Emotional Intelligence: Reflective Writing




(b) Description of Incident

1. Context

This was one of the most intriguing experiences in my life. Having gone through a ten week life skills and personality training program, we were at the climax of it: a watershed event that marked initiation into the pool of successful graduands. Normally, the theoretical work on personal strengths, weaknesses, leadership style and many other facets in the program are tested in the physical activities in the watershed event camp. Prior to enrollment for the weekend long camp, we were duly warned of the challenges. One was required to attend with an open mind, ready to face their fears and push themselves to new limits. So here I was- ready to take on any challenge that was abounding. From previous classes, we were aware that our fear for heights, depths and many other fear-factors will be put to test. Though it was a “challenge by choice” event, I resolved to go through all the challenges and overcome all my fears. We dressed up in safety gear and lined up for the first challenge- jumping off a waterfall in a distance equivalent to two floors of a building! Immediately, I could feel my heart racing and ensured that I was way behind in the queue. However, the facilitators chose to use raffle tickets to decide who went first- and mine turned up as the debutant. Never before had I felt that scared. I trembled visibly, fearing for my life and blackmailed by my own vow to take all challenges that were in the offing. 

2. Those Present and their Roles

Standing on the edge of the cliff on a small improvised platform were fellow classmates looking forward to the challenge. They were all dressed in safety gear including life jackets and helmets. The latter ensured that there were no physical injuries on the head as one descended the waterfall into the landing river bed beneath, as well as floated safely in the deep landing zone without a struggle. The colleagues’ role was to boost morale and shouted slogans with my name as soon as it was determined that I was taking the challenge first. Beside me was the instructor who briefed me on how to make a safe jump as the photographers watched from a close distance ready to take a decent shot. 

(c) Reasons for Increased physiological Arousal

My arousal increased due to the fear of the unknown. I had not seen anyone else jump off the cliff before and was thus unsure of the outcome. While I was well dressed in safety gear to shield me from any physical injuries and also any possibilities of drowning, such were not sufficient assurances. For one, the instructor warned me to jump far enough from the initial position to avoid falling back into the wall of the cliff as it was not entirely straight. This made me shiver and consider what could go wrong. If I made a poor jump or slid as I came along, a huge impact with the wall of the cliff could materialize and cause severe injuries. This fear compounded by the pressure of going first and hence needing to set a strong precedent increased the physiological arousal. I needed to be safe, and again, I couldn’t fail.

Table 1: Reflection on the effect of emotion on behavior

EmotionBehaviorEffect of emotion on behavior
The first emotion was fear. First, I was fearful of taking the first jump over a cliff with falling water on one side-the site of it was horrific. I could not picture myself going down all the distance and setting a good example to the rest of the group. I also feared for my life. It was possible that something could go wrong following the description given by the instructor. I not only feared that I could end up with disabling injuries but also dead if something went wrong with the challenge. Apart from fear, I also developed anxiety. There was a long period of prepping in which the facilitator issued instructions on how to take the jump, ask for help if something went wrong after landing and safety swimming positions. I just wanted it all to end and take the jump. The more the details given, the more I became anxious. The anxiety was however a long term emotion that had been sustained since my arrival to the camp. I wanted to know what were going to experience, the dangers involved and how long it would all take. Listening to instructions from the facilitator, I could barely talk. My voice had a slight tremor and revealing that would have only aggravated the emotions of fear already taking over me. Thus, I minimally talked, instead nodding and accepting with a simple “yeah” that I had understood all the instructions and the risks I was about to take. For the entire 5 minutes I was prepped, I only asked one question, on how safe the landing area was.With the go ahead given to take the jump, I took one step back and thrust my body forward with all the energy I had. After all, this was all I was required to do apart from swimming safely to the river bank after landing. I retreated safely to the bank and waited for others to take their turns. The fear that gripped me prior to the jump affected the distance I took from the cliff. It was not one of the best jumps but clearly a safe one. My landing point was right under the base of the cliff which was safe but not precedent setting. I knew I could have done better under less pressure and perhaps jumped at twice the angle I made to the resting point. After landing, I went deep inside the water surface prior to floating back up. I was a bit confused and still gripped in fear and this affected my swim towards the river bank. The speed of the water required one to swim across a bit faster to avoid being swept downstream and having to be assisted by the instructors from a safety swimming position. However, I could not swim fast enough and had to be canoed safely into the river bank. It was all a bit strange given that I was quite a good swimmer and the distance was not that long. 

Table 2: Reflection on Interpreting Behavior

Behavior Interpretation and EmotionAlternative Interpretation and Emotion
The rest of my colleagues chanted my name as I prepared to take my jump. They did so at the top of their voices to the extent that I felt failing to take it would amount to letting them down. Their chants were accompanied by incessant clapping as I struggled to master my instructions from the facilitator.The instructor on their part was keen to inform me of all the stakes in the challenge and the necessary safety measures that had to be adhered to. They also demonstrated some of the moves I was supposed to take such as taking a safety swimming position and signaling for help. The behavior of my colleagues was a show of solidarity. They wanted to show me that we were together in it, and they looked forward to my success in the debut jump. To some extent, they were also afraid. The chanting and clapping helped to ease anxiety and calm down the fears that fashioned the entire situation.  I could hear some trembling voices in the midst of the jump which confirmed my thesis that indeed there was an element of fear in all of us. This feeling of fear was quite infectious, neutralizing some of the courage gained from the chants.The actions of the instructor on their part were simply part of conducting due diligence. He needed to make sure I was ready for the jump and did it in the right way for a start. Little wonder, he looked calm and resolute, speaking directly with his eyes maintaining contact. Speaking to him created a good amount of confidence in facing the situation, knowing that if I followed the instructions all would be well. The chants and clapping may have been out of relief that they had not been selected first. The nature of the challenge may have sparked such a reaction with the rest of the crew pretending to encourage me while secretly giving thanks that there was someone to bell the cat. If this interpretation had come at that point, there would have been an aggravation of fear and possible retreat from the challenge.The instructor may have also issued instructions in fear of what could go wrong. The amount of time and detail he attached to the prepping may be out of caution following negative experiences in the past. If such an interpretation had crossed my mind at the time, I would have become too afraid to try. In the end, I would have let my crew down and went against my vow to take every available challenge. This would in turn manufacture a feeling of guilt stemming from inability to meet personal targets.

Q.2 Integrating Literature

There are two domains of emotional intelligence (EI) that emerge from the waterfall jump. First is understanding emotions. This is a facet of the ability model of emotional intelligence which was fronted by Saloveny and Mayer (1990). It defines EI as the ability to reason about emotions and utilize such to enhance reasoning. Under the model, there are four abilities including perceiving emotions, reasoning with emotions, understanding emotions and managing emotions. Of the four domains, understanding emotions is the most evident in the case scenario. This is because I was able to determine the emotion of fear, its causes and the actions that I needed to take as a result. The cause of the fear was taking the first jump and also the possibility of getting hurt or losing my life. The action that I needed to take was therefore to thrust my body forward as much as I could from the cliff and ask for assistance using the methods I had been briefed on. 

The second domain of EI evident from the experience was the perceiving of emotions. This also falls under the ability model of emotional intelligence and involves the understanding of both verbal and non verbal cues (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000). For instance, I could understand the chants of my colleagues as a show of solidarity as I stepped forward to take the jump as well as the instructions from the facilitator as due diligence. Besides, there was interpretation of non-verbal cues with trembling of both the body and the voice taken to be another element of fear. The ability to perceive emotions is the first stage of EI in the model as it offers a situational analysis one’s state and hence plan a suitable reaction (Mayer, Roberts & Barsade, 2008). It was because of acknowledging fear that I resolved to jump way off the cliff as well as ask for help after landing. 

Looking at the two domains, there are several clear relationships that emerge. First of all, both skills exist in the same model and therefore complement each other. One cannot understand emotions without perceiving them first (Ciarrochi & Mayer, 2013). Thus, perception of emotion paves the way for understanding them and taking the appropriate action. The latter in turn gives meaning to the capacity to perceive emotions. It would be materially useless to perceive an emotion and fail to use such knowledge in an unfolding situation such as the one featured in the current case scenario. In the future, both skills should be improved to ensure that there is a better understanding of emotions – that they are understood comprehensively.  Rather than stopping at understanding them, it can then be possible to manage the emotions. If the latter is accomplished, better outcomes are realized overall. For instance, the jump would be more perfect and the swim completed after landing. 


Ciarrochi, J., & Mayer, J. D. (2013). Applying emotional intelligence: A practitioner’s guide. Psychology Press.

Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., & Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59(1), 507-536.

Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. (2000). Models of emotional intelligence. Handbook of intelligence2, 396-420.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.

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