The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Education with Arsho Kalloghlian

The Power of Emotional Intelligence in Education with Arsho Kalloghlian

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Are teachers the key to nurturing emotional intelligence in students?

In this episode of School Behaviour Secrets, we delve into emotional intelligence with psychotherapist Arsho Kalloghlian. We explore the significance of emotional maturity, its role in helping students build positive relationships, and the lifelong advantages of emotional intelligence.

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Show notes / transcription

Arsho Kalloghlian  0:00  

With teachers, inclusivity, making others feel included, noticing, taking notice of those who are shy and isolated and inviting them to sit together and, you know, helping each other in the classroom. Not being about, I need to be the best or I need to win. It's all about let's all teach each other and let's all raise each other up.

Simon Currigan  0:24  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to this week's episode of school behaviour secrets. This is the show where we dissect complex educational issues with a cultural sensitivity of Attila the Hun on a migraine day. I'm joined today as ever by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:20  

Hi, Simon. 

Simon Currigan  1:21  

Emma, I'd like to start this week's show by asking you a quick question

Emma Shackleton  1:24  

Go on. 

Simon Currigan  1:25  

What's the worst example of emotional intelligence you've ever seen in real life?

Emma Shackleton  1:31  

You mean like an example where somebody hasn't shown emotional intelligence? I guess? 

Simon Currigan  1:36  

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. 

Emma Shackleton  1:37  

Where somebody's been really oblivious of other people's needs that kind of thing?

Simon Currigan  1:41  

Yeah, that's it. 

Emma Shackleton  1:43  

Okay, well, maybe in a school context, I've come across, I have to say a really small number of adults. But I've walked away and concluded that they don't actually like children. They are quite rare. But sometimes those adults I feel are so out of sync with what the pupils need, for example, when they insist that a child is being naughty, when actually there's clearly an underlying reason for the way that that child's behaving. And maybe they've got like a known history of trauma or something like that. Is that what you mean? Can you think of a better example to share?

Simon Currigan  2:18  

Alright, so when I was in Sixth Form, my granddad died, and I was away for a day, and I came back the next day, and one of my teachers said, Oh, you was away the other day and he sort of said, you know, what had happened? And I said, Oh, my granddad died, I had to go to the hospital. And then I think he was just socially awkward and and he just sort of joked, Did you have anything to do with it? He completely misread the room, even the other kids who were you know, were only 16. All of us thought, Oh, that felt a bit awkward. I will add to that. It's not just other people. You know, I have accidentally used the name of the wrong bride at a wedding. It was the name of an ex wife, which was a little bit awkward. But you know, just started out. Yeah, that kind of emotional intelligence, you know? Yeah. Failed

Emma Shackleton  3:00  

I suppose really, we've all got capacity to make those blunders, even people who are very emotionally intelligent, I guess you're never all or nothing. Everyone's got the chance to make those little social faux pas.

Simon Currigan  3:13  

It all depends on the situation you're in and the pressure you're under.

Emma Shackleton  3:16  

Absolutely, okay, so how is this relevant to today's episode?

Simon Currigan  3:21  

Well, first of all, I thought it'd be funny, but mostly it's because in this week's episode, we're sharing my conversation with Arsho Kalloghlian. Arsho is an expert psychotherapist from Sydney, right on the other side of the world. And she is talking to us today about emotional intelligence, what it is, why it's important, and how to teach it well to our students so that they can succeed and thrive, not just in school, but later on in life too. So we can have a long term impact.

Emma Shackleton  3:49  

Oh that sounds really interesting. But before we go ahead and share that interview, I'd like to ask our listeners a favour. If you're finding this show helpful or valuable, then please don't keep it to yourself. Go over to your podcast app and share it with maybe two or three colleagues or friends who you think would also find the content interesting too. All you've got to do is open up your podcast app, hit the share button, and your app can text them or message them or email them or WhatsApp them or tweet them or whatever. A direct link. And now here's Simon's conversation with Arsho about teaching emotional intelligence to students.

