I’ve been studying the topic of emotional intelligence for some time and find it one of the most useful theories on the human condition. Once you start to understand the complex nuance of emotions, what they do for us and how they direct behaviour, you learn how to develop better and stronger relationships.
Emotions are not good or bad…
Our emotions are reactions to events or people where they drive us to act in ways that are either supportive or not, to develop relationships with others. It’s important to note that emotions are not good or bad, they simply provide us with information about something which is happening. When we react to our emotions, that’s the point when we decide if the emotion is good or bad. The emotion in and of itself is simply information, which can be either protective or supportive to us.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of the emotional reactions you experience, understanding what the emotion is, and making an informed choice to improve or modify your behaviour for a better relationship. If you feel angry at something, do you understand why? Do you know what it feels like in the body? Do you know how it affects your behaviour? And how do you respond so that your anger is regulated and moderated? If you feel happy at something, do you take the time to appreciate that experience? Do you acknowledge it and share the experience with others? Do you know how that makes your body respond?
Emotional intelligence is also about the ability to recognise emotions in others and respond to them in ways which are supportive and helpful to them. When we do this and the response is positive, we show others we are able to listen to what they’re saying and respond in ways which are helpful for them. When we do this and the outcome is negative, we learn that our response was not supportive and caused a reaction which does not cultivate a strong relationship.
Avoiding automatic pilot
For most people these aren’t questions to bother with. We have an emotional reaction and normally just carry on with our behaviour as we normally do. Below are some practical steps to being able to understand our emotions better, to avoid knee jerk reactions, so we can cultivate stronger relationships.
- At the end of the day, reflect on any particular moments where your emotions were heightened. Do this by either journaling them, or sharing with someone who you can talk them through them with.
- When reflecting, think about what was the trigger for that emotion. That is, what happened just before you had an emotional reaction? This helps you become more self-aware.
- As you identify the trigger, the next thing to identify is what your actual reaction was. How did it make you feel? What did you do? What did you say? This is important to understand what happens to you when you have that emotional reaction.
- The next thing to do is to then understand what happened next… Did something positive happen? Did something bad happen? Did nothing happen? If the next thing was useful to you, what does that help you realise? If it was not useful to you, what do you need to do differently next time?
- If the emotional reaction involved another person, go through the same steps to help you understand how you could either do more of the same, because it was supportive, or how you need to modify your behaviour so you can be more supportive next time.
Hopefully the above steps give an initial way to be able to build your emotional intelligence.