Being emotionally intelligent, means you are aware of your emotions and the emotions of others, while having the ability to skillfully respond and react to both.
Why is it important to be in touch with our emotions?
Encounters in everyday interactions are driven by emotions. Imagine the thoughts that arise based on an outsider’s comment, the feelings that a look from another person stirs up or the reaction to the cry of a nearby infant. Most every social exchange evokes emotion. Since we are hard-wired to experience emotions, the way we choose to acknowledge them is what makes us emotional intelligence or not.
Studies have shown that people who are emotional intelligence appear to be happier at work and in their home lives because of their ability to neutralize conflict in interpersonal relationships through effective emotion regulation and communication. Emotion regulation is learned in the early stages of infancy and childhood and is taught to us by our caregivers. When a child reacts to a situation by displaying happiness, sadness, anger or surprise, it is vital that the caregiver mirror their emotions. They can do this by offering them appropriate facial expressions based on the situation at hand and by validating the child’s reaction with comfort by using touch or kind words. People who do not receive adequate social interactions in childhood are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, abuse substances, or have eating disorders later on in life.
Empathy plays a key role in emotional intelligence, since compassion leads us to feel, understand and react to situations. If someone were to say that they were mourning the loss of a beloved pet, it would be hard not to tap into our own experiences with loss and understand on some level how they must be feeling. Whether our encounter with grief has been with the passing of a loved one, a relationship or phase in our lives that has come to an end, the core feelings associated with sorrow are similar.
The Basics of Emotional Intelligence
- Identifying Emotions – We can identify others’ emotions with nonverbal cues, their facial expression or tone of their voice. If someone says, “I am not angry,” while grinding their teeth and clenching their fists, chances are that they are indeed angry.
- Examining Emotions – Having the ability to sense emotions like anger, sadness or happiness in another person. This skill allows us to react appropriately in a situation by trying to address it or avoid it.
- Insight into Emotions – Perception is also important when it comes to emotional intelligence because often times our own emotions may cloud how we feel about someone else’s. The skill to differentiate and understand emotions is one of the key ingredients to emotional intelligence. Try not to take other people’s bad moods personally.
- Controlling Emotions – Learning ways to manage emotions.
The points above can give you valuable tools to identify, examine, reflect and control how you may feel and react in your social environment. Emotional intelligence allows you to successfully relate, exist and get along with the people around you. No matter how easygoing or difficult others might be, you are in the driver’s seat of your own emotions.
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition, and personality, 9(3), 185-211.