Gorillas in the Mist and Emotional Intelligence


Gorillas in the Mist and Emotional Intelligence

2 minute read | By Colin | Emotional intelligence

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What we learnt about emotional intelligence from our trip to see the gorillas in the mist in Rwanda.

As some of you know we recently enjoyed a fantastic trip to Rwanda. This included two days tracking mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park where Diane Fosse did her pioneering research which was the inspiration for the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.

The trek to reach the gorillas started at 7am when we assembled at the base of the Volcanoes to be allocated our group for the day. Only 80 permits are issued per day and you are allowed a maximum of one hour with one of the ten habituated groups of Gorillas. Each group has between 10 and 20 members. Depending on which group you are allocated it can take between 1 and 3 hours of quite strenuous trekking before your first encounter.

Upon reaching our assigned family we were immediately struck by how they simply accepted us and how human they seemed. In particular their facial expressions and deep brown eyes seemed to quickly convey their innermost thoughts and feelings.

It reminded us of just how much we use facial expressions to quickly read the intentions of others. Research confirms this and there is profound agreement among academics that the face, along with the voice, body posture and hand gestures, forecast to outside observers what people will do.

Paul Ekman’s classic research showed that around the world people use the same expressions for communicating a range of thoughts and emotions including joy, approval, disgust, worry, etc. His work has since expanded into looking at how we indicate these thoughts and emotions often unwittingly in micro movements that can be detected if you heighten your awareness.

Research into emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman has shown that being skillful in reading other’s emotions is a key skill for successful leaders, managers and professionals.

How adept are you at reading the intentions of others through their facial expressions?

Do you consciously heighten your awareness to read faces?

Food for thought?

How else can we help?

Please share widely.

Ekman,P., & Rosenberg, E. (1997). What the Face Reveals. New York: Oxford University Press

Goleman D. Emotional Intelligence

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