Simon Currigan  4:29  

I'm super excited to welcome this week's guest Arsho Kalloghlian into the show. Arsho is a practising psychotherapist with a private practice in the Brellah Health Centre in Sydney's Northern Beaches. She trained in psychotherapy because she wanted to gain a better understanding about the human psyche and behaviour and has developed a senior school programme aimed at teaching kids the skills they need to foster lasting relationships in life. Arsho, welcome to the show.

Arsho Kalloghlian  4:57  

Thank you, Simon.

Simon Currigan  4:58  

We're going to focus today on emotional intelligence, a really important topic. So let's start with the basics. What is emotional intelligence? And why is it so important?

Arsho Kalloghlian  5:09  

Well, to explain what it is, it's better to start with what is not emotional intelligence. And it's much it makes it much easier to understand it. So what is not- someone who's not very developed in their emotional maturity is someone who's easily offended, very reactive. They discard relationships quite easily when things are not going their way, or they're not happy in a relationship, they're always striving to make themselves look better than others, they have this tendency to believe they are right and the other person must be wrong. So it's very self focused. On the other hand, someone who is developed emotional maturity, someone who's not very reactive, they're very peaceful. They accept that people are genuinely flawed, including themselves. They don't have any higher idea about themselves than they do about other people. They recognise that human beings are fundamentally flawed. And it's not. When people say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing. It's not such a big deal. They're very quick to forgive. And they're very quick to ask for forgiveness, because of their realistic expectations of people. And they tend to be more focused on nurturing relationships rather than discarding them. So they're more the peacemakers. So they try to understand before they're being understood, they consider others point of view before they can't they make their own decision about something. It's all about managing one's emotions in a mature way. If you like in a nutshell, it's about valuing relationships.

Simon Currigan  6:57  

Why do you feel that some children some students develop better emotional intelligence than others?

Arsho Kalloghlian  7:04  

in large parts, children who have parents with emotional maturity tend to be more emotionally mature themselves. It is a learned way of being we're not born with emotional intelligence, IQ to a certain extent, we are born with either very high IQ or low IQ. But emotional intelligence is something that every human being can develop. It's not set by any means. And someone who has grown up in a low emotional, mature environment has the capacity to later develop emotional maturity, as they experience a better way of being and relating with others.

Simon Currigan  7:49  

I think that's a really important message, isn't it? People aren't stuck where they are. They're not fated by their genes to be a certain way. It's a really hopeful message. Actually,

Arsho Kalloghlian  7:56  

it is. It's very empowering. Yeah,

Simon Currigan  7:58  

Yeah, it's absolutely it's really, really empowering. You've started talking broadly about what emotional intelligence is, what sort of specific skills are people using, when they're showing high levels of emotional intelligence, you know, can we get some specificity about what they're doing that's different? 

Arsho Kalloghlian  8:15  

Theyre not reactive, theyre not offensive and defensive when they're in an argument. They're more at peace with themselves and with others, they're, I would say developed emotional maturity is someone who's at peace. They're all about understanding people, bringing people together, creating a healthy culture, whether it's in the workplace, you know, I wherever they're found, they're usually the ones that try to bring people together and help others understand each other. They usually want to resolve the conflict in a win win situation. Instead of being so focused about winning or right and wrong way of doing things. They're very creative problem solving.

Simon Currigan  9:00  

It sounds like these are people that think beyond themselves.

Arsho Kalloghlian  9:03  

Exactly. It's about the good of the whole instead of being very individualistic.

Simon Currigan  9:09  

How is emotional intelligence related to a person's success in life? 

