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“Pause and Breathe”, Galit Cohen and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Pause and Breathe. Self-regulation is a crucial part of developing your emotional intelligence. If you’re upset, stressed or angry, do your best to pause and breathe. For example, say you’re in a business meeting and your colleague that was supposed to finish preparing the presentation failed to do so. Before you respond to them, take […]

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Pause and Breathe. Self-regulation is a crucial part of developing your emotional intelligence. If you’re upset, stressed or angry, do your best to pause and breathe. For example, say you’re in a business meeting and your colleague that was supposed to finish preparing the presentation failed to do so. Before you respond to them, take a deep breath, count down from 10 and then respond. You don’t want to say something out of anger that could permanently damage your relationship.


As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Galit Cohen of EQ Evolution.

Galit is a leadership coach that specializes in evolving Emotional Intelligence. As a third culture kid who came from a multicultural household, she learned that she was constantly negotiating several cultures within herself. As her cognitive and emotional awareness of her individual identity grew, so did her awareness of others. Her multiculturalism provided her with a trifocal lens to examine her relationship with others. Now she’s here to help others do the same.

Galit views leadership as a journey of personal transformation. She believes there is something magical about each person and seeks to help others find that magic in themselves.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’d love to! I grew in the D.C. area, in a multicultural home. My mother is Bolivian, and my father is Israeli, so two pretty different cultures. Growing up in the US but coming home to a place that was kind of like a hybrid of all three of our cultures led to constant switching between emotional frequencies. It taught me to always look at things from three different angles. The funny part is, I didn’t even realize my parents had accents until a classmate in the 4th grade pointed it out.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story

I’ve wanted to be a life coach since I was in high school, but I never thought it was realistic or possible. I had to work on my own self-limiting beliefs there! I’ve always been intrigued by intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics, studying them both in school but also in my free time.

Later, in graduate school I studied organizational development and leadership. I chose to do my capstone research project on ‘What Elements of Emotional Intelligence Millennials Value Most in the Workplace.’ Based on what I learned through my research, along with my personal experiences as a superviser throughout the years, I found there was a real need for leadership coaching that specialized in enhancing Emotional Intelligence

Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today?

My dad! He constantly helps me see my own potential. He’s always been there to support me, whether it’s sitting next to me while I finish a project or helping me think through an idea. Sometimes he comes back to me two days later with a good point on a conversation I had already forgotten. Needless to say, he’s both incredibly supportive and encouraging.

Funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career?

A couple years ago I was supporting a training in Uganda. I was only one month into the position, so this was my first international training with the organization I was working for.

When we arrived at the workshop venue, I was unpacking all of our supplies, and the lead trainer asked for the markers, so I handed her the pack I brought. She looked like a cross between a scowl and a panic and told me that we needed at least 50 more markers.

I didn’t know this at the time, but these training sessions were huge on colored markers and flip charts. It was sort of an unspoken rule that you bring at least 60 markers to a training. Lesson learned.

Sensing her stress, I reassured her I would find markers by day 1 of the training (tomorrow). I had no idea where I was going to get the markers from since our hotel wasn’t near any sort of convenience stores, and we had just landed in Kampala less that 24 hours ago, so I didn’t know my way around. I knew I was going to figure it out — I just didn’t know how.

Fast forward to day 1 of the training and I still couldn’t find any makers. They didn’t need them for the first half of the day, so I was OK. I knew they would need them after lunch, so during our break I just started asking around some of the locals that worked in the venue if they could point me towards where I could buy some markers.

Demi, a kind young man, offered to walk with me to a store down the street. He was chatting with me as we walked, but it was so hard for me to focus because I was in heels walking down a dirt road in Kampala.

I told him “Demi, I’m so sorry, I’m listening but I’m just a little scared of the road.” He was incredibly empathetic and told me he could tell and not to be embarrassed because if he was in my country, he might feel scared too. Then, he looked at me and said “We will have to cross the street.” I just stared at him like a deer in the headlights and said “Ok.”

I felt like I was living the scene in Disney’s Mulan, when the grandmother crosses the street closing her eyes, holding her lucky cricket. Demi was my lucky charm because I immediately just closed my eyes and instinctively grabbed his hand. When we got to the other side, I realized I had totally just invaded his personal bubble and profusely apologized for grabbing his hand. He laughed and told me not to worry.

I bought every single marker in the store. I actually think I still have some of them.

On the way back, Demi had his hand open and ready for me to grab it. I closed my eyes, and we crossed the street.

The mistake in this story isn’t as funny as what it led to, but the lesson to make sure you have enough markers! I’m just kidding, but I do suggest always asking new colleagues of possible “unspoken of” rules.

It also just shows how much we depend on others in new surroundings; and how little gestures of empathy can stay with a person for a lifetime. Demi and I actually stay in contact now!

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Believe in yourself! I know it’s not as simple as just reading those three words and feeling a sense of self-trust, but I would encourage them to actively work on their self-concept.

Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone — that builds confidence. Regularly evaluate how you’re talking to yourself. Are you cheering yourself on, or beating yourself down? Believing in yourself is often a journey, but you can 100% get there.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Brené Brown’s TED Talk, Power of Vulnerability! Brené’s talk helped me give myself “permission” to pursue a career that was rooted in personal development. It sounds so silly saying this now, but I was convinced for years that I had to pursue a career with only hard skills, thinking only IQ mattered. After college, I thought I had to master Microsoft Excel and get a desk job and do data entry and that’s just how it had to go (I did do that for a bit, by the way).

Her talk, and her work in general, helped me assure myself that that wasn’t the only path, and that there’s so much value to working on “soft skills” and supporting others’ growth as individuals. When you grow personally, you grow professionally, too.

The personal growth that comes from being vulnerable is truly transformative. Everyone should watch if you haven’t yet! She’s also a fantastic speaker.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ― Vincent Willem van Gogh

A lot of my work revolves around silencing inner critics, overcoming self-doubt and developing confidence. This quote perfectly captures the limitations we place on ourselves, but also our ability to redefine those limits.

When you take action, your self-doubt disappears, but you have to push through the discomfort of thinking you can’t, to know you can.

Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

My life is entrenched in Emotional intelligence. I’m a leadership coach that specializes in growing emotional intelligence. The name of my coaching business, “EQ Evolution” embodies my unique approach — a focus on increasing clients’ overall emotional intelligence. I love the subject and both study and practice it every day.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

There are five pillars under the emotional intelligence umbrella: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy, Social Skills.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

What we normally refer to as intelligence is IQ (intelligence quotient), which technically refers to how quickly a person can process new information, but I think people also use it to refer to how educated and informed a person is.

IQ and EQ are pretty different! IQ refers to just cognitive abilities, analytic thought, and technical skills. EQ, on the other hand, refers to how we handle ourselves and how we handle our relationships with others. It uses holistic thought.

If you look up graphics on the difference between the two, you’ll probably see a brain representing IQ and a heart representing EQ. But the truth is, EQ is so much more than that. Being emotionally intelligent involves your mind, body and spirit.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

  1. It helps you understand yourself. Getting to know yourself is crucial for living a happy and fulfilled life. You need to be able to reflect on your actions and bring awareness to what causes you to make your decisions. For example, if you long to be in a committed relationship but you keep finding yourself leaving relationships when their get serious. You might discover you’re afraid of getting hurt, but you need to bring awareness to this in order to course correct. Otherwise, you’ll just keep repeating the same cycle.
  2. It enables you to connect with others. As humans, we’re naturally social creatures. But we all have our own versions of reality, and this can cause friction. Empathy is the underlying component of human connection. We need to be willing to try and understand others’ perspectives and feelings in order to form connections with them. No one likes to feel unheard.
  3. Happiness. Those who have fortified the EQ competency “positive outlook” look at setbacks as opportunities, and the generally have a “glass half full” perspective on life. For example, if you get rejected from your dream job, you could look at it as an opportunity to dream even bigger and apply to even better positions.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

Absolutely! Coming from my multicultural family, I learned to listen both deeply and empathetically to anyone that was communicating with me. Even though we are a small unit of three family members, we call came from different cultures, so even though we interacted closely every day, does not mean there wasn’t confusion among us. To be able to understand one another it was imperative that we listened with the intention of understanding, as opposed to simply responding.

The empathy I developed in my childhood has been an enormous factor is the relationships I’ve cultivated throughout the years, and the ease with which I’ve been able to navigate new settings. I’ve lived in Brazil and Spain, traveled to places like India, Morocco, and Uganda for work and school, and never had much of an issue communicating with those from different backgrounds because I always enter a situation with the intention to understand first.

On an even more personal level, practicing self-awareness and regularly dedicating time to understand my thoughts and feelings empowers me to change anything that doesn’t make me feel good. If I realize I’m avoiding doing something, and I’m also upset with myself because I haven’t done said thing, I reflect on why I haven’t done it. If I find underlying fear, I work through the fear and take action. That in turn grows my self-trust and confidence, and ultimately leaves me feeling empowered and happy.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

So much of the business world is dealing with people. You need to be able to build relationships and maintain trust.

Say you’re in a managerial position, you can’t lash out on your team regularly and expect them to have a high level of trust in you. By not managing your own emotions, you can create an emotionally and psychologically unsafe work environment for those around you.

Let’s take a more positive example. If you are empathetic you can tune into how your colleagues are feeling. This can help you make decision in how to support them. If they’re feeling unmotivated, maybe they need to be pushed. If they’re feeling insecure maybe they need to be encouraged. If they are feeling upset, maybe they need to be heard.

In the words of Daniel Goleman, understanding the powerful role of emotions, both their own and others’, sets the best leaders apart from the rest.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

Many problems stem for misunderstandings, and people not being on the same page, but more importantly not trying to get on the same page. When both parties are just trying to be understood, instead trying to understand, you both lose.

