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Emotional Intelligence: Responding to Life’s Stressors


Criminal Justice

The work rules are changing. A new yardstick is judging us – not just by how smart we are, our training and expertise, and how well we handle ourselves and each other. This yardstick is increasingly applied in choosing who will be hired and who will not, who will be let go, who is retained, who is passed over, and who is promoted (Goleman, 1998).

How we show up makes a difference. The message portrayed in our attitude is a by-product of how we choose to be seen and heard. How we handle ourselves and others is reflected in our verbal and non-verbal communication.

Daniel Goleman (1998) identifies the following components defining emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness is the basis for all the other components; being aware of what you are feeling and understanding why. People who are in touch with their feelings can better guide their own lives and actions.
  2. Managing emotions is the ability to balance our moods to omit that worry, anxiety, fear, or anger do not cloud thinking and get in the way of what needs to be done.
  3. Motivating ourselves pertains to our ability to be hopeful and patient and to persist in facing obstacles, setbacks, and even outright failure. This ability is crucial for pursuing long-term goals.
  4. Feeling empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to recognize what others are feeling without them needing to tell you. People frequently do not say how they feel in words but rather in a tone of voice, body language, and facial expression.
  5. Social skills are the ability to connect to others, build positive relationships, respond to the emotions of others, and influence others.

I challenge you to take a few minutes to ponder these five attributes of emotional intelligence (EI) more deeply. Be honest with yourself as you assess your emotional intelligence, as that will stimulate intellectual or emotional growth.

Wilson and Wilson (1998) coined THE RESULTS MODEL as another tool for you to explore and consider.

Our attitude impacts the results we achieve. The concept of the Results Model is a graphic representation of how people get results from a cognitive psychology approach. Therefore, (1) an event happens, and (2) our interpretations of the event rule how we respond. Then, (3) we respond with feelings and behavior. And finally, (4) how we respond influences our results.


It is safe to say that everyone knows that we cannot control all the events that happen to us in our lives. We can influence them sometimes. We can control our thinking, feelings, and how we respond to these events. If we want to change the results we are getting by responding differently, we start by controlling, challenging, and changing the way we think.

We start changing the way we think by recognizing our personal responsibility, in that No other person can make us feel upset, angry, or depressed. Only you can make you feel upset, angry, or depressed, and it occurs because YOU CHOOSE to feel upset, angry, or depressed. Emotional maturity is being accountable for the way we think and the way we respond.

The Two Minute Drill is a mental discipline that, when used consistently, will produce powerful results in managing your emotions. Stop, Challenge, and Choose is a process of going from feeling an emotion different from positive or neutral to managing it, feeling better, and responding more appropriately in two minutes (Wilson, 1998). Stop, Challenge, and Choose is to give us an alternative to simply reacting to our feelings and emotions.

People need to develop emotional intelligence and become sensitive to their feelings, especially when they do not feel the way they want. Sometimes an emotion sneaks up on you, and you become upset or feel angry or depressed. This process requires you to discover what you are thinking and what you are making up that is causing your feeling.

When we are experiencing a feeling and emotion that is not what we desire to experience, we must STOP! Stopping helps us to calm down. Stopping brings us to an awareness of our thinking and feelings. Now is the time to step back and observe what is going on that is influencing our emotions? Why are we getting upset? What was the event? Who was involved?

Next, we CHALLENGE what we are thinking; what are we telling ourselves, making up, or believing is causing our feelings? What are the facts? Are there other interpretations? The last step is to CHOOSE a response based on facts and objectivity that is in our best interest.

Learning the techniques of STOP, CHALLENGE, AND CHOOSE can give us more desired outcomes in thinking and responding to problems.


People with a stronger sense that they control what happens to them in life are less likely to become angry, stressed, or depressed, when faced with problems, conflicts, and uncertainty.

Perhaps some people would challenge my claim that stress does not have to be bad. Some stress is actually good for us. For instance, people choose to partake in a rigorous workout every day before they begin their school or work day. These individuals are intentionally placing stress on their bodies. A person experiencing stress from being inside a burning building effectively utilizes the adrenalin rush to remove herself from danger quickly. However, I do not argue that in most cases, the stress we incur is not perceived as good.

We all experience stress, which is a part of life. We often cannot control the event that prompts the stress we feel. What we can absolutely control is how we choose to react to stress. How we choose to respond to stress is transmitted in our communications with others. Whether it is our short temper with a loved one, a tongue lashing given to a staff member at work, seclusion, or a controlled and emotionally intelligent reaction to the stress, they all send a powerful message about our attitude at that time.

People can manage and cope with stress. In nearly every instance, it is not life-threatening; your and your family’s health is not in jeopardy. Despite the stress, life will go on. Stress can be mitigated if the person feeling stress chooses to respond to it intentionally and wisely. Many techniques can be employed to reduce or eliminate stress. I like to take long walks when I am feeling stressed. The quiet surroundings where I often walk provide a calming effect on me. Stress can dissipate if you solve the problem that prompted the stress. Keeping things in proper perspective helps me not “create mountains out of molehills.” We can often time add to our stress by making the problem more significant than it is.

Goleman, D. (1998). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Wilson, L. Wilson, H. (1998). Play To Win! Choosing Growth Over Fear in Work and Life. Austin: Bard Press.

About the Author:
Janina (Wresh) Cich, MA, is a retired Law Enforcement Officer with two decades of Criminal Justice experience and holds the Criminal Justice Department Chair role at Concordia University, St. Paul. Janina is the Chief Operating Officer of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS). Since 2003, Janina has been a Professor in Criminal Justice, Forensic Mental Health & Trauma, Resilience, and Self-Care topics at local colleges and universities. She has authored many articles and is a frequent lecturer. She also serves as a Board Member on many non-profit organization boards.