Arsho Kalloghlian  9:12  

Well, relationships are fundamental in work and career in family in romantic relationships, in any kind of success. Whether you're striving for career success or marital success or relational success, or even the success between a parent and child it all boils down to how you do relationships. And person who has developed and high EQ can actually raise the EQ of another person who is not well developed in that area, through their maturity and wisdom in how they handle situation and how they handle the other person's emotionality. So it is fundamental in success because as a lot of workplaces have recognised that they can employ someone who's very high in IQ. But when that person had doesn't have high EQ, and IQ and EQ are not interrelated, someone with very high IQ, or very high academic accomplishments can in fact be very low in their emotional maturity in their EQ. And what they tend to do is it's all about winning at any cost. It's about stepping over others to raise themselves up to look important to be recognised to be noticed. And how dare anyone not recognise their talents and accomplishments and not reward them for it? So everything can be very emotionally based, if they're not developed in that sense. So what that people have found is that someone who does have very developed emotional intelligence, they're the peacemakers. They're the ones that work well, in a team. They bring teams together. They're cooperative and collaborative when it comes to working on projects. So and they are teachable. They're easily trainable, because they judge act like they know everything, or, you know, how dare you tell me what to do mind how to do my job kind of attitude. So for that reason, yeah, it does impact greatly the success of a person's even career life, as well as establishing really healthy relationships and making it last.

Simon Currigan  11:35  

You know, I used to work in I.T. And I did a degree in computer science. And there is this myth about people that work with computers, they've all got terrible social skills and terrible EQ, it's not true. But I have met a number of people who were so talented intellectually, in their field, you know, you would think that these are the people that we want, they're at the forefront of knowledge, they're gonna give us access to all sorts of information and capacity in terms of what we can offer. And yet, they just destroy teams, actually, you know, because you're undermined any authority they had, to some extent, they were poisonous,

Arsho Kalloghlian  12:12  

They can create very toxic culture, and it can sidetrack a project, it can put people off from the work, they can cause a lot of division and strife. People, even though they may love the work that they do, may not be able to tolerate the toxicity of the workplace culture and have to live the work that they love doing. So whether Yeah, whether it's the CEO or down at the bottom, emotional intelligence is really important for the success of the business.

Simon Currigan  12:42  

I want to think about the kids I've taught as well, when you're thinking about group work, how you arranged the kid socially, you are always you might not be thinking explicitly, well, I need to think about the EQ of the kids, but actually you kind of informally considering how is this child going to impact this group? If I put it in? If they do have those poor emotional skills? You touched on earlier that emotional intelligence, right? It's not something you have or you don't have. It's something that you can develop at any stage of life. And I think he started to hint at one of the ways we can support other people is through role modelling with adults who have successful EQ. And thinking about in terms of teachers, what are the sort of things that they can do specifically to encourage students to develop their emotional intelligence, whether they're at the low end of the scale? Or the high end of the scale? How do we help them improve wherever they are with their emotional intelligence?

Arsho Kalloghlian  13:35  

Yeah, good question with teachers, inclusivity, making others feel included, noticing, taking notice of those who are shy and isolated and inviting them to sit together and, you know, helping each other in the classroom not being about I need to be the best or I need to win. It's all about let's all teach each other and let's all raise each other up in our in the information that we are learning. So it's important that as well as role modelling by making the students feel valued, seen and heard, it is also important that they talk about these things because it is caught as well as it's taught. So it is important for them to communicate, saying, you know, Joe, why don't you invite Tom to come and sit with you Tom sitting on his own over there. Or you know, when you go out playing, do you take notice, so children who are on their own and they don't have anyone to play with and invite them to play with you share your lunch with people who don't have any lunch, they've forgotten it at home or havent brought one, so it's all about bringing into their awareness of how to be with one another. And children being like sponges, they do learn those things very, very quickly. And it actually makes them feel very safe in an environment where that's type of nurturing is taking place.

Simon Currigan  15:02  

It sounds like we have to be really specific around classroom culture

Arsho Kalloghlian  15:05  

Very much so, very much that the teacher does set the tone in a classroom to make every student feel seen, heard and valued as a person, whether they're, you know, very outspoken, and it's very active in the classroom, or they're very quiet a chance to sit at the back of the classroom, and usually very shy, and they don't interact. So it's up to the teacher to be able to manage it so that they all feel equally important.

