When Laurel Kaufer and I started the Prison of Peace Project, we did not set out to teach emotional intelligence. We were devising a curriculum that would help life inmates become good mediators as quickly as possible. Since we guessed that they did not have strong interpersonal skills, we decided to spend 4 weeks teaching them how to listen. We did not expect what happened. We observed that by learning to listen to core messages and emotions, the inmates became substantially more emotionally intelligent. This has occurred in every inmate cohort we have trained in both men’s and women’s prisons. By around the eighth week of training, the inmates go through a transformation that is remarkable and beautiful to witness. As they regain their humanity, they see themselves and their peers with new insights. They become compassionate and understanding. It is hard to believe that life inmates can change like this, but it is true. Check out this YouTube video to see for yourself.
Emotional intelligence comprises 5 basic skills: awareness of emotions, the ability to modulate emotions, the ability to make behavioral choices inspite of emotions, the ability to recognize emotions in others, and the ability to be empathetic with others. Most emotional intelligence training starts with self-awareness. We found that starting with empathic listening developed emotional intelligence without having to teach emotional intelligence. As the inmates learned to pay attention to the emotions of others so they could reflect those emotions back, they learned to pay attention to their own emotions. Eight weeks into the training, inmates report that they find themselves affect labeling themselves when they experience a strong emotion. This is helping them calm themselves down and make good choices about how to respond to their emotional triggers.
The It’s Pure Magic Workshop should have the same effect on you. As you learn to listen to and reflect on the emotions of those around you, you will become more aware of your own emotions. As you develop emotional self-awareness, you will find yourself being less reactive and more conscious about your choices in the heat of the moment. You will find a calmer more relaxed life awaiting you. Teach the techniques to your children and watch them grow this way too!