Police Psychology: Emotional/Social Intelligence
New Software Upgrade for Police Officers
by William Cottringer, Ph.D.
Effective policing involves excellent use of all cognitive skills, especially emotional and social intelligence (E/SQ) Emotional/social intelligence can best be defined as involving the following group of skills:
1. Self-awareness. This is the ability to know and understand your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, goals, beliefs, perspectives and values, and to recognize their impact on others. This skill allows you to read others better without imposing your own projections or normal expectations that others should think and behave the way you do. At the same time you are keeping your own limitations in check so you don’t miss the other person’s abilities and weaknesses.
Probably the most important aspect of self-awareness a police officer can strive for is to be reasonably certain how others perceive you and of course how to change misperceptions that may be interfering with your efforts. Being honest, consistent, generally caring and real may be the best way to assure people are getting the right perception of who you are. Changing initial impressions usually meets with tough resistance, so it is smart to get this right from the beginning. And what starts out well always has the best chance of ending well.
2. Self-regulation. Since you can rarely be successful in controlling others, it makes most sense to focus on managing what you can about your own self. In managing your moods and emotions better, you can always think and solve problems more clearly without the unnecessary emotional interference, which always make things more difficult than they need to be. By good emotional management you are in a much better position to have a more positive influence on others in calming or exciting them, whichever the need may be.
When others perceive you to be struggling to control your own moods and feelings, or worse yet, they see you as out of control, you have seriously jeopardized your credibility and such credibility is needed to build the level of trust and rapport that is needed to better manage situations, especially the dangerous ones.
3. Social skills. This skill subset involves all the important behaviors that facilitate productive interpersonal relationships, mostly being good communication and reasonable likeability. A good communicator practices good listening and supportive communication. Good listening is using two-eared listening by hearing what is said and not said and how something is being said from what is being said. Supportive communication involves conveying equality, acceptance, sensitivity, freedom and spontaneity, in avoiding their opposites—superiority, judgment, insensitivity, control and manipulation—which create defensive communication and shuts down relationships.
Being likeable involves practicing several behaviors that help you being perceived that way—being honest, trustworthy, positive, agreeable, empathetic, fun-loving, a good listener, accepting, real and humble. Obviously communication and likeability are very inter-related and involve many of the same behaviors, so this is a two for one deal.
4. Empathy. Empathy may very well be the most important skill we can all possess and improve because it is so integral to success with others n the interpersonal level. By building rapport with others who read and reciprocate your empathy, relationships always develop into productive, healthy ones that are most satisfying.
Unfortunately you have to build your reserve of empathy by willfully exposing yourself to sometimes very painful life experiences and extremely adverse challenges. Fortunately a good medium for learning about empathy is the many books, TV shows and movies that base their story conflicts on it, or the lack of it. Empathy is the main bridge to focusing the commonalities between people and avoiding the noisy, annoying differences which always interfere.
5. Motivation. This skill involves making a shift from being motivated towards peak performance by external things like money, recognition, achievement, status, and job perks, to being intrinsically motivated in doing things well because that is an inherent reward all by itself. Research has always supported the conclusion that internal motivation is stronger and lasts longer than any combination of external motivators, which are always more temporary and ephemeral. Intrinsic motivation will always be with you.
Police Officers can begin building their E/SQ’s by starting to learn about any one of these critical skills (more than likely you already do these things, and I may just be naming them for you!). These skills build on each other and bring a respectable level of emotional/social intelligence needed in the interpersonal aspect of police work into much closer reach. If you are skeptical about the value of emotional intelligence, just do a quick Google search. Twenty eight million references can’t all be wrong!
Site Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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