This is where empathy comes in. You need to be open to hearing where the other person is coming from and make an effort to understand how their feelings. It shows how much you care.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

The faster you recognize your emotions, the faster you can manage them in a way that’s most beneficial to yourself.

Say for example you’re feeling anxious. Your heart rate is going up, you’re sweating, you’re worried. Emotional intelligence helps you identify that you’re feeling anxious. Your EQ also prompts you to self-regulate. So, for example take a few deep breathes, go for a walk, watch some Netflix or maybe phone a friend.

Can you recommend ​five things​ that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Journal. Journaling helps take tangled up thoughts, that may be causing you discomfort, from your mind out and onto paper when you can organize it. A personal example is, when lockdowns started, I wasn’t seeing a lot of people, and I convinced myself I hadn’t had any fun in my life, and that I was never going to get a chance to have fun again. No matter how much I thought about all the fun times I’ve had in my life I couldn’t shake this anxious feeling that I wasted my time and wasn’t going to get a chance to have fun again. I decided to get out of my head onto paper. I made a list of my favorite memories. I realized that the fear of uncertainty, had manifested into the fear of never experiencing my old life again. Getting all of that out of my head an onto paper made me make sense of what I was going through.
  2. Get feedback. Ask people you trust, like your close friends and family, to give you feedback on how you come across to them. When I was in college, I took an interpersonal communication class, where I had to ask both acquaintances and close friends to fill out a survey about their impressions of me (awkward, right?). I remember getting the results and being so surprised that some acquaintances from class thought I was quiet! I always thought of myself as such a chatter box. However, when it came to classes and meetings, I think very carefully about what I say before I say anything. I processes internally, so it makes complete sense that I would come across as quiet to them, because I wasn’t talking the whole class. I would have never realized that’s one-way people can view me, if I hadn’t gotten that feedback.
  3. Devil’s Advocate. Playing devil’s advocate is a good way practice seeing other’s perspective and training yourself to develop empathy. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in real time with someone who’s either upset or venting to you, as that can invalidate their feelings. But try to imagine the world from other person’s perspective, could be your friend, colleague, or even a movie character.
  4. Name your feelings. We can’t change what we don’t bring awareness to. Psychologist Dan Siegal refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” Say you forgot to water your neighbor’s favorite plant while they were on vacation like you promised you would, and it died. You might feel guilty. If you say out loud, you’re feel guilty gives you an opportunity to step back and decide what you want to do. In this example, it can open the doors for you to confess you mistake, apologize and perhaps correct it by getting them a new plant. If you don’t do anything, the emotion isn’t going to go away. It needs to be addressed and worked through.
  5. Pause and Breathe. Self-regulation is a crucial part of developing your emotional intelligence. If you’re upset, stressed or angry. Do your best to pause and breathe. For example, say you’re in a business meeting and your colleague that was supposed to finish preparing the presentation failed to do so. Before you respond to them, take a deep breath, count down from 10 and then respond. You don’t want to say something out of anger that could permanently damage your relationship.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

I do. I would definitely say empowering teachers with any sort of training or resources they may need to strengthen their own emotional intelligence. Outside of their home, school is the biggest place kids spend their days, and therefore teachers are huge role models to them. So, I think it’s important to start there.

In terms of actual curriculum, it could be beneficial to incorporate basic emotional awareness classes for younger students, like “this is what anger looks like, this is what fear feels like, this what sadness looks like” etc. Also, maybe a class on emotional management skills, like taking a deep breathing exercising for when kids are feeling anxious or angry.

Denmark has mandatory empathy classes in their schooling system, and they’re in the top three happiest countries in the world. We could probably learn a thing or two from them!

I think certain restrictions and limitations to the use of technology would be useful as well. I might be a little biased because when I was in high school, my school made a rule against any phones or iPods (back when iPods were a thing). I remember being so annoyed by it as a teenager but looking back on it I’m so grateful. We were forced to interact and connect with each other in real life.

I watched the Social Dilemma a couple months ago on Netflix, and it genuinely scared me to my core. Tech designers now have the ability to control how we think, which in turn affects how we feel. It’s negatively affecting so many people’s mental health. Whatever schools can do intervene, whether that’s provide education around the topic or try and restrict use during afterschool activities, I think they should.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Just one? This might be the toughest question of the interview! I’ll stick to the general theme of the interview, and say, if I could inspire a movement, it would around empathetic listening and stepping away from technology and focusing on real life human connection.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Gary Vaynerchuk. I’ve been watching a lot of his videos lately, and I think his story is really inspiring. I love that he talks about how he wasn’t the best student, and basically the only person that told him he could be someone was his mom, and now he’s massively successful. It just shows how many different types of intelligences there are, and how most traditional school systems don’t celebrate that.

I also love how much he interacts with his supporters and actively promotes kindness. And of course, I’m sure he would give excellent business advice!

Please do tag him, it would be so cool if he saw!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is https://www.eq-evolution.com

Instagram: @galitfabiola

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/galit-f-cohen-9649ab9b/

EQ Evolution’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/EQ-Evolution-109424940879256

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