I grew up in India.
When I was about 17-18 years old, I started reading Reader’s Digest magazines. The range of articles, and book sections (they used to have one in every monthly edition of the Reader’s Digest magazine) connected me to the emotional side of people. Book sections on the magazines introduced fascinating journey of people; how the drive and initiative and will power and that zeal from inside can transform lives completely. They inspired me.
I picked up one book advertised in one of the Reader’s Digest magazines – ABCs of Human Brain. The book captured my imagination. It was fascinating learning a bit about the power, complexity, capabilities of the human brain. It felt good that I am endowed with that magic as well – that is, a brain.
Seeds were planted – of the idea, that emotions can drive, they can pump in tremendous amount of energy and fuel, and that my brain has tremendous capabilities when I can focus.
Years into my professional career, I read an article about emotional intelligence. It led me to pick up Daniel Goleman’s book – Working with Emotional Intelligence. It trained me to be aware of my emotions, emotions of people that I am interacting … and then controlling and channeling my emotions for effective communication. The idea of emotional intelligence – EQ – was an aha for me.
As I gravitated towards customer centric work, and started working with teams that are diverse in backgrounds and culture, simply being aware and being able to navigate emotions for effective relationships helped me.
While learning more about communication and impact, I learned more about amygdale – the emotional or limbic system of the brain. This emotional brain is the oldest, the most developed and the most powerful part of our brain. Appealing to emotions, and appealing using my emotions brought in a new perspective for me – people buy with emotions and rationalize with logic. Whether that is public speaking, or a sales meeting with a prospect, or marketing content that is communicated over business meetings, or website, or email, or social media – the emotional connection matters. Did they like me? If yes, they will take time understanding me and what I might have to say or offer.
While learning about managing my stress, and cultivating a strong body immune system … I learned another powerful role the amygdale plays, and that is – fight or flight response. For millions of years, the flight or fight response would help fight a threat, or run away from it. Heart starts pumping more blood, blood pressure goes up and more blood is directed towards the limb while shunting down some of the supply to the brain – all to prepare for fighting or flying (running away). The same response system is activated unfortunately, when we face any uncomfortable situation in today’s day and age – standing up in front of people and speaking, or navigating work relationships, or getting stuck in traffic, or remembering and reliving in our mind an uncomfortable experience in the past, or worrying about a future event, talking to a stranger, try to close a deal… we, the humans, are genetically wired to act like that. This can have such an impact on effectiveness at work, or even with friends and family. I learned from Dr Andrew Weil’s Spontaneous Healing, and Dr Joan Borysenko’s Minding Your Body, Mending Your Mind, that this fight or flight response unless handled/managed can cause health problems – ranging from heart problems, acid reflux, infections and inflammations.
Emotional memory, emotional reactions, emotional energy can have such a powerful impact on way of life – that is both ways, good and bad.
While wrapping up the MBA school, I heard about Malcolm Gladwell and his book – THE TIPPING POINT – How Little Things can Make a Big Difference. I was fascinated by how well Malcolm combines ideas, information from a number of sources and develops points in a captivating way. As soon as his another book came out, I was on it – Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Malcolm explained what he calls – thin slicing ability of our mind – being able to draw on past experiences, and being able to reach to compelling insights. It seems to me more about training the emotional brain puts to use that is hard to explain with logic.