In this article, I will be discussing Emotional Intelligence and how we can all benefit from being able to understand and take positive actions with our emotions, improving our mental health.
What is Emotional Intelligence and Why is it important?
Emotional Intelligence or commonly known as EQ is a relatively new field of psychology. Emotional intelligence means the ability for a person to access, influence and conclude our emotions and also the emotions of other people around us. The term emotional intelligence was first made popular by Daniel Goleman with his book Emotional Intelligence and since then many researchers have begun studies in this new field of psychology. Since then, we have understood a lot more about being emotionally intelligent.
Emotional intelligence can be broken into 5 separate characteristics namely:
What are the 5 characteristics of Emotional Intelligence?
- Empathy – the ability to recognise the emotions of others around him/her and acknowledge those feelings.
- Relationships – the ability of a person to be able to handle negotiations and mediations.
- Self Awareness – the ability for a person to understand his/her own feelings, know what they mean and acknowledging these feelings.
- Handle Emotions – the ability to recognise, manage and handle their own personal feelings responsibly and accurately depending on the situation.
- Self-Regulation – allows you to wisely manage your emotions and impulses – you show or restrain certain emotions depending on what is necessary and beneficial for the situation. For example, rather than shouting at your employees when you’re stressed you may decide which tasks can be delegated.
Since every one of us handles each emotion differently under different situations, it is also the reason why researchers are finding it difficult to measure emotional intelligence accurately.
Over the years, there are certain rules in being emotionally intelligent that seems to apply to the majority of us though. And we can train ourselves to be better equipped to handle these emotions when it comes. Training your emotions takes time and being self-aware of them.
Unlike IQ where it is innate and some people are just born to be a genius. Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed to heighten your interpersonal skills. In fact, emotions were not even implanted on us when we were still a baby or in the mother’s womb. It is through the interactions with our environment and the people that we developed these emotions.
Understanding Emotional Intelligence
There’s so much talk about emotional intelligence and how it can promote personal and business success. What is it really? What are its basic tenets?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand, and manage one’s emotions and that of others. This “intelligent” concept focuses on the role of emotion in our daily lives and how it affects our perception, reasoning, and behaviour.
Emotions are pervasive in our daily existence. From the time we wake up to the time we retire to bed, we experience emotions. We can get excited by the news of economic recovery, or we feel upset when our favourite team loses a championship game.
Moreover, we can get lonely when our friend of many years decides to look for greener pastures and we can feel anxious when our child does not go home on time after class.
So really, emotions happen everywhere and anytime. There is no day that passes by without emotions being involved. We experience emotions when we – win or lose, receive phone calls from long lost friends, greet our children good morning, say hello to our neighbours, prepare meals for our spouses, or ride the subway train. By having emotional awareness, we grow our interpersonal skills and social skills.
Emotions are just as normal as the rising of the sun.
However, there are times when our emotions can become overwhelming and can negatively affect our functioning. For instance, anger is normal. However, the inappropriate display of uncontrolled anger can be destructive.
Let me clarify this point with a hypothetical situation. Richard, a relatively nice guy who works as a salesman, is married for 5 years with Cynthia. For the past few years, his sales have plummeted due to some unknown reasons. He used to be mild-mannered but lately, he hasn’t been the same.
When he gets angry, he just can’t control himself. He yells, bangs the door, throws fits, and punches the wall. In addition, he calls his wife names and puts her down. Eventually, he has physically harmed Cynthia. Due to his uncontrollable anger and physically abusive behaviour, Cynthia has decided to file a divorce.
In this example, Richard has failed to recognize his ongoing anger and its associated behavioural consequences. Because of his inability to recognize his anger and consequent behaviour, he has failed miserably to contain his anger despite signs that his wife doesn’t want to put up with it. In addition, he has failed miserably to recognise and understand the feelings of Cynthia. How could he? He can’t even recognise his own.
