The Power of Three • Part IV • Emotional Intelligence in Conversations

In the last post we looked at a conversational response matrix from the conceptual perspective of the head brain. Now let’s switch to the heart brain and the coordinate system of emotions.

Many people will look at Professor Gable’s matrix and conclude that they operate out of the active constructive mode more often than not. However, we’re all subjects of unconscious habits and patterns in our communications. When we are unconscious about something, it means we are unaware of some aspect of our behavior even though it is clear for others to see. It’s hard to see our own behavior and we’re always doing things we’re unaware of – things other people notice but rarely tell us for a variety of reasons.

We know the head brain has receptor sites for various neurotransmitters. It’s not much of a stretch to think that our heart brains would have similar emotional receptor sites for each of the four kinds of responses in this matrix. Whichever quadrant we speak from will light up that same quadrant in the listener. You can think of this as heart-brain mirror neurons.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose we’re talking with a friend and they tell us that they just received a job promotion. The diagram to the left illustrates four different ways we might respond to them verbally, each of which coordinates an emotional message between our heart brain and theirs.

What we say, along with how we say it, will provoke an emotional reaction.

Self-observation: Begin to notice how you respond to the people closest to you when they share good news with you. How often are you operating from an active constructive stance? How often from the other stances? Is this surprising to you? What supports you in keeping up an active constructive approach? What makes active constructive challenging? What will you do with this new information?

The next post will look at the gut brain coordinate system and how our bodies communicate messages that may or may not be aligned with our words.