5 min readFeb 1, 2023

The Making of a Ninja Mind…

By Kristine Steinberg, CEO of Kismet


When considering success at work or in life, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is proven to be equal to (if not more important than) IQ. Yet, EQ can evade even some of the smartest and most “successful” leaders because mastery is challenging to consistently achieve. The continually changing landscape of human interactions and the potential for emotions of others to impact our emotional response is complex and dynamic. This requires us to be ready for anything and have the emotional strength to choose our response in any given moment. To do so, we must cultivate a nimble, present, ninja mind.


Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is not just the ability to read emotions. It is the ability to be in command of our emotions at all times — to be at choice. Mastery on this front is lifelong work. It begins with deep self-awareness — understanding our own emotions and how our behaviors, communication, and actions that emerge from those emotions impact others. But self-awareness alone will not lead to Emotional Intelligence. EQ is a result of ongoing discipline of being conscious, calm, and intentional about how our words, body language, and actions impact others. Choosing intentional and disciplined communication and actions must follow. An Emotionally Intelligent leader is prepared to face those moments by cultivating the ability to pause and choose the emotion and behavior that will advance the situation vs. derail it.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS (Situations that cause intense emotional reactions)

Far too often, my coaching engagements involve highly intelligent (IQ) leaders who are on every other metric succeeding in business, but have failed one too many times when it comes to this component of EQ — emotional mastery over our triggers. Examples of emotional triggers include fear of failure, rejection, loss of control, criticism, challenged values, feeling attacked, and lack of accountability. Examples of unskilled reactions to a trigger include defensiveness, anger, shutting down, avoidance, criticism, power tripping, vengeance, and gossip.

Can you think of a time when you were going along in your day and things were fairly smooth… until out of the blue, a remark by a family member, friend, or colleague caused you to fly off the handle and react in a way that you had no control over?

It happened to me yesterday, after a very long day at work. I asked my kids to help me with the laundry. Of course, this request came with a list of excuses. Instead of calmly commanding their compliance, I raged at them with comments about how disrespected I felt and how spoiled they were. I began threatening to take away their phones and car keys. As they stood there, stone faced and stunned, I finally woke up to how ineffective my outburst was and actually felt embarrassed. They did succumb to helping me, but the energy was awkward and strained as we got it done. This is an example of low Emotional Intelligence resulting from emotional trigger hijack.


Position yourself to slay your ego, not the person or people who have said or done something to trigger you. When an emotional trigger appears as your enemy, it’s full of ego. When you remove ego (the need to take power or the feeling of being a victim), the clouds part and you can see a way forward in triggering moments. You can easily access the words or actions needed to communicate with Emotional Intelligence.


  • Emotional Hijackings: Make a list of 3–5 moments when your emotions hijacked you and you reacted in an unskilled and possibly toxic manner.
  • Identify Your Triggers: What is the theme or thread that runs across those examples (i.e. you felt you were getting taken advantage of, you felt like a failure, you felt attacked)? Name your triggers.
  • Re-do: For each situation above, think of a calmer, clearer response to that situation. Write down, word-for-word, what you would have said if you were to articulate yourself assertively and with integrity for both yourself and the other party.
  • Mantra: What can you learn from this exercise? Create a simple mantra or tool you can begin using to develop your “ninja mind” when an emotional trigger appears. This will wake you up to the moment so you can choose how you want to be and what you want to say. An example of mantra is Pause, Pause, Pause… how do I want to show up right now?

Curious about the components and history of Emotional Intelligence? Here’s some background information for your reference:


According to Daniel Goleman, Emotionally Intelligent people possess the following capabilities:

  1. They are good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness/know thyself).
  2. They are good at managing their emotions (self-management/emotional regulation).
  3. They are empathetic to the emotional drives of other people (social awareness/ability to step into someone else’s shoes).
  4. They are good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills).


The Intelligence Quotient has been used to gauge educational and workplace success since the late 1800s. Here’s how it has evolved over time…

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, a trickling of articles and musings began to emerge around Emotional Strength (Abraham Maslow). The first research paper referencing “Emotional Intelligence” surfaced in relation to child psychiatry, and use of the term emerged.
  • Jump forward to 1983, Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences illuminated the idea that IQ was not a full assessment of one’s cognitive capability. He coined the term “Interpersonal Intelligence”.
  • In the late 1980s, several psychologists began putting Emotional Intelligence models forward.
  • And in 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer defined the term “Emotional Intelligence” as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”
  • In 1995, Harvard Psychologist Daniel Goleman brought these concepts into the mainstream with his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
  • Daniel Goleman’s subsequent 1998 Harvard Business Review Article, “What Makes a Great Leader” compelled executives at Johnson & Johnson to fund research involving 1400 employees in 37 countries, the J&J Emotional Intelligence Study. They discovered that indeed Social, Emotional, and Interpersonal competence is a legitimate and important factor in workplace performance and leadership success.

Kristine Steinberg is the CEO of Kismet. She believes that your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage. Start your transformation today: www.thisiskismet.com.




Your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage.