Thursday, October 2, 2014

Emotional Intelligence: 3 Benefits for Chaplains

Emotional Intelligence is a newer term that has absolutely grabbed hold of the human resources world and business world. And, it makes sense as EI or EQ whichever you prefer has a good bit to do with how an employee perceives him/herself as well as others. It is built upon the concept of self-awareness. You, as a Chaplain, ought to be very familiar with the concept of self-awareness since having up to 1,200 or 1,600 hours of supervised clinical training through Clinical Pastoral Education. A lot of CPE is based on self-awareness. Self-discipline and discernment are also key elements of EI. A fun EI test to discover your level of emotional intelligence is found at this site: I completed it and found that while I had a high level of EI, there was much I could do to grow. This ‘test’ would make a good discussion starter in Chaplain meetings. There are three benefits a Chaplain will gain from improving EI: 1. Emotional Intelligence helps us to “read a room”. How many times have you been in a patient’s hospital, facility, or other room with family and friends in it and the dynamics were both subtle and obvious. What were you learning about those persons surrounding the patient? What did you think was happening with the dynamics? Did this information assist you in relating in a more effective manner with the family? The hospice Chaplain must be keen in this skill. 2. Emotional Intelligence helps the Chaplain to be aware of his or her own emotions and not let them ruin a visit. There will be those times when it would be very easy for the Chaplain to get caught up in an emotional situation and lose effectiveness. As I interviewed a candidate for a position, I noticed that in discussing the loss of his father, he broke down and wept. It was clear his mourning was not complete. This really could get in the way of his work with family members who were in the process of losing their father to death. A Chaplain must be aware of his emotions or risk losing his ability to serve. Now, I am not saying that a Chaplain cannot weep with those who weep. I am saying that transference and projection are not acceptable for the Chaplain. 3. Emotional Intelligence helps the Chaplain understand the emotions of the patient and family/caregiver(s). People need to feel understood. People, at times, exhibit strange emotions. People at end-of-life are allowed to exhibit challenging emotions. If the Chaplain cannot understand the patient or the family caregiver, then an opportunity to assist these folks is lost and their inner peace is at risk. The hospice Chaplain has a lot riding on her connection with the patient or family member. When the Chaplain connects and conveys understanding and shows it with appropriate body language, the patient feels able to unburden a potentially deeply burdened soul. As you can tell, we have barely scratched the surface of this topic. I encourage you to do your own study and exploration of this topic. It is broader and deeper than I imagined. And, Chaplain Friend, bless you as you live out your ministry.

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