What if you could handle life’s ups and downs with ease? What if you could manage your emotions without having to fight them?
This is where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) comes in and growing our EQ has the potential to dramatically improve our lives.
What is emotional intelligence anyway?
We all know what the word Intelligence refers to…how we use logic and reason in our lives. Many people place a higher importance on rational thinking and tend to downplay the importance of emotions in our lives. But recently, we are placing more attention on understanding our emotions and what they signify. We are beginning to understand how our emotions arouse, sustain and affect our daily activity. We also realize that emotions are not in opposition to intelligence. In fact, many people agree that emotional intelligence is actually a higher order of rational intelligence.
This is not a news flash that emotions play a meaningful role in our ability to function successfully in life. No matter how you define success, it’s critical to be able to do three things regarding your emotions:
- Handle frustration – our own as well as others.
- Manage our own emotions and be understanding of others’ emotions.
- Practice social skills so that we can effectively live and work with others.
With this in mind, let’s look at EQ at a deeper level. An Emotionally Intelligence person has the ability to:
- Monitor their own and other people’s feelings and emotions.
- Be self-aware and manage feelings so they are expressed appropriately, without having to suppress them.
- Demonstrate empathy towards other people’s feelings.
- Avoid unhealthy relationships and not waste valuable energy on negative interactions with others.
- Handle stress and disappointment effectively.
- Deal with people and problems in ways that reduce negative emotions, such as anger and hostility.
- Develop collaborative effort, enhance life balance and produce creative energy.
EQ 101! In order to become more emotionally intelligent, it’s helpful to understand how the brain works, so we can see the role emotions play in our thinking and actions. Our brain has two separate components, the emotional brain, which is located in the amygdala, and the rational brain which is located in the cerebral cortex.
In highly charged moments, such as when our boss starts yelling at us for missing a deadline, the amygdala plays a crucial role in how we react. While the amygdala and cerebral cortex usually work in tandem, in a highly charged moment, the amygdala may overtake our rational mind. The emotional brain may hijack or bypass a reasoned response process. It can flood the brain with electro-chemicals that generate a “fight or flight” type response.
Sometimes such a response can save a person’s life, but more often than not, it gets us into trouble by having us overreact to certain situations. When our hot buttons are pushed, strong emotions are triggered, such as defensiveness, anger, frustration or even rage.
By the time you are in this stage of reaction, you are out of control. You may take action in a way that you feel embarrassed about later. You tell your boss he is stupid or walk off in a huff, only to realize later, that you may have misjudged the situation. Highly charged reactions are often felt by other people around us. This phenomenon is often referred to as an open-loop system…our physical systems interact with and affect other people and vice versa.
Most of us don’t like to admit this, but our thinking and emotional reactions are the primary contributor to the quality of our relationships…and our lives. Emotionally intelligent people understand the need to monitor the open-loop system. They understand how important it is to develop awareness about their own thoughts, feelings and actions and how they impact other people. Of course we need to increase our awareness of the same in other people, too!
The key to developing more awareness of these key emotionally awareness factors, requires that we live more in the present moment and take time to recognize how are emotions actually impact certain situations. The first step to raising awareness is to become more aware of your body and your thoughts. One way to do this is to practice meditation, something that more people are seeing value in doing.
Being present means paying attention to each situation and the feelings we have experienced without resistance, judgment, analyzing or reacting. To manage our emotions is to realize the link between our thoughts, feelings and actions. By checking in with ourselves, we begin to become more aware of the subtle changes that are happening at any given moment. The first step is to become aware of what we ae feeling in the moment and the second step is to manage our emotional reactions.
Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways. -Sigmund Freud
The Five Domains of Emotional Intelligence:
Self-Awareness – Developing self-awareness requires tuning in to your true feelings. If you can recognize and evaluate your emotions, then you have a higher chance of learning to manage them. The ability to recognize an emotion as it happens is the key. What emotions and their affects would you like to be more aware of as they are happening?
Self-Regulation – From self-awareness flows self-regulation. Self-regulation is handling your emotions to respond appropriately to an emotional situation. Without knowing what you’re feeling, you can’t manage your feelings. Self-regulation involves self-control, managing disruptive impulses and taking responsibility for our own emotions. What emotions do you experience that feel most disruptive to you that you would like to learn to regulate?
Motivation – Self motivation requires a clear idea of where you are going along with a positive belief that you can get there. In order to take advantage of opportunities, we must know what we want and commit to pursuing having it. Regardless of whether you have a predisposition to a positive or negative attitude, you can learn, with effort and practice, to think positively. People with greater emotional intelligence experience hope and optimism more often than those with less emotional intelligence. What emotion motivates you to think positive and do your best?
Empathy – Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s emotional state. The more skillful you are at discerning the feelings behind other people’s signals, the better you can control the signals you send. Empathy involves listening carefully, observing body language so you can pick up on what people are truly saying, and then responding appropriately. Stephen Covey describes empathy as listening for emotion, which in turn makes people feel seen and understood. To what degree are you able to recognize some else’s emotional state?
Social Skills – Social skills are the easiest to recognize and allow us to connect with other people. Social awareness builds on the domain of self-regulation in that it allows us to access and express emotions in appropriate ways. Among the most useful social skills are having effective persuasion tactics, sending clear messages, initiating or managing change, understanding negotiating and resolving disagreements and working with others toward shared goals. What emotions support you socially, and which of your emotions get in the way for you socially?
Just like learning a skill for work or building up your capacity to run a marathon, becoming more emotionally intelligent takes time, practice and commitment. In the last decade there has been a burst of scientific research on emotions, as well as breakthroughs in understanding the mystery of the mind. New clarity on emotions and the mind brings with it the promise of fresh ideas for pursuing happy, successful and prosperous lives.