Simon Currigan  15:32  

And I love what you said earlier, it's caught as well as taught reinforcing that as the adult at the front of the classroom, we have such impact that we might not realise. I want to talk about your work teaching relational skills. So if you're a listener haven't come across the term relational before, it just means relationship skills. These are the skills we need as adults to develop positive, lasting relationships, your works really, really interesting. Can you tell us about what you've been doing? And what prompted you to develop your work on relational skills?

Arsho Kalloghlian  16:03  

Thanks, Simon. The way I came to develop this was when I personally was going through a very rough time, my relationship. And I did come across specific relational skills that helped turn my relationship around completely. And they were things like letting go of things that are not that important, not needing to be right in the relationship not being controlling, having realistic expectations of the other person instead of expecting them to be a certain way and do certain things and you can't be happy. And unless they aren't doing those things, and focusing on nurturing relationship instead of the outward behaviours. So when, you know things like forgiving easily and asking for forgiveness, instead of giving the silent treatment when things weren't going your way, and you know, retaliating when someone you know, the other person, my spouse, did something that really angered me, and, you know, just retaliated in order to make him realise how much it hurts me instead of communicating it with him. And what that did was in the way that I used to behave or react, it just deteriorated relationship very, very badly, to a point where I couldn't imagine myself coexisting in that way for the rest of my life. So and when I did learn these specific relational skills, and I started applying it, I was amazed at how it completely turned my relationship around over time. It wasn't an overnight thing but persisting and persevering with it actually turns my relationship around. And I started thinking, why don't more people learn these skills in order to help them because at the same time, we were a group of twelve couples who always hang out together, we got married around the same time, had children around the same time, and four out of twelve couples ended up divorcing and that really broke me. I could not understand how two people who are so in love could end up hating each other so much and caused so much damage to the other person. That was when I started thinking this skills need to be taught before it gets to that heated stage. Because once you're emotionally aroused, and you know, very in that destructive mode, you're not in a headspace to learn any new skills or new ways of being. So I started thinking this isn't to be taught in high school in senior high school specifically, so that students are well equipped for their relationships or when they leave school because once they leave school, it's up to them whether they pursue knowledge of you know how to do relationships. And I don't know if you've come across this, but most people think they know how to do relationships. And if things aren't going right, it's the other person's fault, not theirs.

Simon Currigan  19:08  

Absolutely. Is the default position for most people, isn't it? 

Arsho Kalloghlian  19:11  

For most people, Yes. So that's when I started educating myself in that field and took a year off to write the programme and started approaching schools to teach the senior high school students about relationships on what works best, how to have realistic expectations, instead of my expectations, or unrealistic expectations of a relationship which only lead to destruction. It doesn't take much for the relationship to downward spiral.

Simon Currigan  19:38  

What I like about this approach is it's sowing the seeds for future success. When you need to be sowing the seeds. When people are younger. You're teaching the skills before they're in a situation where they're going to need those skills. It's not like they're going to suddenly arrive think, oh, all of a sudden, I need to learn this. Now I'm in this situation that I'm having difficulty with the relationship, ideally with every other aspect of life. We're really proactive and say what the kids need to survive in the real world. But here like you say, there's been kind of a blind spot in education. Could you tell me a little bit about what that programme looks like in the classroom? If I was to watch what was being taught or how its taught? Could you help me imagine that?

