Emotional Intelligence is a phrase that was first coined by Daniel Goleman in 1995 as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
FIVE ELEMENTS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional awareness means that we are thinking about what we are thinking about. We are not the voice in our head, but until we become conscious of that, we don’t have the ability to separate ourselves from our thoughts. We become products of our habitual thoughts whether they serve us or not. Once we become awake to the fact that we can control our thoughts, we have the opportunity to to become liberated from ways of thinking that keep us stuck. These new thoughts can significantly alter and improve our lives in multiple ways.
Taking time out to reflect is critical for gaining more EQ. Journaling and self-reflection are excellent tools for gaining insight and creating thoughtful solutions.
Keeping our emotions in check under difficult circumstances allows us to react with greater poise and control. Defensiveness, fear, or being overly sensitive can get in the way of healthy and productive reactions. It becomes easier to misinterpret and misunderstand the situation or the other person, which inhibits healthy resolutions and the ability to learn and grow. Taking that critical step back before reacting can make the difference between an outcome that helps or damages the situation.
A great tip for gaining control in a difficult situation is to take a few deep breaths before reacting. Deep breathing signals safety to your brain and can allow a calmer and more rational response to any situation.
Empathy and Sensitivity
Being empathetic allows us to truly listen to and understand what someone else is feeling. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give or get. We are born with an innate and deep-seated need to feel connected.
Genuinely recognizing another person’s feelings without judgement, interrupting or comparing is one of the most effective ways of providing that connection. Being heard and acknowledged helps people feel valued and included.
Having intrinsic motivation means that we operate out of our own initiative, finding internal rewards for our lives. People with high levels of intrinsic motivation find personal satisfaction in their lives and are less dependent on external rewards. They empower themselves to take initiative, set goals, work on self-improvement and be more action-oriented.
Good leaders look at what motivates their people and then sets them up to find satisfaction in the areas that mean the most to them.
Making sure that your relationships are healthy and beneficial requires that we approach our associations with care and thought. We often stay in unhealthy relationships more out of habit and indecision than benefit. Of course, if we have dysfunctional family members or co-workers, it’s harder to avoid contact with them. Overall, when emotionally intelligent people do their best to surround themselves with other emotionally intelligent people, it’s a win-win for both parties.
Evaluating the quality of our inner circle for the overall effect they have on our lives is a very useful exercise.
Improving our emotional intelligence starts understanding the importance of emotions and the roles they play in our lives. We’ve developed some simple tools to help you along this path.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
The first step starts with being aware of and tuned into both your own emotions and those of others. What are you feeling? What might they be feeling? Because we are often on autopilot, we tend to plow through situations without stopping to analyze our feelings. We also make false assumptions that cause us to misinterpret the actions of both ourselves and others. We all have instances of belatedly finding out that our misunderstandings have led us to react inappropriately.
The next step is to look at the story you are telling yourself about what is happening and how you or the other persons are feeling. Look deeper at what is going on under the initial reaction. Often we are responding to something below the surface that we are not aware of. This helpful word list might give you some ideas for other underlying emotions.
Compassion and Forgiveness
Being able to accept and forgive ourselves and others is a key element of emotional intelligence. This wonderful quote from the Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify says it all: “Be kind: everyone is on their own journey.” Releasing our own anger, regret, sadness etc. are critical elements of moving on and looking beyond the surface indicators.
Choose Again and Reframe
While it seems simple, this critical next step is where the power lies. We are capable of changing our perspectives and our reactions. We have the ability to train ourselves to be more in control and to react in ways that are healthier, more constructive and which lead to better outcomes.
THE BENEFITS OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
It Enables Us to Deal with Stressors More Effectively
When we have control over how we respond to a situation, we are actually helping the brain remain focused and objective. This reminds us that we don’t have to spend excessive amounts of energy to go through the cycle of emotions first in order to arrive at some point of clarity.
It Increases our Individual Performance
When we have control over our emotions we also increase our individual performance as a leader, a partner and as part of a team. This is because when we understand the root of our emotions and the why we are having that particular emotion, we then have the ability to manage our responses for the best outcome. The net result is performance gain by having more efficient and effective conversations with others.
It Helps Us to Diffuse and Resolve Conflict
Conflict happens. It’s just a part of life and trying to avoid it rarely has a happy ending. When a person has a high EQ they are not only able to understand and manage their own emotions, but they can also understand and, in some situations, manage the emotions of others. This ability can help you to diffuse and resolve conflict because you can empathize with them in an honest, and trustworthy way. You are then able to offer objective alternatives through compassionate communications, and usually when people feel they’ve been heard, respected and understood, they become less fixated and more open to possibility.
It Improves Our Mental and Physical Health
When we increase our EQ, we are better equipped to handle stress, anxiety, depression etc. which can affect us in many ways mentally and physically. But having a higher EQ also helps us to connect with others on a deeper level. It also helps us to build more meaningful connections with others and provides us on an individual level with a stronger sense of being grounded. This satisfies our basic needs as humans, which is to be heard, appreciated and having a sense of belonging. Your tribe creates your vibe…
It Increases our Ability to Motivate Others
Leaders with high EQ tend to be more trusted and respected by those they lead.
Emotional intelligence gives people the ability to respond with more objectivity and less emotion. Our first responses are often based on instinct, not on thoughtfulness. We have all paid the price of reacting impulsively and regretting our actions later! Emotional awareness allows more space and thought between the situation and our response.
Our level of success and our ability to be happy both benefit from our more developed emotional awareness. As this Fast Company recap shows – “People with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or relevant experience.” The only thing we can control in any situation is our thoughts. Using those thoughts with more intention can have a direct influence on our happiness. We can be glass half-empty or glass half-full — it’s up to us to choose.