Once upon a time, we only talked about IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Not so long ago, EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) took its rightful place next to IQ. And now, as a Certified Professional Coach, I am delighted to introduce you to PQ (Positive Intelligence Quotient). PQ may sound new, yet most of us face situations daily that elicit negative – rather than positive – emotions because we are unable to respond otherwise.
On a typical Parisian day, I may lose patience with my child (and feel guilty), fail to persuade my French husband to see my point of view (and feel frustrated), believe that team members are not doing their part (and feel resentful), or worry about a loved one “back home” who is facing a tough challenge (and feel anxious). All of these feelings are negative emotions.
These are common scenarios for many of us. Furthermore, the past two years living with a pandemic has facilitated negative emotions by putting tremendous strain on our family lives, work situations, and children’s schooling, while also reducing our social support.
Negative emotions tend to linger, leading to increased levels of cortisol in our brains, and unhappiness for ourselves and those around us. What if there was a way for us to experience these common scenarios with positive emotions? Learning how to increase your positive intelligence and respond more often with positive emotions can benefit you and those you care about.
In the world of PQ, you would have handled these common scenarios differently. After feeling the negative emotion of irritation for a few seconds, just enough time to alert you to the problem at hand, you would have shifted to positive emotion. How? Perhaps you closed your eyes, put a hand on your stomach, took a few deep breaths, and felt the rise and fall of your chest. Even just a few seconds of mindfulness such as this will move you to the part of your brain where positive emotions like empathy, curiosity, and calm are generated.
Now let’s imagine a typical scenario in more detail. You have called your teenage son to the dinner table twice. He still isn’t coming, and you suspect that he is watching YouTube rather than doing his homework. When you call him a third time, you are feeling irritated. Your husband is complaining, you are tired, and the food is getting cold. You stomp down the hall and swing open his door:
Mom: “What’s wrong with you? As usual, you aren’t listening to me.”
Son: “That’s not true Mom, I am just finishing a video.”
Mom: “You’re like an addict, always on that screen!”
Son: “That is not true! Just let me finish!”
You are both in negative emotion – your son is hurt and resentful, and you are angry and stressed. At that moment, you notice his math book and a full page of equations written in his notebook. It crosses your mind that your son might be watching a video explaining a math concept. You leave and slam the door behind you. You are feeling guilt and regret.
Now let’s reimagine it. Rather than stomping down the hall, you take a few breaths, consciously feel the movement of your chest. You shift to positive emotion. You are able to decide with intention upon a course of action. You may go to your son’s room and simply ask: “Why aren’t you coming to dinner?” You will stand there calmly and wait. I can pretty much guarantee that after about 10 seconds, he will get up and go to the dinner table – what teen wants his mother watching him?
What are the advantages of this real-time pivot towards positive emotion?
A) Chemically, when in positive emotion, your brain is receiving ‘happy’ hormones, like dopamine or oxytocin. This is good for your health. On the other hand, the stress hormone, cortisol, compromises the brain’s cognitive processes, often causing you to say things that later on you regret.
B) Emotions are contagious: if you are in the negative emotion of irritation, chances are you will trigger your son’s irritation, and two irritated people rarely reach a solution. On the other hand, positive emotions such as creativity, peace, and resolve pave the way towards a solution.
C) Positive emotion is rooted in ‘love’ and a desire to thrive; as opposed to negative emotion, which is rooted in ‘fear’ and a desire to survive.
D) Positive emotions such as empathy, curiosity, and creativity allow us to discern – rather than judge – situations and people.
E) All of the above.
And the answer is… E!!
By responding with positive emotion, you rely on curiosity and calm to get your son to the table. Not only are you successful in getting resolution, but your relationship with your son is intact. Plus, the exchange is agreeable, which is good for your well-being. In other words, your brain is serving you rather than sabotaging you.
Now, take a moment to think about your day. How much time did you spend in positive emotion? Note that at www.positiveintelligence.com, you can take an assessment that measures your PQ: the relative strength of your positive versus negative mental muscles.
Learn why Jane Mobille is such a popular teen coach in Paris.
Neuroscience and MRIs have brought us to a point where we can say with certainty that anybody can strengthen or weaken their mental muscles (neural pathways). In other words, we can build up our brain’s self-command ‘muscle’ so that when we receive an ‘alert’ that something ‘bad’ is occurring, we can shift to the neural pathways which lead to positive emotion. The more we do this, the more these pathways will strengthen; at the same time, the pathways which lead to negative emotion will weaken.
Let’s be clear: building mental fitness is not new.
Meditation, yoga, prayer, sport, and mindfulness all generate positive emotions. Yet I recommend trying a relatively new phone app from Positive Intelligence. It mixes a daily coaching focus with short mindfulness practices, to be done throughout the day. May I lead you through one right now?
Get comfortable in your chair. Take a few deep breaths. Slight pause. Now close your eyes. Place your thumb and index finger of one hand on your other hand’s wrist. Feel your wrist bones. Pause. Gently move the skin that covers your wrist bones up and down and back and forth. Feel the sensations. Longer pause. Now place your index finger on top of your wrist and slowly move it. Feel the texture of your skin. Pause… When you are ready, open your eyes.
How do you feel? How has your energy shifted compared to a few minutes ago? By focusing on one of your five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing), your mind moves to positive emotion. This is how you can build your mental fitness so that you are more likely to respond with positive emotion in even the most difficult situations. Now wouldn’t that be nice?