligence.

Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change

Emotional Intelligence and Perception

“The great discovery of any generation is that human beings

can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds”


Albert Schweitzer




Emotional Intelligence skills are closely linked to perception. How you perceive the world, an experience, a person, your job, what labels you use in your head to describe what you see determines your experience. These thoughts may appear random, but they are under your control, or you can learn to control and guide the direction of your thoughts. This is very powerful and will change your life if you practice observing and directing your thoughts.


Thoughts – perception – emotions – behaviour/action


Your emotions determine your behaviour. At work. In your relationships. With your hobbies. Your health.


I suggest one yardstick that you can use in life to bring about thriving, success and well-being:


Instead of labelling experiences and people as right or wrong


ask yourself:


Does this thought/action/interaction/experience support or hinder my wellbeing?


This is so much more important than determining that someone else is wrong, and then acting in a way that is detrimental to you, because you feel justified in having been wronged.

Certainly, in being present with yourself, you feel whatever emotion arises as a result of having been wronged, I’m certainly not suggesting to suppress that emotion, but don’t let this determine how you behave. YOUR wellbeing is at stake here.

Choose wisely.


Emotional intelligence encompasses many different skills. It is not one skill, but many different skills, and the way these different skills interact with one another. You may be very good at listening to others, but have some way to go in managing your own emotions. Or you may be skilled at observing your thoughts/emotions, but are not a good listener.

If you start to observe what thoughts precede your emotions, what you were thinking when you got angry for example, you will learn to steer your thoughts in another direction before the anger arises. Or if you observe your thoughts drifting whilst you are engaged in conversation and meant to be paying attention to what the other person is saying you can learn to focus on listening and to become more mindful to what the other person is saying.

Start today to strengthen that emotional intelligence muscle by asking yourself: does this thought/action improve or hinder my wellbeing (and by extension that of others). This is truly taking care of yourself. It’s like learning to ride the bike. Every day that you practice you become more accomplished, and it requires less and less of your conscious attention to learn to cycle. The good news is that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned. It is up to your motivation how far and how fast you improve.

Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change


Emotional Intelligence and Mirror Neurons

Emotional intelligence has two sides to it:

  • being able to observe and understand your own emotions
  • being able to perceive, observe and read the emotions of others.

We humans have the amazing ability to perceive the emotions of others. This unique ability, that characterises us as humans, is called empathy. There is an actual neurological basis in our brain that underlies this ability to be emphatic. It is still a fairly recent discovery in neuroscience. It is called Mirror Neurons.

We have so-called mirror neurons in our brain that cause us to feel what other people are feeling. Either if these people are near us, or on the screen such as in movies. Have you ever wept at a movie? Been stirred by a passionate kiss? Been scared whilst watching a horror movie? Whatever emotion that you are feeling while observing someone else, on or off the screen, is purely activated by observing someone else. This is significant and profound.

We have one hundred billion neurons in our brain. And they all interact with each other constantly. When you pick up a spoon, the neurons in your brain that correspond to that hand movement begin to fire. However, there is a subset of neurons that fire if you observe someone else picking up a spoon, without lifting a finger yourself. So your brain fires as though you picked up that spoon yourself.

These mirror neurons are action neurons, and according to neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilayanur_S._Ramachandran) they played a vital role in aiding our evolution by allowing us to imitate others, such as our parents and teachers, and allowed us to quickly pick up skills through imitation and observation.

Then there is another type of mirror neurons. These are emphatic mirror neurons. This means they cause us to experience the emotions felt by others simply by observing them. Our brain cannot tell the difference between feeling our own feelings and having our feelings activated by observing others.



Richard Hill, speaker, author and psychotherapist, says that our brains – we – are hardwired to be emphatic. (www.richardhill.com.au). We perceive what others are feeling. This is one of the reasons why sports are so popular. You just have to watch people watching a sports game, the level of passion that gets aroused just sitting in an armchair. These are our mirror neurons at work.

We cannot turn our mirror neurons on an off. We have no control over them, as they are hardwired. They function all the time and cause us to feel what others are feeling, whether you want to or not. Now this is important information. For example, we know that stress is bad for us. It activates our flight or fight mode with all the negative consequences that entails. Now, our fight or flight mode can be activated by observing another in the stress mode, and picking up their emotional signature. You may want to change your actions in accord with that knowledge. Is it beneficial for you to watch sensational news reports for extended periods of time? Do you want to spend lengthy periods of time in the company of someone who is angry?

Mirror neurons function all the time. Being emotionally intelligent means we are aware of this and know that some of the feelings we are feeling are actually activated by our mirror neurons. We can then act accordingly. Either avoid or minimise situations that trigger our stress mode or realise that tension within us may not be our own.

Of course there are many situations in life where we cannot avoid feeling the emotions and pain of others. My biggest hurdle in recovering from the loss of my husband was to overcome the memories that were stored in my body and mind from having witnessed Mark in extreme pain for over four months continually. Whenever I entered the hospital room and saw and heard Mark in agonising pain, I felt his pain. And after Mark passed away, I was still overcome by the extreme level of suffering he had experienced. Because we automatically feel what others are feeling and experiencing, especially a beloved husband, we experience their pain.

We also experience our loved ones joy. It works both ways. Have you ever felt happy and uplifted in the company of someone who is genuinely happy and joyful? That’s because our emotions are contagious. Surrounding yourself with content people will rub off.

If you want to build your emotional intelligence and awareness, then knowing about and being aware of our mirror neurons is important.

Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal and Reflection

Making sense of change

Why does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

It is quite possible to have a high IQ and low emotional intelligence(EQ). Intelligence and EQ are completely separate skills. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand and evaluate emotions and to act accordingly. And although it comes easier to some people than others, everyone can learn emotional competence and improve their understanding of their own and others’ emotions.

Why does emotional intelligence matter so much? Because everything we do, every thought, decision and goal is underpinned by our emotions. We are biologically hardwired to be emotional beings. You cannot switch off your emotions. But you can learn to observe them and to control your attention. We do not work like clockwork. Thankfully. Our emotions make us human and unique.


lacking emotions

We have so-called mirror neurons which cause us to feel what others are feeling. I’ll explain more about our mirror neurons in the next post. For now I want to highlight that we cannot turn our mirror neurons off. That is to say we are always feeling what others in our immediate environment are feeling, whether we are aware of it or not. This is one of the reasons why it feels so good to be in the company of a happy, content person. It rubs off!

Have you ever cried at a movie? That’s your mirror neurons at work. You empathise with the character, you feel what they are feeling on screen. Or have you experienced your stomach tightening whilst watching an angry person in the news? In view of the fact that we cannot turn off this in-built and ongoing behind the scenes ‘feelomether’ it is very important to be able to read the emotions of others and yourself.

Let’s say you are in a meeting and your boss is having an off day. This is not the time to ask for a pay-rise no matter how much you’ve set your mind to do it today, or to bring up your new ideas for the project you are working on. Wait for another time when your boss is feeling not angry or frustrated. Of course his or her anger could be not work-related, but it is not possible to separate us into the work-self and the private-self. We can fulfill separate roles, and we can temporarily put our attention on work and put our home worries on the back-burner enough to concentrate on work. However, this depends on the level of non-work stress. There is a tipping point whereby the stress is too intense for us to be able to focus on something else. But sooner or later all stress will make itself known. This is why you have to be able to read your own emotions, so that you can learn to observe your emotions rather than to suppress them and turn them into a time-bomb.

Also, if you have stress at work, you can’t just switch this off completely at home, your partner will feel your tenseness the minute you walk through the door. We emit our feelings into our environment like a radio station broadcasting their waves. It is impossible to switch off our personal broadcast!


 Broadcasting emotions



This happens whether you are aware of your emotions, or those of others, or not. The difference with emotional intelligence is that you can observe and recognise emotions and act accordingly. Choose the time wisely when you want to discuss something important to you with someone else, your partner, your boss, your colleague, your child or friend – if they are feeling upset or angry or frustrated, that means their fight or flight mode is activated and they are not able to listen properly and give you their full attention.

The key to happiness, contentment and fulfilling your potential is emotional intelligence. You cannot bypass your emotions on route to good health and success.


Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change