Arsho Kalloghlian  20:14  

Yes, we just start from the beginning, we do start with about healthy development, what healthy development looks like we did talk about healthy attachment between parents and child, because I feel those are the fundamentals that senior high school students need to know that about, you need to be aware of just how much their actions, their words, have an effect on a child. And as a mother of three, I had no idea about how my actions and words were impacting my children until it was pretty late. So I think it is important. So I just start by, according to Erickson, a child's sense of security and trust is established in the first 18 months of their life. So I do start by talking about the importance of establishing healthy security and trust for the child, and then how that then impacts their reactivity and their way of being later in life. And then we talk about that not being set in stone that even if a child hasn't had healthy development, it's not too late to develop, how to be healthy later in life. And what promotes health is actually a relationship that is very caring and accepting of the other person. That's when we begin to heal. So a person who has had very traumatic childhood, and is quite emotionally underdeveloped, and they don't know how to be in a relationship, they are very reactive. When the other person has an understanding about what causes those kinds of behaviours, they're able to help that person, through their patience, unconditional acceptance of that person, and role modelling emotional maturity, trying to understand them, instead of just reacting to their actions, they're able to heal and help the other person mature in their emotional maturity as well. We talk about how empowering it is for one person to develop emotional maturity in order to help the other person also raise their emotional maturity level. And that is actually very empowering. Because when we go into a relationship, thinking, I need to be happy, what makes me happy, I need to have these boxes ticked, in order for me to be happy in a relationship, we're putting the power completely in the other person's hands. But when we say I can contribute, I can make a difference through my own behaviours and attitudes, I can make all the difference in a relationship and actually help the other person heal and also mature. That's very empowering, because it's all in your hands. It's not in the hands of the other person. And we talk about, we unpack what love actually is, there's such misunderstanding about what love is, and love does start off by being based on emotions and feelings and how you feel about a person. But that doesn't last as most adults know. Feelings do change. And we find that most people panic when their feelings change, thinking that that initial falling in love phase should last for the rest of their lives. But it actually does take a different shape. And after a while, it becomes a decision to love the other person regardless of what their feelings, whether they feeling it or not. So when you do invest in the relationship and behave as though you love the other person love actually begins to grow again. So these are the kinds of things that we cover. 

Simon Currigan  23:53  

And that's important for everyone to know, isn't it? Because if you go into a relationship with unrealistic expectations and know what's kind of in inverted commas, normal but love to progress, then, you know, that's going to lead to success. What's the impact of teaching these skills well? You know, particularly in a systematic way for our students and society in general?

Arsho Kalloghlian  24:14  

I do believe that it needs to be part of the curriculum, there are so many topics that are taught in schools that are either relevant or irrelevant for a person's career or the rest of their lives. And I find relationships, every human being is going to be in some sort of relationship, whether at work in a romantic relationship relationship with their own families. So I think there are better fundamental skills that every person needs to learn going into the world to do life. And I think the best time to teach them is in the senior high school years where there is that maturity and most senior high schoolers do get into relationships quite young. So it is important that they know how to navigate through the difficult times.

Simon Currigan  25:05  

If you're a teacher, a school leader listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take today, To start helping your pupils improve their emotional intelligence and their relational skills?

Arsho Kalloghlian  25:16  

The first step would be to take healthy interest in the students and being really interested in how they're travelling what they need, why are they performing well or not performing? Just to find out more about them ask questions, make them feel seen, make them feel cared about, because what research has found is that when a student perceives that the teacher cares for them, that actually improves their capacity to learn. When our brain is in a relaxed state, we are more accepting of information, we're more capable of processing information and not understanding, making sense of it, and then being able to express it. So there are different levels of process that learning goes through. And when a child feels safe in a classroom, and they feel the teacher cares about them, and they're not going to be left behind. They're not going to be in trouble if they haven't done their homework, but rather, the teacher takes interest as to why they haven't been able to do it. And then ask them, What can I do to help you so that you are able to do it next time. And just having that caring and nurturing relationship between teacher and child helps them to be at ease, and it actually teaches them to be more relaxed and more accepting of other students. And as we said before, it's not just role modelling, but actually talking about what emotional maturity is, and making others feel included in whatever they are doing.

Simon Currigan  26:51  

And how can our listeners find out more about your resources and your curriculum,

Arsho Kalloghlian  26:55  

They can visit my website, There are some resources there. There are a lot of research material on child development and learning that is available. One of the researchers is by Barbara Fredrickson, 2003, Powell and Anderson 1985. These are some of the researchers that really explain how learning takes place, and what kind of classroom environments a teacher can create, in order for the students to really excel

Simon Currigan  27:31  

Perfect. And I'll drop direct links to your resources in the episode description for anyone who wants to find out more. And finally, we asked this of all our guests, who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read, that's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?

