Did you know a troubled relationship can leave you more susceptible to viral infections? Not only that, we can also be infected by other people’s emotions in the same way it happens with a rhinovirus, for instance. This transmission is so real, it can generate the emotional equivalent to a cold.
So, if you want to know how to preserve your emotional health and that of the people around you, continue reading this summary.
The work was published in 2019, and has 472 pages. There are six parts, divided in 21 chapters, plus prologue, epilogue, and appendixes.
In these divisions, various subjects are worked on, from the biological constitution of the human brain to the consequences of our relations that reflect on society.
The diverse studies and social experiments brought are corroborated by the words of renowned professionals in the psychological field, and, also, by the very people involved in the reported dynamics.
This perspective of the functioning of the connections between people comes to complement the production of the best-seller “Emotional Intelligence”, where the author analyzed the psychology of the individual within himself.
The American psychologist and journalist, Daniel Goleman, holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He wrote about behavioral sciences for the New York Times for twelve years.
He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and holder of the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among his many sales successes, there are also “Focus” and “Working with Emotional Intelligence”, where he discusses emotional agility and emotional quotient, in addition to the book mentioned in the previous section.
Social Intelligence is vital, especially for people in leadership positions, according to the inventor of the term. Leaders can learn how to get the most out of their team by adapting their own attitudes and even using their own failures.
Managers and salespeople will find that listening to the customer is much more important to the quality of work than wanting to talk about their product. Listening skills are also one of the top three for doctors and social workers whose performance has been rated as exceptional by their organizations.
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Psychologist Edward Thorndike was the first to come up with the term “Social Intelligence”, around 1920. One of the meanings he assigned was “the ability to understand and manage men and women”.
But for Daniel Goleman, it means:
“… to be smart not only about our relationships, but also in our relationships (...) and look beyond our narrow and selfish personal interests and see the interests of the other as well.”
Goleman proposes two categories that constitute social intelligence. Social Consciousness deals with our feelings toward others, and includes:
And the Social Facility, which is what we do in possession of the consciousness. It includes:
Robert Rosenthal was the author’s professor, and found that harmonious connection between people happens when there is, according to him:
“Mutual attention, shared positive feeling, and a well-coordinated nonverbal duet.”
This synchrony increases creativity and efficiency in decision-making processes, but it only works when it occurs spontaneously.
This happens, also, thanks to the so-called mirror neurons, brain cells that reflect actions. When you simulate the presentation of a lecture, for example, the brain understands it as if it is already being done, making it easier to actually do it.
The same happens when we see the action in another person, as in the Tibetan saying quoted by the author:
“When you smile at life, half the smile is for your face, the other half for somebody else’s.”
It is possible to exert influence using this mechanism, with the effect of the “happy face advantage”. The human brain recognizes smiling expressions more quickly than negative ones. Where there is no hierarchy of power, the person with the most emotionally expressive face sets the tone for the group.
It is important, however, to pay attention to relationships in the age of e-mail, home office, and other distances that the Internet can provide. The emotional state of the interlocutor is not perceived immediately or as accurately, interfering with the feedback that the orbitofrontal cortex needs to guide us socially.
When there is no empathy in relationships, they take on a dynamic of “I-It”, where the other is used only as a mean to get what one wants.
This distant relationship can be recommended for people who need to be impartial, such as journalists and policemen. But it is usually a trait that appears in narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths, the so-called “Dark Triad” by psychologists.
Some narcissistic leaders can achieve spectacular results based on self-confidence, for example. Others, on the other hand, cause disasters. One of the key points is openness to suggestions and criticism.
When this personality surrounds themselves only with unrealistic compliments, they belittle and take advantage of their colleagues. This happens most often in places like the United States and Australia, individualistic cultures. In East Asia and Northern Europe, group harmony and the sharing of work and credits are more valued.
The person who is concerned with achieving an end, regardless of the means used, may also achieve success in some situations, but it is fleeting. Machiavellians, while they flatter the boss, but mistreat the subordinates. According to the author, they:
“Run the risk that their poisoned relationships and resulted bad reputation may one day derail them.”
To give a name to much of what has been said so far, we can talk about “epigenetics”. It is the study of how the experiences we go through alter the functioning of our genes.
The term “neural scaffolding” also helps to explain, in an even more visual way, how our experiences contribute to who we are.
