How to maximize the benefits of our emotional intelligence is garnering a lot of attention these days. Sometimes referred to as ‘EQ’ or ‘EI,’ emotional intelligence is simply the measure of our capacity to use emotional awareness in our everyday life.
So how does one actually go about ‘using’ emotional intelligence? Well, luckily our bodies are hard-wired to have emotional awareness, so it’s a bit like learning how to walk — you start out crawling, then you begin to toddle with baby steps and before you know it, you’re walking like an old pro. Really, having emotional intelligence is all about getting the knack for it, mastering it and then using it to improve your everyday life.
Just like learning to walk and talk, emotional awareness takes some effort to really ‘master’ — the part of our brain that enables us to be aware of our emotions will grow stronger with regular, conscious focus.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people. – Psychology Today
Since it was first introduced decades ago, the concept of emotional intelligence has been heralded by many as the secret, intangible key to success. But as the idea has increased in popularity, it’s also become widely misunderstood, and at times, criticized. Interestingly, even scientists, researchers, and others don’t always agree on exactly what emotional intelligence is.
You may have read various, complex definitions for what makes up the concept of emotional intelligence. But we can actually sum up it up in a single, simple sentence:
Emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. – Justin Bario, EQ, Applied
Anyway, back to EI…
There are two necessary skills which we need to learn in order to effectively develop our emotional awareness:
Noticing: becoming aware of your personal feelings and emotions. Become conscious of when you get upset. Is it an immediate reaction to a particular person, comment or situation, or is it later on? In other words, when encountering an upsetting situation, become aware as to whether you react to it immediately, or if you seethe inside and then become ‘upset’ at a later point in time. People with high EI tend to notice (become aware) that they are having an emotion and they acknowledge which emotion is occurring, why, where in the body they’re feeling it, and, if anyone else around them is experiencing the same emotion.
You’re in a crowded conference room at work and your boss makes a comment that focuses all attention on you — that comment, while innocent enough, makes you feel anxious and embarrassed in a crowded room. Noticing this and acknowledging your reaction helps you to be more in control of your response. If you likewise gauge the emotions of everyone else in the room, you might notice that they’re all smiling…not in mockery, but in mutual admiration or camaraderie with you? In other words, you realize the comment was harmless and not something to be embarrassed by or angry about, but something jovial to be enjoyed as moment of a shared experience.
You can see how having the ability to immediately notice how you and others are feeling, can change the outcome of a situation for the better.
Feeling: not just how you’re feeling, but why and how you will express those feelings. Do you lash out? Do you pretend you’re not having any feelings at all? Do you giggle when you should be more sedate?
While noticing your personal emotional reaction is vital, so is understanding how you feel and how you react to those feelings. Since our bodies produce certain feelings to ‘get our attention,’ they clearly need to be acknowledged, but the intelligence part comes into play in how we react. Do you want to lash out in anger when the situation really calls for levity? Do you want to make light of a situation that actually calls for being more sedate? Do you want to have no emotional reaction at all and come across as stone-cold?
Being emotionally intelligent means understanding and managing your reactions and not letting your emotions control you or cause you to react inappropriately.
Being emotionally intelligent is a great way to have more peace and positivity in our life. Rather than burying our emotions or letting them control us, understanding what we’re feeling, why and how we react to those feelings, can help us to be more calm and grounded — and that is a very positive thing!
Which leads us to…
There is a great deal more to emotional intelligence than noticing and feeling. Some experts go so far as to say that in addition to controlling their own emotions, people with high emotional intelligence can control the emotions of others. If you want to learn more about emotional intelligence, some additional resources are: