Posted by February 28, 2018.on
Do you remember Milli Vanilli? I know, blast from the past. They were a pop-artist group from the late 80’s and early 90’s with popular songs like “Blame it on the Rain” and “Girl, You Know it’s True”. They were not only made famous by those songs, but by a much more powerful fact: they lip-synced the songs. The voices you heard weren’t actually the voices of the good-looking guys in the videos. Yes, it’s appalling. My question is: what did the guys who actually sang the songs look like? Did you ever wonder that? They must have had a face only a mother could love to have to find other guys who were better looking.
Their song “Blame it on the Rain” can be used to sing a different song . . . “Blame it on the Brain”. What would possess people to do what they and their producers did? Was it a chemical imbalance or was it a pure act of free-will?
We might be able to blame some of our own poor choices on our brains too! Well, sort of. The advancement of neuroscience has rapidly increased over the last 10 years and continues to develop at an incredible rate. What actually happens between our ears and, are we truly at fault for our personal idiosyncrasies? Yes and no.
Allow me to give you a ten-dollar word: neuroplasticity (new-ro-plas-ti-city). The word is used to describe the fact that our brains are constantly changing. As we learn new things and experience different situations, roads and highways in our minds are being built so we know better how to respond to that situation the next time we engage in a similar experience.
Here’s the trick. Our brains do learn as we learn, but our brains are also submissive to our free-will. In other words, the more you respond a certain way, even though it’s incredibly offensive, damaging, or ineffective, your brain may initially respond by saying “Really?!?” but then it will submit itself to you and say, “Okay, you’re the boss.” And the next time you encounter a similar situation, the power of neuroplasticity has already taken effect and instead of driving on a dirt road, you are now cruising on a four-lane highway. This may explain why two men and their management team decided to lie to the world about the fact that they weren’t actually singing those songs. This is a powerful aspect of our beautiful minds, but the creation of these superhighways may eventually allow you to cruise right off a cliff relationally, socially, or occupationally. Well…at least it was a smooth ride.
Let me explain. We are born with a personality. It might be more like your mom, or your dad, or a mix of both, but our brains had to start with some programming or we’d even forget to breathe. For example, are you an extrovert or introvert? Are you a super-social person or someone who’d rather be alone? Do you love details or would rather stare up at the clouds, imagining what could be?
Our personality is good, natural, and will truly form a lot of our identity. What we naturally “like” and our natural responses to situations and people come from the pre-programmed personality DNA.
Here is how it all works: as we grow, neuroplasticity is taking over, building highways faster than China can build skyscrapers. When interacting with our environment, including people, we often go “home” to our core temperament. If you have children, think about how different their personalities are.
Now, have you noticed something? Sometimes our kids’ personalities fit perfectly with the situation. They shine because their personality fits perfectly with the situation. Then the horror movie begins. At another time, in a situation far, far away, you see your child responding just like their personality would dictate, but you realize it doesn’t fit what’s going on around them. This is NOT the time to be aggressive, passive, funny, or somber. You try and correct your child and teach them why they shouldn’t behave, well, like themselves.
You are now teaching your children Emotional Intelligence.
Now do the exact same exercise on yourself. When should “you” be you? When is being “you” really not the right thing to be at that moment?
You are now teaching yourself Emotional Intelligence. It is called self-awareness.
Trust me, do this exercise, please. Your co-workers are begging you to have an epiphany. That’s why 360-reviews were created.
How does the brain play into this?
To understand more about Emotional Intelligence and how to identify it in the workplace, read previous articles titled The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace; Three Reasons Why Productivity Fluctuates; and Emotional Intelligence: The Power of the Sliver. These articles will all help you gain perspective and understanding of the theory behind Emotional Intelligence and help you become a stronger leader and team member.