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Anxiety Squared Emotional Intelligence Helps Cover The Angles In Solving Life’s Concerns

Thu., Nov. 9, 1995

Last week author Daniel Goleman described the importance of what he calls “emotional intelligence.” In this, the second of two parts on the subject, Goleman offers advice on using your emotional intelligence to soothe anxiety and worry and to deal with other concerns.

Anxiety and worry

Learn to stop your worry-anxiety cycle early on. Identify the situations that trigger worry for you; recognize the fleeting thoughts and images that initiate worry as well as the physical sensations of anxiety. Self-awareness will enable you to use relaxation methods at the first sign of worry.

Challenge your worrisome thoughts: Is it probably that the dreaded event will occur? Is it really the case that there is no alternative to letting it occur? Are there constructive steps you could take? Does it really help to run through these same anxious thoughts over and over?

Consider medication if your anxiety has blossomed into phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or panic disorder.

Conflict with your spouse:


Recognize that when your wife brings up a grievance, she may be doing it to keep the relationship healthy. Don’t automatically sidestep conflict.

Avoid short-circuiting the discussion by offering a solution too early on. It’s important for a woman to feel her husband hears her complaint and empathizes with her feelings, even if he doesn’t agree with her.


Explain what your husband did that is distressing; avoid criticizing or attacking him personally or expressing contempt.

Reassure him of your love even as you present your grievance.


Monitor your physical sensations of anxiety and anger. If your pulse is climbing, take a 20-minute break from each other to cool down before resuming a discussion.

Make an agreement that allows either one of you to call for a timeout at the first signs of “flooding,” or out-of-control feelings that can swamp you when confronted by your partner’s negativity and your own reaction to it.

Practice non-defensive listening and speaking. As a listener, don’t immediately rebut your spouse’s complaints. Instead, try “mirroring” them back, restating what your spouse just said to make sure you’re hearing it correctly. As a speaker, use the “XYZ” approach: “When you did X, it made me feel Y, and I’d rather you did Z instead.”

Let your partner know that you can see things from his or her perspective and that view may have validity, even if you don’t agree with it.

Apologize when you see that you’re in the wrong.

Challenge the self-talk that can crop up in moments of distress. For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “He doesn’t care about my needs - he’s always so selfish,” remind yourself of the recent things your husband has done that were thoughtful.

Giving and receiving criticism:


Be specific. Say what the person did well, what was done poorly and how it can be changed. Avoid personal attacks.

Offer a solution.

Give the criticism face to face rather than in memo form or by some other means.

Be sensitive. Recognize the impact of what you say and how you say it.


See the criticism as valuable information about how to do better, not as a personal attack.

Take responsibility instead of becoming defensive.

If you become upset, ask to resume the meeting later, after you’ve had time to absorb the message and cool down.

Developing empathy in children:

Model empathy in your adult relationships.

When disciplining kids, call attention to the distress their misbehavior caused someone else.

Take seriously the entire range of emotions your child expresses, neither ignoring them nor bribing the child out of expressing the emotions.

Model a variety of emotions for your child.

Improving impulse control in children:

Talk to your children about their feelings and how to understand them.

Avoid criticizing and judging their emotions.

Practice problem-solving about emotional predicaments: Coach them on alternatives to hitting when angry, alternatives to withdrawing when sad.

Encouraging kids to overcome timidity:

Avoid overprotecting these children. They do better when they learn to cope with upsetting moments, to calm themselves and so adapt to life’s small struggles.

Set firm limits. By insisting on obedience, you confront timid kids with mild uncertainty. The repetition of this challenge gives them continual rehearsals, in small doses, for meeting the unexpected in life. For fearful children, this is exactly the encounter that must be mastered.

Coaching unpopular kids on friendship:

Teach children to think of alternative suggestions and compromises rather than fighting if they disagree about the rules of a game Encourage them to ask questions about the other children while they play and to listen and look at the other kids.

Remind them to say something nice when another child does well.

Remind them to smile and offer help or suggestions and encouragement.

MEMO: Excepted from “Emotional Intelligence” (Bantam, $23.95) by Daniel Goleman.<

Excepted from “Emotional Intelligence” (Bantam, $23.95) by Daniel Goleman.<

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