Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive one self’s and others’ feelings and emotions, to evaluate them and to use the gathered information to guide and control one’s thinking and actions. There is disagreement among some researchers whether emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened or is it an inborn characteristic, but all agree that emotional intelligence is extremely important to successful interpersonal interactions. Consider the following questions related to various aspects of emotional intelligence.
1.In my group of friends, I am generally aware of how each person feels about the other people in our social circle.
2. When I am upset, I can usually pinpoint exactly why I am distressed.
3. I tend to overreact to minor problems.
4. When I make mistakes, I often berate and criticize my abilities and myself.
5. I feel uncomfortable in emotionally charged situations.
6. I tend to avoid confrontations. When I am involved in a confrontation, I become extremely anxious.
7. I am generally aloof and detached until I really get to know a person.
In developing your emotional intelligence, you begin to discover many of the core questions and beliefs that have driven your behavior, produced your current circumstances and have held you back without you even knowing about it.
The first step in building your emotional intelligence is to become emotionally literate. Begin by labeling your feelings, rather than labeling people or situations. For example, "I feel impatient." vs "This is ridiculous." I feel hurt and bitter". vs. "You are an insensitive jerk."
Next, begin distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. This is a pretty difficult thing to do. A feeling is always just one word such as sad, happy, hurt etc. A thought is more like “I feel as if I’m out of control.” Recent research has shown that no one can make us feel anything we don’t want. We always have a choice. Take the situation of someone cutting us of on the road, we can choose to go into road rage or we can think about that individual as being in extreme rush, having a bad day, not seeing us, etc. The options are endless and it’s up to us to make out of it what we want.
Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others. Keep a log where you record feelings, thoughts, and actions, this will provide a moment-to-moment awareness of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and actions. Use your negative emotions to propel you into productive action.
Once you have identified your feelings take ownership of them by saying "I feel jealous." vs. "You are making me jealous." Take time to analyze your own feelings rather than the action or motives of other people. Let your feelings help you identify your unmet emotional needs. Use your feelings to make intelligent choices by weighing the consequences if each decision. "How will I feel if I do this?" "How will I feel if I don't?" Ask others "How do you feel?" and "What would help you feel better?"
Communication with others showcases our emotional intelligence, especially nonverbal communication because it is emotionally driven. It asks the questions: “Are you listening?” and “Do you understand and care?” Answers to these questions are expressed in the way we listen, look, move, and react. Our nonverbal messages will produce a sense of interest, trust, excitement, and desire for connection–or they will generate fear, confusion, distrust, and disinterest.
Part of improving nonverbal communication involves paying attention to:
- Eye contact
- Facial expression
- Tone of voice
- Posture and gesture
- Timing and pace
Upon gaining greater understanding of your feelings you will become empathic, understanding, and accepting of others. Validate and respect other people’s emotional state by asking questions such as “How will you feel if I do this? How will you feel if I don't?” Then listen and take their feelings into consideration. Don't advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others. Instead, try to just listen with empathy and non-judgment. Expect the same from others close to you. When possible avoid people who invalidate you.