The repetitive use of a neural circuit fixes its connections, like a new landing on a scaffold. The more time goes by, and the more often these connections are activated, the more difficult – but not impossible – it is to break them.
In childhood, for example, many mothers and fathers give in to the child’s fits of rage, or ignore the child completely. This would be a safe learning opportunity to control negative emotions, if well conducted.
What developmental psychologists call a “positive affective core” — in the author’s words, a happy child — is not a family where the atmosphere is always calm, but where there is resilience to overcome adversities.
“Happiness thrives with resilience, the ability to overcome upsets and return to a calmer, happier state. There seems to be a direct link between stress resilience and that capacity for happiness.”
Minimal stress is necessary for learning, but in excess, it awakens the neural circuitry of fear.
Another important point in the development of the child is play. They provide social experiences, the book highlights:
“Such as negotiating power struggles, cooperating, forming alliances, and giving in willingly.”
We must remember that if upbringing has left negative marks on adults, psychotherapists can provide the secure foundation for learning to manage feelings, which would have been the family’s role. And if that role has already been fulfilled, these professionals can also help consolidate progress.
Smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, sedentary lifestyle. If you do not fit any of these risk factors, but are in a toxic relationship, you are just as likely to have disease and death.
At the same time, the epidemiological studies that bear this out also indicate that positive social connections decrease the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone) and strengthen the immune system.
Forgiving someone you feel resentful toward also reduces levels of this hormone, as well as blood pressure and heart rate, and decreases pain and depression.
These relationships can be of various spheres.
Humans have been social animals since the Hominidae began to have diurnal habits millions of years ago.
In the love part, there is even the “Michelangelo Phenomenon”, where the partner, after so many years of living together, ends up naturally sculpting the other in his or her own way.
At work, people in lower positions are four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those in higher positions, who do not have to deal with extravagant bosses.
In human services, the quality of a leader is much more linked to social and emotional intelligence than to the technical knowledge and skills of his or her field.
The aforementioned secure base can also exist between members of a work team, through a show of respect, a compliment, or the willingness to listen and sympathize with a colleague. This improves the quality of service, and its lack can lead to “compassion fatigue”.
In any situation, to deal with people who have been negatively affected, psychologist Sheldon Cohen brings the message of scientific findings to friends and family of patients whose illness has a social stigma:
“Don’t ignore them or isolate them – even if you don’t know exactly what to say, it’s important to pay them a visit.”
Lack of concentration and difficulty in thinking clearly are effects of when we are exhausted. This term, although commonly used in such situations, indicates a situation that is harmful to the brain, and that is explained biologically.
“It is a neural state in which sudden increases in emotional waves impair the functioning of the executive center.”
In contrast, a measure of stress is required to keep the task from being tedious, which also diminishes the desire to deliver a job well done.
The apex of performance is at the top of the Gaussian graph, which Goleman calls “inverted U”, below:
One of the tasks of a leader towards his employees is to encourage them at the right point in this graph. Well-managed displeasure can have positive effects, but a raging temper is destructive.
In the face of negative outcomes, a leader with social intelligence helps people recover from distress. Also, even if it is impossible to solve a problem, having empathy and showing interest in listening and improving things helps to metabolize feelings and move on more smoothly.
Most employees who participated in a survey of 700 companies place more importance on having a caring boss than on the salary they receive.
W. Edwards Deming, guru of quality control, used the slogan “Eliminate the fear”. This is the only way for workers to feel comfortable to express their opinions, share ideas and improve their performance.
In “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie teaches how to improve your relationships with others, personally and professionally, through new and sincere approaches.
Author Allan Percy shows, in the book “Nietzsche for Stressed Out People”, how to reduce stress and improve relationships through the teachings of the German philosopher.
Finally, psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg teaches how to resolve conflicts and interact with respect and empathy, even in uncomfortable situations, in the work “Nonviolent Communication”.
We hope that knowing how your relationships influence your mental and physical health will motivate you to change habits and free yourself from situations that may be holding you back.
Did you ever imagine that other people could have so much influence on us? Did you find it comforting to know that even our adversities can become our allies?
Now, exercise some of what you’ve learned here and leave some friendly feedback in the comments!
To understand more about the complex biological systems involved in our interpersonal connections, to know several studies that have proven everything here, and to receive other experiential tips, click on the image below and buy the complete book, in English.