How can I apply the principles of deliberate practice to improving my emotional/social intelligence?
May 28, 2011 8:02 PM   Subscribe

How can I apply the principles of deliberate practice to improving my emotional/social intelligence?

I recently completed Talent is Overrated and would like to apply the principles of deliberate practice in my life. I don't want to be a chess grandmaster, virtuoso musician, or star-athlete, so I decided to focus on emotional and social intelligence instead. The problem is that these sorts of skills aren't as easy to practice, analyze, and repeat.

Deliberate practice must be:
Specific & technique-oriented
Self regulated, with additional help from a coach
Involve high-repetition
Paired with immediate feedback on results

Any recommendations of specific things that I can do to improve these skills/abilities?
posted by Homo economicus to Human Relations (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Join OKCupid and send out a bunch of messages and see which ones get responses.

Speed date.

Join lots of clubs and talk to people, suggest you go get drinks after whatever activity it is.

Just generally go do stuff, make it a point to say things and interact with people, and make mental notes on what gets positive reactions out of people and repeat/tweak those actions.
posted by 3FLryan at 8:15 PM on May 28, 2011

Response by poster: I should mention that I'm engaged, and I don't think that my fiancée would appreciate my signing up on dating sites, etc...
posted by Homo economicus at 8:22 PM on May 28, 2011

Name your emotions. Be specific. We've been doing this with our toddler, naming his emotions for him and naming ours when he's interested in our reactions to things. Boys in particular learn (from society) that there are only one or two acceptable negative emotions: anger, and sometimes sadness. It's amazing when I do discipline files how many of the disciplinary actions we have are young men who turn frustration, failure, anxiety, depression, self-loathing, fear, etc., ALL into anger, and lash out (physically) and get suspended or expelled. And in their narratives, when asked about their emotional state, all they ever say is, "I was angry." It sort-of brought the whole problem home very vividly. Naming-and-explaining is also about it being acceptable to have various negative emotions, and finding acceptable ways to express them. Which a lot of us are bad at as adults.

Anyway, it's amazing how much naming and explaining our emotions, being very specific, has made us more emotionally alert and helped us see better responses to difficult situations, because "mad at so-and-so" is very different from "frustrated and anxious about this situation so-and-so has created, and angry at so-and-so for doing so."

Name your positive emotions too. It's just easier to see the good effects of being specific about the negative ones. :)

I don't know what sort of feedback you require, but I've found high-tension situations de-escalating (even if I'm just naming emotions in my head, because I'm doing a better job of understanding the other person) and my own emotional reactions not as extreme when something negative happens. But I presume the fiancee could also affirm your clarity of naming-and-explaining if you need that sort of feedback.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:38 PM on May 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

The comedian Demetri Martin has an interesting autobiographical stand up routine called If I...about his interesting attempt at something resembling deliberate practice in his life. Maybe it can give you some ideas on the right versus the... funnily wrong way to do it.
posted by ultrabuff at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

sorry I'll try that again...the funnily wrong way to do it.
posted by ultrabuff at 9:30 PM on May 28, 2011

Practicing empathy might be useful and work within this system. Each time you find yourself thinking about someone's actions (say, why the checkout person being rude to a customer), make sure that you consider at least two possibilities beyond the one that came first. Generally the attributional one will come first (she's a rude person), but the situational ones (she's having a bad day) bring more empathy. You can also concentrate on putting yourself in another's shoes by just taking a minute to consider what that person's day is like, what the reality of his or her situation is, etc.
posted by bizzyb at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2011

There's an old chestnut from the 20th century: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The book outlines basic intuitive emotional intelligence: "Become genuinely interested in other people."
posted by ovvl at 9:30 AM on May 29, 2011

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