Week 12: Chair’s Blog – Emotional Intelligence

Last week I started to delve into how an acting course I attended helped open my eyes to how we interact with one another and started to draw some parallels with developing our emotional intelligence. More to this – how vital that this is today, when we see so much negativity, particularly on social media platforms, but also in mainstream media.

I don’t profess to be an expert in this but from the little research I’ve done, it strikes me that this whole field deserves far more exploration.

Conflict is nothing new.  It is an everyday occurrence we all have to manage in different forms. From the dawn of mankind, disputes arise out of differences in the way we perceive the world and our position relative to others in it. Wars continue. Pain is inflicted. Blood is spilled.

There is an argument that we have become better at managing unnecessary deaths as the global population continues to increase rapidly (albeit at a slower pace since the 1970s) and with the continual development of health standards. Yet, one only has to look at the ongoing news on Gaza or the battle for Ukraine to realise that bloody conflict is still not far away.

However, our measure of success as a civilised species shouldn’t just be about avoiding needless killing. It should go far deeper than that. One thing we all have in common as human beings is we all share the same emotions, happiness, sadness, anger and every possible iteration in between.

What triggers these depends on a vast array of different factors: where and when we were born, our cultural backgrounds, our childhoods, the values of our families, our peer groups and the friendships we develop, and our economic and living circumstances at different points. As many social scientists have pointed out, human beings often come together with others they feel comfortable with. There is often a natural instinct to go for what is safe and treat anything else as alien.

Whilst the concept of emotional intelligence was first developed in the 1960s and has subsequently led to different ways to try and measure it, the literature was simply capturing something that was there already – and was being used in acting schools long before that.

The challenge we face across the world with global access to information is to decipher the ‘news’ we are fed and understand the different viewpoints which lead to conflict, both at a local level and beyond. I think personally that in many parts of the UK, particularly in London, we are very fortunate that we have the opportunity to live in such a multicultural society and develop our understanding of other communities and cultures.

It doesn’t mean that we have to agree with other people (I know, for example, that I will never agree with fans of Milton Keynes football team about how their club was set up) but sometimes just trying to understand a different point of view, will, in my view, open us up as human beings and de-escalate the most poisonous forms of conflict.

As I said last week, developing these skills as an actor is a continual challenge, but I think developing our emotional intelligence, is something we all have to do as human beings throughout our lives.  There’s been a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) recently and the extent to which it can ultimately simulate humans. I think personally that as long as we, as a species, can continue to develop our emotional intelligence we will remain one step ahead.

But in our busy everyday lives, that requires work. Although it needn’t be hard work. Sometimes, just take a moment to smile at a stranger; it can make all the difference to how your day goes, and theirs. Next week I’ll focus on values and some of our fabulous initiatives locally worth celebrating.

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