There is a concept that I learned in a class (Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence), which I took a couple of years ago through Case Western Reserve University, that I would like to share with you. It is known as Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), and it ties one’s knowledge of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems with one’s knowledge and ability of being mindful. The idea behind PEA is that it helps arouse the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), thereby increasing one’s feelings of positivity, hope, and optimism. If you are mindful enough that you are able to see that someone’s thinking and emotions are being “held hostage” by his/her sympathetic nervous system, you could take action (using your knowledge of PEA) to activate his/her parasympathetic nervous system. Positive emotional attractors are your tools for helping someone to feel optimistic and hopeful by helping her to think about her strengths and to feel excited about the future. In the next paragraph, I will provide you with an example of how this can be done.
One of the methods of using PEA to bring someone into the PNS from the SNS is to speak calmly with the individual, who may be in SNS arousal. Once she is willing to listen to and speak with you, using the PEA may be as simple as asking her the following question (as one example out of many): “If money were not an obstacle, what would you like to be doing five years from now?” The idea behind such a question is that it is designed to activate the part(s) of the brain responsible for positivity and hopefulness. This is not a superficial ‘mind trick’ that we use to generate false hopes—it is a method of returning someone to a state (PNS), in which one is able to be receptive to what we have to say. As coaches and mentors, for example, we may ask the aforementioned question (or any other that invokes positivity and hopefulness) as a method of calming our mentee, and then we use her positivity and hopefulness to talk about her short and long-term goals. We are able to orient her thinking back to her strengths and that which she can control. There is a lot of science behind PEA and the PNS that you may wish to research, as it is insightful and could be useful to you.
Is there something that you do right now as a leader that is along the lines of what was described in this posting? If so, what is it and how successful are you with it?