Emotional intelligence or Emotional Awareness, can, therefore, become an important tool at home and at work. By learning its basic tenets of self-awareness (knowing one’s emotions), self-management (controlling one’s emotions), social awareness (recognizing the emotions of others), and relationship management (social skills), people can make use of the emotion to advance the positive cause of our families and communities.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
There is an old joke about a man who is walking home along the street in the early hours of a weekend and he sees another man, who is obviously very drunk, on his hands and knees, searching for something. “What are you looking for?” he asks the drunken man. “My house keys” the man replies. “Where did you drop them?” he asks. “Two streets away” he slurs. “Why aren’t you looking there then”, he asks, puzzled. “Because the light’s much better here.”
Now, during my initial training and learning, I was quite unsure about myself in many ways! Yes, even me, some may say that I have gone rather extremely the other direction now! I tried lots of the things I learned with self-hypnosis and different aspects of the standard NLP approaches to overcome this uncertainty and lack of confidence in my ability to do what I wanted to do, but none of them seemed to work for me. I still got the butterflies in my tummy and lacked a real sense of confidence, in fact, I felt nervous about doing what I wanted to do (what if it all went wrong and I failed!!).
I had spent some time fighting the anxious feeling, then one day I said to myself “Just experience it, stop resisting it, stop fighting it; just feel it” and an amazing thing happened. I felt the nervous feeling, then it disappeared! I was shocked. All those previous months and years of fighting it and all that I really needed to do was to feel it. I acknowledged it and stopped resisting.
Doing this is to heighten your own awareness of your own map of the world.
One of the presuppositions of NLP is ‘meet people at their map of the world’. This is a process of seeing things from their point of view or being aware of their experience and is a far deeper discussion for another time. Now, I was fine at doing this with other people and my successful therapeutic consultancy is over the years has been solid proof to me of that, but before all that started, all those years ago, I suddenly realised that I had not been meeting myself at my map of the world.
Whenever I felt feelings that I did not like, I would struggle, resist and fight them, and you know what they say: When you fight with yourself, someone always loses, and that someone is you. So I decided to stop fighting and resisting my feelings and instead to acknowledge them and start working with them.
Where am I going with all this then? If there is a feeling that you find unpleasant or that seems unhelpful or that you just plain don’t like, firstly, map out the feeling. This is just a process of identifying where in your body that feeling is, really locate that feeling in your body. Now think about what size it is, how it moves; I used to have a fluttering feeling in the pit of my tummy that as I resisted it more would spread into my chest and back down again. Really be aware of the feeling physiologically, even think about what temperature it is, you can even take it a step further and think about what colour it would be if it had one etc.
While most people profess to know what they are feeling, you would be amazed at how many people have not got in the slightest bit acquainted with the physical characteristics of the emotions they are experiencing, they just let them happen passively without really getting an awareness of them. Emotions are physical (they are chemicals and all sorts of other things too), so the first step is to map out that physicality.
Accepting our Emotions
Next up, accept the feeling. Become OK with the fact that you are feeling it.
Of course, this can be a bit of a struggle for some people, who will no doubt say “But I don’t want to feel it” or “I shouldn’t be feeling it.” I know some of you are thinking that.
So here is the thing: you are feeling it, and if you want to change the feelings quickly, the most expedient way to do it is to meet yourself at your map of the world and accept that presenting feeling that you are having. If you refuse to do this, then you are just resisting it or fighting it as I was doing back then. Then any attempt to change it will involve starting from where you aren’t, and that rarely works out well (as our tipsy man looking for his keys on the wrong street can attest to.)
Then, you find the positive intent. What is your body or your unconscious trying to tell you? Sometimes feelings have a message of some sort for us. Other times, they’re just sensations that our body has some purpose for feeling. What (if anything) is this feeling doing for you or trying to tell you?
Then; feel it. Just feel it. Be sure not to struggle or fight, just feel it. Remember to breathe too 😉
You don’t have to do this for long, but it is really good to feel something. Even if it feels bad, the fact that you can feel it means that you are alive (woo-hoo!) and it also means that you are in touch with how you feel. These are both good things to be able to acknowledge and realise within yourself. Often, just accepting and realising a feeling is putting it in a vastly different perspective.
