What do the words ‘emotions’ and ‘intelligence’ mean to you?
Emotions are thought of something that keep us from making the right decisions, from focusing on what is really important. On the other hand, intelligence is touted to be 100% perfection.
Completely different. Two separate things.
In the last three decades, research has shown that when emotions and intelligence are put together, they pave the way for a different approach to be smart.
‘Emotional intelligence (EI),’ first coined by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990, refers to a:
- person’s capacity to perceive and process emotional information effectively, within oneself and others, and
- use this information to guide one’s actions and thinking and influence those of others.
Daniel Goleman’s book, ‘Emotional Intelligence,’ drew on the research of several key psychologists and researchers including Salovey and Mayer. Goleman recognized five categories of skills that form the bedrock of EI and proposed that these skills, unlike one’s IQ, can be learned and improved upon.
Five Categories of Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness: the capacity to recognize and understand one’s emotions and their influence on others. Self-awareness helps us introspect, self-evaluate, and identify emotional and behavioral aspects of our psychological makeup which need adjustment.
Self-regulation: the capacity to deal with disruptive and negative emotions, and adapt to changes. Those who are good at self-regulation are better at managing conflicts, adapting to changes, and taking responsibility.
Motivation: the capacity to motivate oneself, to achieve self-gratification as against external rewards. Individuals who can self-motivate are likely to be more focused and committed.
Empathy: the capacity to understand how others are feeling and acknowledge those feelings before responding in social situations. Empathetic individuals understand the dynamics that affect relationships – personal and professional.
Social skills: the capacity to connect with others through emotional understanding and build rapport through verbal and non-verbal communication.
EI plays a crucial role in achieving sound mental and physical health, academic success, and professional goals. The findings of Bar-On Model of Emotional-Social Intelligence propound that people with higher EI performed better in life than those with lower EI.
All of us want to do well in life and a higher EI can boost our chances of living a better life. I share with you ways that have helped (and continue to help) identify my emotions and enhance my EI:
Manage your Negative Emotions
Fear, anger, self-doubt, envy, frustration….all are negative emotions and we all experience them almost every day. If somebody blames us for something we didn’t do, we instantly wish all the ill-will upon that person. We get all fired up. But it does not help us in any way.
When we are able to manage our negative emotions, we are less likely to feel overwhelmed. The next time somebody upsets you, don’t jump to conclusions.
Try looking at the situation objectively, from different perspectives. Maybe the person is under immense work pressure or going through a difficult time. This obviously doesn’t mean that you should put up with abusive or rude behavior.
According to Hodges and Myers in the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, Empathy is defined as understanding another person’s experience by imagining oneself in that other person’s situation.
Discerning a person’s verbal and non-verbal cues can help you understand their feelings. Try walking in their shoes. Everyone is dealing with their own issues and rather than judging them (don’t we all do it?), try being empathetic.
Has your colleague or a friend been keeping to himself lately? Talk to them, and understand why they are feeling low. When you are able to perceive what they are going through, you will be able to impact their behavior positively.
Recover from Adversity
In a letter to her daughter Jana, Milada Horáková, a socialist politician, wrote – Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. This was written the night before she was executed on false charges of ‘high treason.’
We all face challenges, and the way we choose to think and act can make all the difference. We can choose hope over despair, victory over defeat, optimism over frustration.
Whenever you encounter a challenging situation, ask yourself, ’What is the lesson here, what can I learn from this experience?’ The more constructive the questions, the more useful the answers. Base the answers on your learning, and they will help you gain the proper perspective to tackle the situation at hand.
Take Criticism Positively
Nobody likes to be criticized. Do you remember how you reacted the last time you were at the receiving end of criticism? Must have been a jolt to self-respect in addition to temporary frustration.
If you want to be emotionally intelligent, develop your ability to take criticism well. Rather than getting defensive or feeling offended, take a few moments to understand where the critique is coming from.
Though it is likely that some people may judge you negatively to satisfy their ego or for some other reason, not everyone. Some may have good intentions. Learn to differentiate between useful feedback and unwarranted criticism.
Know Your Stress Triggers
What stresses you out? Demands related to finances, work, relationships, and health happen to make many people feel overloaded and overwhelmed. If unchecked, stress can hamper our ability to function effectively and cope with pressure. Determine what stresses you out and work proactively to reduce it. If the morning rush hour traffic gets on your nerves and your workplace allows flexible timings, try leaving home early.
Do you check your work email id before going to bed? Not a good idea but if you do and it sends you into a tailspin, leave it for when you get to the office.
Listen to the sensations in your body when signs of stress begin to show. Shallow breath, restlessness, irritation…when you feel these, respond with reason.
Tune in to Your Unconscious Mind
Our unconscious mind is a reservoir of thoughts, feelings, and memories that occur automatically. So how can we become more aware of these unconscious feelings? When in a relaxed state, let your thoughts roam freely and see where they go. Analyze them.
We all dream. From drowning in the sea to being consumed by a large dinosaur, I have had some terrible dreams. On the other hand, I have sometimes dreamed myself of being a sailor on a long sea voyage.
I don’t know what they mean. But there are certain dreams that repeat more often or are emotionally charged. Pay special attention to them. Recurring dreams usually mean something in your life needs acknowledgment, that might be causing stress of some kind.
Emotional intelligence is something that takes time to develop. It evolves as we all do as human beings. It is within our power to increase it, and every challenge or situation we face is a learning opportunity to test our EI. It does take practice, but it is definitely worth it. EI helps you form healthy relationships, personal and professional.
Why do you think Emotional Intelligence is important? What helped you improve yours? Please share your views with us.