Emotional intelligence is a how well you manage your own emotions and react to the emotions of others. It si known in shorthand as EQ or EI. People who exhibit emotional intelligence have the less obvious skills necessary to get ahead in life, such as managing conflict resolution, reading and responding to the needs of others, and keeping their own emotions from overflowing and disrupting their lives.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Daniel Goleman suggested a mixed model of Emotional Intelligence that has five key areas:
Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of, when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are. This is particularly relevant with mindfulness as we explore and get in touch with our own sense of self awareness.
Before you can do anything with emotional intelligence, you have to know what your emotions are. This means you have to have a depth of self awareness – and improving your self-awareness is the first step to identifying any challenge and taking steps toward a solution.
At Mind Body Calm, of course the most powerful way to greater self awareness is though mindfulness activities. Here are some other ways to connect with your self and improve your self-awareness:
Keep a journal: Mind Body Calm recommends keeping a journal of your emotions. Choose a time that suits you for personal reflection, towards the end of the day, and write down what happened to you, how you felt, and how you dealt with it. Be mindful of times you over-reacted to some trigger.
Slow down (embrace mindfulness): Emotions have a habit of getting the most out of control when we don’t have time to slow down or process them. Stop and breather. Practice living in the moment. Make it a new habit. Breathe deeply into your belly and perhaps raise your hands above your head.
Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic. It is being able to step back from where you are emotionally and take action to stop your feelings having a negative impact on your life.
Once you know how your emotions work, you can start figuring out how to handle them. Proper self-management means controlling your outbursts, distinguishing between external triggers and internal over-reactions, and doing what’s best for your needs.
You can’t always control what happens, but you can always control how you react. If you have some impulse control problems, find ways to get help when you’re feeling calm. Not all emotions can be vented away.
Motivation: Motivation is the drive to accomplish goals and reach targets when your life purpose and values and in alignment. What are your values – and do they align with the purpose you set out to accomplish each day?
My life purpose is to see people embrace life more fully by living with greater self awareness – hence the focus on mindfulness as a point of entry to greater self awareness.
Daniel Goleman suggests that in order to start making use of that motivation, you first need to identify your own values. Many of us are so busy that we don’t take the time to examine what our values really are. Or worse, we have an imprint of other values overlaid on us by family or society and we are trying to live by them instead of our own core values. When this happens, we lack motivation and energy drops away.
Empathy: While the three previous categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately. Empathy means you get your message across and get other people’s messages also – making it possible for more lasting relationships. Empathy is your most important skill for navigating your relationships . Empathy is a life-long skill, but here are some tips you can use to practice empathy:
Shut up and listen: We’re gonna start with the hardest one here, because it’s the most important. You can’t experience everyone else’s lives to fully understand them, but you can listen. Listening involves letting someone else talk and then not countering what they say.
Empathy is important in leadership, it means putting aside your preconceptions or skepticism for a bit and allowing the person you’re talking to a chance to explain how they feel. Empathy is hard, but virtually every relationship you have can be improved at least marginally by waiting at least an extra ten seconds before you retake the conversation.
Take up a contrary position to your own: One of the quickest ways to solidify an opinion in your mind is to argue in favor of it. To counter this, take up a contrary position. If you think your boss is being unreasonable, try defending their actions in your head. Would you find their actions reasonable if you were in their shoes? This can be an essential quality of mindfulness. Even asking the questions of yourself can be enough to start empathizing with another’s point of view (though, of course, getting real answers from others can always help).
Don’t just know, try to understand: Understanding is key to having empathy. As we’ve discussed before, understanding is the difference between knowing something and truly empathizing with it. If you catch yourself saying, “I know, but,” a lot, take that as an indicator that you should pause a bit more. When someone tells you about an experience that’s not your own, take some time to mull over how your life might be different if you experienced that on a daily basis.
By definition , empathy means getting in the emotional space with someone else. Allowing their experiences to resonate with your own and responding appropriately. It’s okay to offer advice or optimism, but empathy also requires that you wait for the right space to do that. If someone’s on the verge of tears, or sharing some deep pain, don’t make light of it and don’t try to minimize the hurt. Be mindful of how they must feel and allow them space to feel it.
Social skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others, managing others in a work environment, and being persuasive. Again, social skills are paramount to recruit and maintain relationships.
You can start with the most common form of social problems: resolving a disagreement. This is where you get to put all your skills to the test in a real-world environment. We’ve gone into this subject in-depth here , but we can summarize the basic steps:
Identify and deal with your emotions: Whenever you have an argument with someone else, things can get heated. If someone involved is emotionally worked up, deal with that problem first. Take time apart to vent, blow off steam on your own, then return to the problem. In a work environment, this may just mean complaining to a friend before you email your boss back. In a romantic relationship, remind your partner that you care about them before criticizing.
Address legitimate problems once you’re both calm: Once you’re in your right head space, identify what the conflict is. Before you jump to solutions, make sure you and the other person agree on what the problems really are . Propose solutions that are mutually beneficial and be sympathetic to any concessions the other person may be unwilling to make (but be sure to stand firm on your own).
End on a cooperative note: Whether in business or pleasure, relationships work best when everyone involved knows that they’re on the same page. Even if you can’t end on a positive note, make sure that the last intention you communicate is a cooperative one. Let your boss/coworker/significant other know that you want to work towards the same goal, even if you have different views.
[CREDIT > This is amended and abridged from an article by Eric Ravenscraft in LifeHacker.com.]