Mastering Emotional Intelligence: 3 Keys to a Better Life
Whenever someone mentions the word ‘Intelligence,’ what is the first thing that you think of? For many people, it might be someone’s IQ, grades in school, or having a vast amount of knowledge in a field of expertise. While these are all examples of intelligence, there are also many different categories that are used to measure one’s intelligence. One example includes body-kinesthetic intelligence, which refers to the ability to use the whole or parts of one’s body to perform tasks or create products. Another example is Musical Intelligence, which refers to the skills of interpretation or composition of musical patterns and performances. Though there are many ways to measure one’s intelligence, the type of intelligence that can improve with therapy is called Emotional Intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to understand, use, and manage one’s emotions in a productive way in order to relieve stress, empathize with others, and defuse conflict by communicating effectively with others. Emotional intelligence can help you better your relationship with yourself and others by connecting you with your feelings and true intentions. When we feel heightened or triggered by emotions, our decision making can be clouded. Have you ever tried to make an important decision when you are really angry or upset? I know from my personal experience; this can be very challenging. Our ability to think clearly and accurately assess our emotions, along with the emotions of others, becomes compromised. When we act on our emotions, it can lead to one making irrational decisions that may look different from our true intentions.
Why Emotional Intelligence is Important
Emotional Intelligence is also paramount in many different aspects of life. For example, if someone is frequently experiencing emotions that they are not able to regulate, they may also have trouble managing stress as well. As you may have heard before, stress can be a catalyst for serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, weakened immune functioning, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, or even infertility. In addition, dysregulated emotions and stress can also affect your mental health and make you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Emotional intelligence also impacts your relationships with others by determining how effectively you are able to express your feelings while understanding how someone else might be feeling as well. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships at work, school, and their personal lives.
Though improving your emotional intelligence may seem like a daunting task considering how many different facets of life it can affect, luckily, the skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any age and applied to your daily life. There are three main skills to keep in mind when trying to improve your emotional intelligence.
Skill #1: Self Awareness
Emotions tell us important information about ourselves. In order to better manage your emotions, you first must be aware of them and how they influence your behavior. In emotional intelligence, the first step to this involves being able to identify and label what emotion you are feeling in the moment. If you have trouble recognizing which emotion you are experiencing, it may be beneficial to look at an emotion wheel (which you can find easily through Google!) to see a plethora of options and pick which emotion feels most applicable to you at that moment. Emotions also are not limited to the mind. Oftentimes we can feel emotions in our bodies, such as a heavy feeling in our chest when we are sad or butterflies in our stomach when we are nervous. If you recognize bodily cues when you are experiencing intense emotions, it may help you identify which emotion you are experiencing.
#2 Self Regulation
Now that we can recognize which emotion we are feeling, where do we go from here? In emotional intelligence, the goal of self-regulation is to control impulses and emotions, so we are able to think clearly before acting. The easiest way to do this is to take a moment to pause and breathe. Taking control of your breath can relax your nervous system and make you more equipped to process and navigate decisions. This also gives you the space to consider if your reactions are appropriate for the current situation rather than being fueled by emotion. A breathing exercise that can help you achieve this includes the 4-2-6 technique, where you inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds, and release the breath for six seconds. Repeat as often as needed to help you feel calm and more in control of your emotions. Another practice that can help improve emotional regulation is meditation. Meditation allows you to quiet your mind and listen to bodily sensations to make you better acquainted with yourself and your emotions.
#3 Social Awareness
After recognizing emotions within yourself, it is then important to recognize how your emotions impact others and be able to identify other’s emotions. This is called Social Awareness, which refers to the process of interpreting verbal and nonverbal cues that others are constantly using to communicate with you. These cues let you know how others are really feeling, when their emotional states shift, and what is truly important to them. Mindfulness is a precursor to becoming socially aware. After all, you can’t be present with others if you are lost in your own head! Following the flow of another person’s emotional response is a give and take process that requires you to also be mindful of any changes in your own emotional experience. This skill is important for relationship management and your overall ability to sustain healthy and fulfilling connections with others.
Embracing Emotional Intelligence: A Path to Personal Growth and a Connected World
In a world where intelligence is often narrowly defined by academic achievement and specialized knowledge, the exploration and mastery of Emotional Intelligence presents an empowering pathway to personal and interpersonal growth. Far from being an abstract concept, Emotional Intelligence is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, influencing everything from our physical health to our relationships, career success, and mental well-being. The good news is that these vital skills of self-awareness, self-regulation, and social awareness are not fixed traits but learnable abilities that can be nurtured at any stage of life. By taking the time to understand and cultivate our Emotional Intelligence, we enrich our personal experience and contribute to a more empathetic and connected world. Whether through therapy, mindfulness practices, or dedicated self-reflection, the journey toward Emotional Intelligence promises profound transformation, equipping us with the tools to navigate life’s complexities with grace, insight, and authenticity.
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To learn more about the mind-body connection, check out this article from Harvard Health:
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