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Emotional Intelligence: 5 Questions to Determine if You Suffer From Emotional Disconnect

Posted on Tue, Oct 13, 2015
Emotional Intelligence: 5 Questions to Determine if You Suffer From Emotional Disconnect

Part 4 of a series of articles on the importance of developing emotional intelligence for medical professionals.

By Marc Milano, MD, FACEP

Throughout life, negative experiences may cause you to turn your feelings off. The consequence of this is an "emotional disconnect.”

People become disconnected from their emotions, particularly the cardinal ones - joy, sadness, anger and fear. You must develop an awareness of these primal instincts and learn to master them to become truly emotionally intelligent.

Although we may try to manipulate our feelings, it should be obvious that they can’t be eliminated. We attempt to dull, deny or defy base emotions, but they persist in our subconscious if we do.

One of the keys to emotional intelligence is emotional awareness. Without this, we lose the understanding of what motivates us, resulting in compromised communication. Worse yet, we risk becoming overwhelmed by daunting situations.

Ask yourself the following questions regarding how in touch you are with your emotions:
 

  1. Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
  2. Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
  3. Do you experience discrete feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear and joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
  4. Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?
  5. Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?

Hopefully, you answered yes to all or most of these questions. If not, you may be suffering from emotional disconnect. If you truly desire emotional health and emotional intelligence, it’ll be necessary to restore the emotional synapses. Be prepared to accept your core emotions, and get comfortable with them.

Restoring the Emotional Synapses: Embrace Your Emotions

Anger is an emotion with a lot of energy that can be used to save life as well as destroy it. Anger is energizing and can inspire creative action. Only uncontrolled anger that has turned into rage represents a threat to ourselves and others. Sadness is a call to slow down, stop thinking, and surrender to what you’re experiencing. Sadness asks you to open up, trust, and allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to heal and recover from loss. Fear is a bottom-line emotion, often the cause of chronic anger or depression. Fear isolates us and distances us from others. Yet fear, too, is meant to play a life-supporting role, signaling danger and triggering life-preserving action.

Allowing your emotions to flow out is initially overwhelming, but remember that intense emotions don’t last forever; they’re fleeting, coming and going without stop unless you start thinking about them and mentally rehashing your feelings over and over.

Until next time, be well!



Marc A. Milano, MD, FACEP, is chief of the department of emergency medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, N.J. He serves as physician head coach of the Patient Satisfaction Coaching Program at Emergency Medical Associates, an emergency medicine practice headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. Dr. Milano received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, and completed his emergency medicine residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.
 

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Emotional Intelligence: Getting to Know Your Stress

Posted on Tue, Sep 01, 2015
Emotional Intelligence: Getting to Know Your Stress

Part 3 of a series of articles on the importance of developing emotional intelligence for medical professionals.

By Marc Milano, MD, FACEP

As you may recall, my last post discussed how to start building one’s emotional intelligence. Over the next few posts, I will address each of the major skills you will need to master:
 

  1. Quickly reducing stress on the fly
  2. Conquering relationship stress with emotional awareness
  3. Using nonverbal communication and humor to deal with challenges
  4. Resolving conflicts

Let’s look at the first skill: The ability to quickly reduce the stress of the moment

Think about this quote: “Stress can hijack your best intentions.” We’ve all seen this in action. The usually pleasant and compassionate individual becomes curt and snappy. You’ve probably justified his actions by saying to yourself, “he (or she) is just having a bad day.” More than likely this is a result of unrecognized or poorly managed stress.

Thus, we must first learn to recognize when we’re stressed. Sounds simple, but with the level of distraction and focus we have in the emergency department, or even with our administrative duties, it’s easy to overlook the presence and effects of stress upon us. Emotional awareness is the first step. If we are to meaningfully change behavior in ways that are consistent and reliable, we must learn how to overcome stress in the moment by becoming emotionally aware.

To accurately assess a situation, comprehend what another person is saying, be aware of our own feelings and communicate clearly, we must first mitigate high levels of stress. The ability to rapidly calm ourselves and reduce stress can help us stay balanced, focused and in control, regardless of the situation.

Conquering Stress: Functioning Well in the Heat of the Moment

Develop your stress-busting skills by working through the following steps:
 
  • Recognize when you’re stressed – The first step to reducing stress is recognizing what stress feels like. How does your body feel when you’re stressed? Are your muscles or stomach tight or sore? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Being aware of your physical response to stress will help you regulate tension when it occurs. It’s different for everyone, but the key is to get in touch with that physical sensation. I personally have been able to “feel” my stress via a sensation of numbness in my cheeks. This is the critical first step.
 
  • Identify your stress response – Everyone reacts differently to stress. If you tend to become angry or agitated under stress, you’ll respond best to stress-relieving activities that quiet you down (Close your eyes, sit or lie down, turn off the lights). If you tend to become depressed or withdrawn, you will respond best to stress-relieving activities that are stimulating (Exercise, listen to upbeat music). If you tend to freeze—speeding up in some ways while slowing down in others—you need stress-relieving activities that provide both comfort and stimulation (Movies, reading).
 
  • Discover the stress-busting techniques that work for you – The best way to reduce stress quickly is by engaging one or more of your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing and/or energizing to you. For example, if you’re a visual person you can relieve stress by surrounding yourself with uplifting images. And if you respond more to sound, you may find a wind chime, a favorite piece of music, or the sound of a water fountain helps to quickly reduce your stress levels.

We will journey together through the other four skills in successive entries. Take the first steps today – get to know your signs of stress so you can better control it.



Marc A. Milano, MD, FACEP, is chief of the department of emergency medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, N.J. He serves as physician head coach of the Patient Satisfaction Coaching Program at Emergency Medical Associates, an emergency medicine practice headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. Dr. Milano received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, and completed his emergency medicine residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

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How to Tap Into Your Emotional Intelligence in the ED and at Home

Posted on Thu, Aug 06, 2015
How to Tap Into Your Emotional Intelligence in the ED and at Home

Part 2 of a series of articles on the importance of developing emotional intelligence for medical professionals.

By Marc Milano, MD, FACEP

Our last discussion left off defining the key aspects of emotional intelligence (EI). It should be clear that a strong supply of emotional intelligence can make one’s interactions better, one’s relationships stronger, and one’s quality of life higher.

I have long been fascinated by the lack of correlation between intellectual intelligence and success. In fact, many of the most intelligent people I have known have struggled in many ways, both personally and professionally. I’m sure that you have known these same individuals – brilliant but socially inept, highly intelligent but frequently unfulfilled.

During medical school and residency, I was lucky to have a great deal of emotional intelligence instilled in me by my teachers. I have had some good fortune in life as a result of those great influences. I don’t define my success financially, or by status, but rather by how others see me and relate to me, as well as by how I impact others. Many people have asked me how I have navigated my career and my life, as they would like to achieve a certain goal or reach a higher level. I always respond by telling them that it’s not raw intelligence that matters; rather, it’s emotional intelligence that has helped me most.

The Benefits of Using Emotional Intelligence

Several years ago, my wife and I decided that it was time to move to a larger home in a suburban setting to raise our growing family. We found the perfect place. One problem – it would have been a 90-minute commute from my job. As I looked around at possible places of employment that were closer to the new house, I found one – six miles away! I cold-called the director and explained the situation. He politely told me that the site was fully staffed and he was not looking for anyone. Thinking in an emotionally intelligent way, I told him that I would be glad to wait, but I could possibly help by covering parties, meetings, etc. This was music to his ears. He offered me an interview. During the interview, I explained my philosophy as an employee. I told him that every day when I walk into work, I’m thinking about how I will strive not to create headaches for my boss. Two months later, I had a full-time offer from him. He actually moved staffing around to accommodate me. I appealed to what mattered to him – covering difficult shifts and helping him avoid stress.

Intellectual intelligence can get you only so far in life. If you can’t use that intelligence in a way that helps you control yourself and interact positively with others, it may be largely wasted.

Emotional Intelligence touches every aspect of our lives. A few examples:*
 

  • Relationships: If you understand your emotions and how to manage them, you will be more effective in expressing your feelings. More importantly, you will understand how others are feeling. It will improve communication and help you build stronger relationships both professionally and personally.
 
  • Mental Health: Understanding and managing your emotions, and looking deeply into what causes you to respond a certain way will decrease your stress. Stress makes us vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
 
  • Physical Health: If you can’t successfully manage your stress levels, your health will suffer. Stress can raise your blood pressure, impair your immune system, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke and speed up aging.
 
  • Work Performance: Emotional Intelligence can assist you in smoothly navigating the social and political complexities at work. It can help you lead and motivate others and propel you toward excellence. Emotional Intelligence is now being viewed by many employers as being as important as your technical ability, and they may seek to assess your EQ as part of the hiring process.

How to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Remember: The brain receives all of its information via the senses, and if this information is highly stressful or emotional, primal forces take over and our ability to act is then reduced to fight, flight or freeze. If we keep our emotions in balance, we have access to a wider range of reactions and responses. This will result in better decisions and better outcomes. Stress impairs memory. Memory is linked to emotion. One must stay connected to the emotional brain while also tapping into the rational brain. By using both, you will have more choices in responding to an event, but you will factor emotional memory into the process. Doing so will help prevent you from making recurrent mistakes in the future.

To achieve Emotional Intelligence, you must work to reduce stress, remain focused, and stay connected to yourself and others. This is done by learning key skills. The first two relate to controlling and managing stress, and the last three skills greatly improve communication.**
 
  • The ability to quickly reduce stress in the moment in a variety of settings
  • The ability to recognize your emotions and keep them from overwhelming you
  • The ability to connect emotionally with others by using nonverbal communication
  • The ability to use humor and play to stay connected in challenging situations
  • The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence

We will expand on these five skills in future discussions. Please continue to follow me on this journey. You can become a better you, and make your world a better place.



Marc A. Milano, MD, FACEP, is chief of the department of emergency medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, N.J. He serves as physician head coach of the Patient Satisfaction Coaching Program at Emergency Medical Associates, an emergency medicine practice headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. Dr. Milano received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, and completed his emergency medicine residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

* Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence
** Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

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4 Qualities for Practicing Emotional Intelligence in Emergency Medicine

Posted on Thu, Jul 09, 2015
4 Qualities for Practicing Emotional Intelligence in Emergency Medicine

Part 1 of a series of articles on the importance of developing emotional intelligence for medical professionals

By Marc Milano, MD, FACEP

We meet new people and interact with those we already know in varied situations every day. And as emergency department providers, we encounter more new people in more diverse and stressful situations than most others do. It should be clear that managing these interactions successfully will result in positive outcomes by creating the environment and experience of care that we want for our patients and colleagues.

A concept that helps to both define and inform us about good interactions is that of Emotional Intelligence. I define emotional intelligence as the ability to accurately, and in our case rapidly, discern what matters to another individual or group and use that information to provide mutual benefit.

Many authorities on the subject have suggested that emotional intelligence (EI or sometimes referred to as EQ – emotional quotient) is as important, if not more important, than IQ when it comes to success and happiness in life and work. I completely agree, as I have seen some highly intelligent people (high IQ) fail due to having a low EQ.

The 4 Facets of Emotional Intelligence

There are four basic qualities that embody emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness – Recognizing your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and having self-confidence
  • Self-Management – The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances
  • Social Awareness – The ability to understand the emotions, needs and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization. Empathy is a key here.
  • Relationship Management – Recognizing how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict

A new manager recently came to meet her new staff for the first time. She arrived late to the meeting. She began the introduction with a list of her accomplishments and then launched into her expectations of those she will supervise. She asked no questions of the staff and didn’t encourage their input or feedback.

I can tell you for certain that after the meeting, the staff was not only intimidated, but worse yet, they were NOT engaged. That manager knew going into the meeting that this staff was facing great organizational change and uncertainty, coupled with being confronted with having to acclimate to a new leader.

How could she have done this better by applying emotional intelligence?
She could have shown more respect for the group by coming 5 minutes early, not 5 minutes late. Having the forethought and consideration of how crucial this first interaction would be might have prevented that error.

She could have improved the interaction by making a brief introduction and explaining why her prior experience would help her lead them to success.

Instead of laying down a set of expectations and changes without getting feedback, she would’ve accomplished more by simply asking, “How can I help you achieve your goals?” or asking “What tools do you need from me to do an even better job?” Once she learned the needs of the group, she could use that knowledge to align the group with her goals and those of the organization.

This primer on emotional intelligence will serve as our first foray into a fascinating and important way of changing the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Please visit EmCare’s blog in the future for additional posts on this topic. I encourage you to use the “Comment” feature to let me know your thoughts as well.


Marc A. Milano, MD, FACEP, is chief of the department of emergency medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, N.J. He serves as physician head coach of the Patient Satisfaction Coaching Program at Emergency Medical Associates, an emergency medicine practice headquartered in Parsippany, N.J. Dr. Milano received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, his medical degree from St. George’s University in Grenada, and completed his emergency medicine residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

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