Arsho Kalloghlian  27:47  

Well, that's an interesting one, because for me, it was my faith that led me to discover these unique and very counterintuitive relational skills that I came across. I became a Christian at the age of 29. And that was when I thought the only way to really find out more is to read the Bible. And I did that from cover to cover. not realising that that's not actually the norm. In reading that, when I came across things about relationships, such as turning the other cheek, doing to others, what you want them to do to you, going the extra mile, forgiving, so that we may be forgiven, forgiving, even when it's not deserved. I found these extremely empowering tools to apply to my own relationship, which helped turn my relationship completely around over time. As I said, it was about letting things go instead of feeling that, you know, I had to argue about everything and causes strife and make sure that, you know, my husband was listening to me, and if he didn't get upset, if he's I said something once and he didn't do it. So I learned to let those things go. And then you know, talk about them. When we were in a more calm state. It's not about being a doormat, which something that I get asked quite a lot. It's not about you know, turning the other cheek is not about, you know, the other person doing whatever they want, and you just put up with it. It really is about choosing the timing, doing it in a compassionate way. Doing it in a way that's going to preserve and nurture the relationship. Being wise about it. Choosing your words wisely. Timing and find is very, very important. You know, you don't start saying things as soon as they walk in the door and they're tired and they've had a really long day at work. So it was about developing the skills on how to approach those challenging differences that happening every relation in most relationships. and how to navigate through them and come out the other end with a better understanding about each other. And doing things differently when something's not working, not trying to make it work, but thinking of different ways of doing it so that it did work,

Simon Currigan  30:15  

Thought provoking stuff, thought provoking stuff, you shared some really deep insights, I think into how we all relate children and adults to other people. You know, this is really, really valuable work. I can see that. Absolutely. Thank you for being on the show today.

Arsho Kalloghlian  30:29  

Thank you, Simon, thank you for inviting me to be on the show.

Simon Currigan  30:33  

It's been an absolute pleasure.

Emma Shackleton  30:35  

Arsho makes a really important point there about how emotional intelligence is an area that affects how we succeed in all sorts of aspects of our lives, our schooling, our relationships, our families.

Simon Currigan  30:48  

it was really interesting to talk to her and I'll put direct links to her resources in the episode description, so it's easy to find out more.

Emma Shackleton  30:54  

And of course, if you're working with children who have difficulty with their emotions, we've got a free download that can help.

Simon Currigan  31:01  

It's called How to help children manage anger and other strong emotions. And it will take you through one approach called Emotional scaling to help your students improve their emotional awareness, and better regulating emotions like anger or anxiety or fear.

Emma Shackleton  31:15  

Yeah, and it's full of practical techniques, and even gives you resources that you can print out and use with your students. All you've got to do to get your hands on the guide is visit click on the free resources section near the top, and you'll find the free resource pack near the top of the page. Remember, it's called How to help children manage anger and other strong emotions. And we'll put a direct link in the episode description.

Simon Currigan  31:43  

And if you've liked what you've heard today, and you want to hear more, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you never miss another episode. All you have to do is open up your podcast app and press the subscribe button. It's completely free. What's not to love. And after subscribing to this podcast, you'll want to celebrate like a victorious Knight returning from battle. Put on your finest armour or at least to clean his fast grab a turkey leg and a Flagon of mead. Mount the nearest broomstick and pretend it's a horse and start announcing your success to the nearest peasants proclaiming Hear ye hear ye I have conquered the podcast world. I mean, look, this sort of thing can only increase your social standing with your neighbours. So why not get started now

Emma Shackleton  32:26  

And that is definitely all we've got time for today. We hope you have a great week and we look forward to seeing you next time on school aid secrets. Bye for now. 

Simon Currigan  32:36  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)