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Emotional Intelligence

(This is part 5 of an 8-part series reflecting on the book, Resilient Ministry: What pastors told us about surviving and thriving.)

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is about four times more important than IQ in determining professional success (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.103). It affects the capacity for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.103). It is a combination of EQ self, EQ others and Cultural Intelligence (CQ).

Emotional Intelligence can be described as the ability to understand and proactively manage your own emotions (EQ self) and to appropriately respond to the emotions of others (EQ others). EQ also involves understanding our strengths, limitations, values and motives (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.103). When we lack this kind of self-awareness we are at a loss to manage our feelings, to accurately understand how we make others feel (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.104) and to respond well to those feelings.

Developing EQ

Goleman claims that 'EQ is not fixed ... it seems to be largely learned, and it continues to develop as we go through life and learn from our experiences' (quoted in Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.106). Much of this learning happens implicitly as we grow up. The family of origin has a big impact on the development of a person's EQ and explains much of their emotional response pattern. Understanding these deeply ingrained messages, habits, and ways of behaving, especially how a person responds when under stress, is a complex but necessary process if a person wants to not only understand themselves better, but also improve their emotional intelligence.

Reflect: Human emotions are part of what it means to be made in the image of God. When considering your own emotions:
Q. How quickly and accurately are you conscious of your emotional state?
Q. When your emotions suddenly change, how quickly and easily are you able to
     manage them?
Q. Who could give you honest feedback on how your emotions are showing?

Having considered our own emotional awareness, how can we continue to develop our EQ? The book makes several suggestions to help us develop our EQ:
•    construct and interview a family genome (tree that annotates normal family practices and values, like education, attitude to work, holidays etc) – you may be surprised what you find (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.121-122).
•    prayer and personal worship which are significant disciplines for our spiritual formation, also contribute to the development of our EQ. They provide clarity, perspective (especially on our emotions) and emotional calm when we learn to rest in God's love as we focus on his sovereignty over all things (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.117).
•    physical exercise provides mental and emotional recovery because of the endorphins it releases (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.117).
•    accurately identifying emotions and accepting them in ourselves and others. When naming emotions in others, facial expression is the first cue. The pitch, rhythm and tone of a person's voice and their posture also help us to understand (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.120-121).
•    reflection practices allow us to slow down and feel (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.117).
•    journalling allows us to name and manage feelings rather than being engulfed by them (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.117).
•    feedback allows us to know what others perceive and see, or what we are communicating. It is seldom freely given so we need to seek it out (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.125).

Q. What ways has your EQ grown in the past year? How do you think this has come about?

Understanding others
Differentiation to connect

In order to understand other people we have to be able to understand our own emotions, and how they are influenced by our relationships with others. This understanding of our self, enables us to gain some distance from the emotional impact of others. It is called differentiation. Differentiation allows us to be relationally connected with each other yet maintain our own beliefs, goals and values even when others in the system pressure us to change. It helps to keep relationships healthy and reduces the emotional burden of difficult relationships (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.103).

Q. When are you conscious of naming your emotional state to yourself?
Q. When are you conscious of identifying the emotional state of others?
Q. When do you tend to feel intimidated by others?
Q. How do you respond to those feelings?

Developing cultural intelligence

Culture has been described as patterned ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting to various situations and actions, and as a kind of ‘programming’ that shapes who we are and who we are becoming. Culture provides the values, emotions, belief systems, ideals, customs, assumptions and practices of ‘the group’. It includes ways of thinking and feeling that are deeply rooted in the contexts and world views in which individuals are raised. It usually functions in the unconscious or unspoken behaviour of people because it was ‘caught’, not ‘taught’. We therefore need to explore our own culture if we want to understand the culture of others, especially the cultures of the many students and families we work with from ethnic backgrounds.

Culture is not implicitly good or bad, right or wrong. All cultures contain a mixture of good and evil, truth and error, beauty and ugliness. Cultural intelligence (CI) is the ability to 'function effectively across various cultural contexts' including:   
•    communicating clearly without causing conflict from misunderstanding
•    behaving in a manner that accounts for cultural values and does not unnecessarily give offence
•    relating to others in love, with respect and appreciation for differences (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.146)
•    withholding judgment on cultural differences
•    critically observing our own cultural makeup
•    naming our cultural values, and evaluating culture with humility (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.148).

Cultural intelligence (CI) also includes the ability to discriminate between cultural preferences and Biblical imperatives. It begins by identifying what in our own culture are cultural preferences, and what are Biblical imperatives and what preconceived ideas we bring to the Bible (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.147).

Q. What are the cultural distinctives of your school community?
Q. What cultural preferences can you identify in your own culture?
Q. What are the cultural distinctives of each ethnic group represented in your school (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.144)?

Having summarised the three facets of our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how we can develop them, it is helpful to also consider how we can inhibit this growth.

Growth in EQ cannot occur when we:
•    are people pleasing
•    are emotion faking
•    do not reflect
•    are conflict avoiders
•    do not actively listen to others
•    are not willing to relate to the feelings of those we are listening to
•    are not willing to seriously consider the perspectives of people we disagree with
•    we are not genuinely curious about the life and culture of those we are relating to.

Q. What personal and achievable goals can you set to grow your own EQ this year?
Q. How will you know if you have achieved these goals?


Burns, B, Chapman, T.D., & Guthrie, D. C. (2013). Resilient Ministry: What Pastors told us about surviving and thriving. (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press).

Resilient Ministry is available for purchase from The Wandering Bookseller

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent  is to promote thinking and discussion.

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