What is Emotional Intelligence?
The key to success as a parent, partner, student or in our regular daily human interactions, is emotional intelligence. Although that may seem to be a bold statement, a large portion of our lives is focused on our social interactions. While many of our interactions are mundane, sometimes we find ourselves over-reacting, and these overreactions can lead to unhappiness for ourselves and others we care about. Often these over-reactions come when we are distracted, stressed or annoyed.
Emotional intelligence is the integration of many elements. The first element is self-awareness. Being emotionally self-aware involves honest recognition of our current emotional state, and our physiological responses. For example, noticing our excitement at going out for a good meal with a friend, as well as recognizing our distress when the meal turns out to be our friend’s way of asking for money. The excitement may be associated with a warm feeling and increased energy. The distress may be associated with stomach nausea and feeling physically heavy.
The second element of emotional awareness is recognition of the impact our emotional state is having on others. If I am irritated, lonely, frustrated, or scared, do the people around me begin to mirror similar emotions, or do they react by attempting to comfort me, distance themselves from me, or try to change our feelings through distraction, direction, or aggression? Awareness of how our emotions affect those around us, and how those around us respond to our emotional triggers can greatly impact the outcome of the interaction.
For example, if I am distressed and my partner misreads that as anger, my partner may become angry and belligerent with me, triggering an argument. Or, if my partner is not good at handling distress, they may simply leave the room, resulting in feelings of abandonment. Repeated misreads may eventually lead to a breakdown in the relationship.
The third element of emotional intelligence is utilizing our emotional and physical self-awareness to identify what we need. If we know what we need we can then choose that for ourselves, or ask to receive that from those who care for us. For example, If I am able to recognize lonely feelings, and how I am fidgety and unsettled, I can ask my friend to go for a walk with me. Having someone with me may help ease the loneliness, while the walking burns off the emotions physical symptoms. There is a chance that by the end of the walk I will feel calmer and connected.
Developing emotional intelligence can be a challenging task. It often helps to work with a relationship therapist to master the various elements. A good relationship counsellor will help you to recognize your underlying emotions and associated physical responses. The therapist will help you to recognize emotions in others, and then will help you to understand the emotional back and forth that influences so many human interactions. As your emotional intelligence improves you will gain a much greater understanding of yourself, and experience far more positive and supportive interactions with others.