Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Alfred Dawes | Improving emotional intelligence

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2019 | 12:31 AM
Stop and think
When emotions are riled up, they cloud our ability to think straight.

Recently, the news cycle has been dominated by episodes of angry outbursts, leading to physical violence in some instances. This is almost always due to low emotional intelligence.

We all know someone who “nuh fraid fi talk wah come a dem mout” or proudly state that they wear their emotions on their sleeves.

If you don’t know that person, then chances are you are that person.

Being proud of not having a filter may not be the best course of action in some situations. Filters help to convey unpleasant responses in less offensive ways and may help in defusing a situation, or at the least, not escalating them.

We all get upset, get annoyed, and want to lash out at the offender. It is human. But anger and its unbridled responses are dangerous. They can inflame tensions and lead to violence and damaged relationships.

In one study, the majority of high-performing employees were found to have high emotional intelligence while the low-performing employees were primarily individuals with low emotional intelligence.

The good news is that you can improve your emotional intelligence and advance your career while strengthening personal and business relationships.

A great side effect is that you will be involved in fewer conflicts.


If you are easily riled up and quick to anger, you may be allowing yourself to be affected too easily by others. Life is full of ups and downs, trials, and disappointments. These are as certain as death and taxes. The only thing you can control in life is your response to events around you. Being mindful of this simple fact will allow you to focus more on your response rather than the situations themselves.

How will you react when you are emotionally injured? Will you give in to the most basic response to the hurtful action, which might be a hurtful reaction? Or can you analyse the situation and evaluate the other reactions available?

When emotions are riled up, they cloud our ability to think straight. Anger, in particular, is very toxic to our intellect. If we don’t pause to collect our thoughts, we can give in to anger and say or do something that can worsen a situation.

This is particularly worse when our egos are injured. The ego is fragile, and when it appears that someone is belittling us or not recognising our perceived importance, we can boil inside.

As we recognise that our egos are easily damageg so must we be careful that our responses are not damaging the egos of the other parties. Always leave an opportunity for the other person to save face even if that person is wrong.


This is probably the most difficult aspect of responding to an emotional situation. Stop and think. This gives us the opportunity to cut through the haze of our emotions and make sense of what is really the root of the problem and how to get to the best solution. It is a brief pause that can make the difference between disaster and a favourable outcome.

When we are told to count to ten when upset, it is not just a passive timeout. That pause should allow us to reign in our impulses and think about the best way to respond in a situation.


Even if we feel that we were wronged, we must remember that the other person is human like us and are imperfect. People make mistakes. You included. They may not realise it, but you must recognise that their ignorance is just another human trait. If possible, we should try to point out the error in their ways in a manner that will not bruise their egos, giving them an escape to save face.


Understanding why someone would be upset at our actions is equally important. We must be able to accept criticism without being defensive. Feedback is important. If one is hostile to feedback, the chances that one will receive frank and honest feedback decrease. Without feedback, there is no chance for self-improvement and growth.

Understanding that we are imperfect can only bring us closer to perfection. Recognising our mistakes is made difficult by emotions. When we are caught up in a situation, our judgement is clouded. If there isn’t a second pair of eyes to offer an alternative view, we can continue down a path that could lead to disaster. These eyes and their interpretations are only present if we are receptive to the opinions of others.


Improving emotional intelligence is not a crash course or decision. It takes continuous practice to improve. We are naturally emotional beings. Some may be more impulsive than others.

Understanding ourselves is the easy part. It is the in-the-moment thinking that will be the difficult part to master.

Do not feel defeated if you give in to the moment and act in a manner that is less than acceptable to your goals. Use the period of clarity after the outburst to reflect on what could have been said and done differently. Make a pledge to yourself that you will remember how you felt after your emotions subsided the next time you get upset.

Over time, you will see your responses becoming more measured. It takes a lot of work. But remember, as you seek to increase your knowledge and possessions, you must increase your ability to deal with the certain stresses that come with life.

Dr Alfred Dawes is a general, laparoscopic, and weight-loss surgeon; Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital; former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. @dr_aldawes. Email feedback to and