The final part of this process is to then play with the feeling.
Increase the feeling’s intensity. The reduce it. If it was one colour, make it another, if it was moving in a certain direction, move it in another, if it was a certain size, enlarge it or make it smaller, basically, have a play with it and discover just how much influence you have over this feeling. I think you will be surprised when you realise just how much influence you really do have.
One of the things you’ll begin to find as you start to experience is just how much it’s possible for you to get a handle on your feelings. You may well discover for yourself that feelings aren’t true or false. They don’t really mean anything. They are just sensations that you are experiencing in your body. If you resist them, they’ll be there for some time, but if you accept them, you can start to play with them and change them. Does this mean you’ll not have a bad feeling ever again? No. Feelings will come and feelings will go, but what it does mean is that you can start to have more and more of the sorts of feelings you want to have. I know that whatever you are wanting to do in life, you’ll be wanting to punctuate your life with more and more good feelings, am I right?
Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ
People with high IQ are always predicted to become successful in life. However, there are a lot of intelligent individuals whose lives are getting wasted due to emotional problems, destructive behaviours and poor mental health. Experts agree that the missing part in the success equation is emotional intelligence.
Everybody wants to be successful in life. But what is success? How do you go about being successful? Is success only for people who have a high IQ? How come there are intelligent people who are not successful in life? How do you measure success?
To be able to define success can be the first step in becoming successful. Someone has said that “success is the completion of anything intended.” Meaning to say, whatever it is you have planned or intended to do, you’ve got to finish or bring into completion.
That is success.
If you plan to rob a bank and pulled-off the heist, does that make you a successful person? In this case, success should always be related to all things positive. Having this as a yardstick for assessing our lives enable us to say at the end of the day if we have failed or succeeded.
Aside from academic excellence, researchers believe that certain aspects of intelligence, such as logical reasoning, math skills, verbal abilities, and analytical understanding can predict to a significant degree professional and personal success of an individual. However, why is it that some of those with excellent levels of IQ are not doing successfully in life? A lot of people with so much promise and potential fall into anxiety and depression, and sometimes even end up in suicide? Something could be going wrong in the way they think and behave which hindered their chances to succeed.
According to Daniel Goleman (as mentioned above), author of the book “Emotional Intelligence”, one of the major missing parts in the success equation is emotional awareness. This concept is based on years of research by numerous scientists, such as Peter Salovey, John Meyer, Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, and Jack Block, just to name a few. Daniel Goleman and his contemporaries all agree that people with high emotional intelligence (EQ) tend to be more successful in life than those with lower EQ even if their classical IQ is average.
Scientific articles published during the ’90s highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence, the human mental ability to validly reason with emotions and to use these emotions in enhancing thought patterns. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.
Intelligence Emotional – can they be combined?
Emotional Intelligence improves an individual’s social effectiveness. The higher the emotional intelligence, the better the social relations. Emotionally aware people can better perceive emotions, use them in thought, understand their meanings, and manage emotions, than others. These people are often the ones we consider to provide a shoulder to cry on. They do not only solve their own emotional problems, but they help others deal with it as well. They require less cognitive effort in solving emotional problems. They tend to be more open and agreeable than others and are drawn to occupations involving social interactions, such as teaching and counselling, than jobs involving clerical or administrative duties.
People with high emotional intelligence are less likely to develop emotional disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. They have the ability to avoid self-destructive and negative behaviours, such as smoking, excessive drinking, drug abuse, or violent episodes with others. They are more likely to have possessions of sentimental attachment around the home and to have more positive social interactions.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to discern and understand emotional information which is all around us. People communicate basic emotions from one individual to another. But only those with high EQ can really appreciate and understand the more subtle messages of these emotions.
Emotional intelligence is crucial to help us through our emotionally demanding days. If we are not emotionally intelligent, we need people who have higher EQ to rely on and guide us in processing emotional information. Emotional Intelligence enables our thinking and behaviour to become more focus in achieving our goals and to take hold of the success in life we are dreaming of.