How do you think we compare to our western counterparts when looking inward and asking ourselves what has and has not worked in our lives? My experiences in Singapore have led me to believe that people here do little in the way of going back to the past and leaning about what was useful and what was not.
Singaporeans tend to prefer planning the next move and manifesting the next goal. Are we moving too fast to pause and look back at what should not be repeated? Pattern recognition enhances one’s emotional intelligence by taking a step back and assessing our frequently occurring thoughts and behaviors.
When we encounter new situations, we sometimes deliberate carefully before acting. On other occasions, we are on cruise control or autopilot and we respond to new experiences instinctively.
As we go through life, our mind categorizes experiences into chunks. When we encounter new experiences, it processes the new information by comparing it to past experiences. If there is any overlap or familiarity, your mind takes the convenient step of responding like it did before.
New neuro -pathways in the brain are always being constructed by personal and past experiences and these create habits.
When we continuously repeat responses, even those that are ineffective or even destructive, these responses left unchecked become the norm as we become conditioned to respond and behave in certain ways.
It takes conscious thought and effort to look at a situation and determine if our actions are appropriate. It becomes even more difficult when we are under stress or under provocation because we have less time to think about how best to respond.
In stressful situations, our thinking becomes restricted as feelings get the better of us. If we allow such situations to rule our thought process, then we can relapse into conditioned behavior even if it is ineffective or harmful to us.
Why we sometimes feel awful?
Our minds are not constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, every moment of our lives. Yet sometimes, we succumb to destructive patterns when influenced by a stimulus that drives a certain unmet need like recognition or security. The response then results in shifting gears and drives towards meeting this unmet need resulting in behavior change and sometimes radically, just to prove a point or satisfy a motivation.
One emotion with which this is most relevant is that of anger. For example, when you honk your car horn in rush hour traffic at a driver, it is often a result of misplaced aggression, an aggression that is active at a subconscious level.
In fact, you are angry at your wife (for example), not the car driver, for putting too much money on your credit card yesterday. When this destructive pattern is left unchecked, it traps us in reacting only in a set way.
In stressful situations that stoke our anger, our thinking becomes restricted and our emotions get the better of us. The so called unrelated incident involving the wife is what we call a ‘setup’. And when setups are left unchecked, they boil over in other unrelated situations.
Making conscious thought a regular practice
When we take some ‘time-out’ to re-examine our responses, we become more conscious of our own reactions. Therein lies the first step to shifting patterns or behaviours, which is how behaviour change can take place.
In the application of emotional intelligence, pattern recognition is often referred to as a kind of exercise that builds our intuition. We introspect by checking feelings and past experiences so that they become a reference point for future decisions.
With this ‘enabled intuition’, we are able to acquire more insight into ourselves and others. Information from the surrounding environment is processed in a way that allows us to see the costs and benefits of carrying on such behaviours, thus resulting in a more useful response.
This forms new patterns in the brain and enables us to use alternative possibilities with flexibility in approaching different situations.
Our minds categorize and file away experiences into ‘chunks’; when we encounter new experiences, the mind usually tries to approach these stimuli using the patterns it has analyzed before to create a sense of familiarity.
In this way, experience is hard-wired into our brains over time.
Often, these patterns serve us well. For the most part, our patterns enable us to function in our workplaces and in society in a predictable manner.
We instinctively know how to act and what to say in various social situations and people around us get comfortable as they adapt to our patterns. Hence, it pays to keep these patterns in check by assessing and checking if how we are responding is getting us where we want to go.
Emotional intelligence can mediate destructive patterns by practicing strategies that allow us to cool off psychologically. At the heart of these strategies is the mastery of self-awareness and self-regard.
When we begin to see patterns in feelings and thoughts associated with our emotions, we are one step further to enhancing our emotional intelligence.
Dr Granville D’Souza, DBA Director, 6 Seconds SEA Pte Ltd
Granville has extensive training experience in Emotional Intelligence practises as well as conducting coaching and facilitative workshops that deal with team and individual behaviour.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Dr. Granville D' Souza DBA, Director, 6 Seconds SEA Pte Ltd, he has extensive training experience in Emotional Intelligence practises as well as conducting coaching and facilitative workshops that deal with team and individual behaviour.