Behavioral Baselines & Deviations: Their Role in Emotional Intelligence

A couple of weeks ago, our little Abbi Lou wasn't feeling well so I took her to the vet.

When Dr. Rice entered the room, she asked, "Same thing? A UTI?" 

"No, I don't think so," I replied, "Not this time. I think it's something else."
When Abbi disengages from interaction with us, curls up on a dining room chair, and doesn't move for 24 hours, I keep a close eye on her because I know those behaviors are indicative of one of two things: 
A bowel movement might be coming. (I know, I know…terrible topic for a blog post but this will help me make a point in just a moment so hang in there with me.)
If after 24-hours of lethargy she begins to cry (cat people know what I'm talking about), what will come next is a brief moment of silence followed by a dead sprint through the house (up the stairs, down the stairs, back up and down again) with human-sized turd mISSILES shooting out the back of her
Abbi only has bowel movements every 7 to 10 days due to her Megacolon that we've been managing the last five years with three medications twice-a-day, so when it's time...IT'S TIME! My husband and I can't decide if the two-minute sprint through the house is a celebration or if she thinks the turds are chasing her. Either way, it's quite a sight.
If it's just a bowel movement, a trip to the vet is unnecessary. Abbi celebrates with a special treat, resumes her normal behavior and all is good.
But...the 24-hours of lethargy could also mean...
A Urinary Tract Infection is setting in.
If after 24-hours she vomits, stops eating, and urinates uncontrollably outside her litter box (with noticeable differences in the appearance, smell, and consistency of it - I'll spare you the details beyond that), then I know it's likely she has a UTI.
We've observed this set of changes in behavior many times before because poor little Abbi is also one of those cats who has a UTI every four to six months. 
When these changes in behavior begin after the 24-hour period of lethargy, I scoop her up and take her to the vet to be treated.
So after I told Dr. Rice I didn't think it was a UTI, I shared with her a new set of behaviors that I had observed:
  • increased lethargy over the last seven days BUT still engaged and wanting to be pet 
  • not eating but periodically licking her wet food as if she wants to eat
  • staring at her food bowl for long periods of time as if she is zoned out or in a trance
  • drinking more than normal - lots of trips to the water bowl
  • urinating in the litter box more than normal with an appearance, smell, and consistency that are different than when she has a UTI (again, I'll spare you the details)
  • difficulty jumping onto furniture - missed our bed a few times, fell off, hurt herself, and walked with a limp for two days
  • walking gingerly though the house, often times appears as if she is inebriated
  • having difficulty holding her head and hind end up (in the last 24-hours)
  • rapidly losing weight - can feel her bones more than normal when petting her
  • no longer sleeping in bed with us
Based on what I shared, Dr. Rice surmised that Abbi's kidney values were out-of-whack so she ordered a blood test to confirm her suspicions.

She was correct so now YOURS TRULY gets to administer subcutaneous fluids for her cat EVERY DAY AT HOME! Argh!
where am I going with This?
Well...after I provided my observations, Dr. Rice said, "This is why we love you. You pay attention and can tell us everything we need to know."  Inquisitively, I said, "Doesn't everybody do that?" to which Dr. Rice replied, "No, they don't."

What I learned from Dr. Rice is that some pet owners are oblivious when their pets' deviate from their baseline behaviors which is why they often miss critical information needed to quickly recognize their illnesses and then make informed decisions as to how to best PROCEED.

What Does This Have To Do With Emotional Intelligence You Ask?
Knowing Baseline Behaviors - and - Recognizing Patterns of Deviation are Cornerstones for Situational-Awareness

Situational-Awareness is a Key Component of Emotional Intelligence


Pay Attention & Be Observant

Assume the role of an unbiased and objective observer of your environment and consciously choose to pay close attention to the following so that you may gather the data you need to identify and better understand the baselines of others:

  • non-verbal behaviors & mannerisms
  • the look and feel of their physical presence
  • pace, pitch, tone, and volume of their voice when they speak
  • their approach to communicating and interacting with others
  • the perspective through which they view & experience life (worldview)
  • cognitive process - how they process information & think about things
  • how they respond to various situations - both positive & negative
  • their priorities - what they seem to care about and focus on most often
  • their fears - what they seem to be concerned about most often


Turn Your Radar On, Keep It On & Be Genuinely Curious

Once you've gained a deeper understanding of someone's baseline when it comes to their mental & physical presence, continue to pay close attention to all the items noted above. In doing so, you're more likely to notice when they deviate from their baseline.

When you spot a deviation...

  • Delay your reaction and response to it until you're more informed as to what elicited it.
  • It may not mean anything at all so just make a mental note of it, keep your radar on, and continue to be curious. With time and additional observation, you might be able to identify what triggered it.
  • If you must respond to it, engage your curiosity and respond with a question. Perhaps something like, "It's not like you to get fired up about something like this. Is there something else going on that I'm not aware of, or am I perhaps missing some information?"


Recognize Patterns of Deviation

Always watch for multiple deviations that occur in clusters or succession. This will improve your accuracy in reading people.

  • When interacting with others, seek to recognize the...
  • various ways in which they deviate from their behavioral baselines and any recurring patterns that may exist
  • triggers for these deviations (people, situations, events, conversations, topics, projects, etc.)
  • insight these deviations provide as to what might be going on inside their head (what are they thinking and feeling)
  • This careful observation will allow you to...
  • be more aware of these triggers when they exist
  • predict things before they happen
  • make informed decisions as to how you navigate these deviations and their potential impact
  • If the patterns of deviation are positive and beneficial in nature, consider finding ways to reinforce and leverage them.
  • If the patterns of deviation are negative and harmful in nature, develop strategies you can use to proactively interrupt them when the triggers that elicit them are present again.
Your intuition and trust in yourself will dramatically improve your decision-making, timing and results when you strengthen your situational-awareness skills. Give this a try and shoot me a message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to let me know how it goes.
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September 24, 2019
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