So what’s your incentive to put effort into emotional intelligence? Yeah, it’s hip, but… also annoying?
I know, I know, you need bennies explicitly stated, or why would you care?
Here’s the sizzle: A more powerful you! A more beautiful you! A more peaceful you! Picture you dashing through earth’s geographical and social obstacles with deft ease and pleasure. The letters E.I. ripple across your cape as it wafts in the glory. You’re like an astronaut, firefighter, and 1st grade teacher all in one. No matter the situation, you got this. You help, you heal, you happy.
Oh, and people admire you so much.
Here’s the (cauliflower) steak: A better understanding of self and others. Enriched relationships. More influence at work and at home. Greater self-efficacy and decision making ability. And much more!
Now, the recipe.
The following is a HOW TO, via conversation, with a trusted partner, increase your emotional intelligence.
*Reminder: asking someone about emotions is usually best done NOT in the heat of the moment. These conversations should be calm, curious, exploratory, observational, and non-judgmental, and mostly focused on oneself.
What is emotional intelligence and how do you increase it?
1. Self-awareness: Underrated!
- Awareness of your mood (general temperament in the afternoon, day, night, Monday, holiday, or other time.)
- Awareness of your physical feelings (physical sensations within you that are part of emotions.)
- Awareness of your full emotions–the collection of things that make emotions (feelings, mental words and images, posture, gesture, tone of voice, verbal expression, movement)
- Being able to name your own emotions.
STEP 1 INTROSPECTION. Practice paying attention to your feelings, and the body movements, and words you use, and thought patterns.
STEP 2 CONVERSATION. Check in with your trusted partner. How are you feeling? What’s your mood? What is your current emotional state? What emotions have you notice today throughout the day?
2. Emotional Literacy: Naming Emotions
There are many. Like colors, or flavors.
STEP 1 GOOGLE. Broaden your vocab of emotions.
STEP 2 CONVERSATION. Choose a word, say, enchanted, or melancholy, or vivacious, and tell about a time you experienced that. Compare: frustration, anger, and fury. Notice your emotions as you have this conversation and state them out loud. Try: envy, elation, endearing. Remember specific experiences.
3. Cause and Effect: Emotional Context is Mental, Social, Physical, Environmental, and Temporal
Emotions happen in context: time, place, and with (or without) people. There is also the internal biology and physiology that is part of the context as well.
STEP 1 PAYING ATTENTION. (Paying attention is underrated!) Practice paying attention to what causes your emotions (context, people, actions) and what emotions cause (actions, moods, thinking, feelings)
STEP 2 CONVERSATION. Choose an emotion, say envious, or appreciative, and explain: does it happen in certain places, with certain people, at certain times of the day? How does it feel in the body? How does this emotion impact you and what does this emotion cause you to do next?
4. Self-regulation: A Master Skill of E.I.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is like self-control, but not. Self-control implies effortful exertion of will power. If you had to do that all the time you’d be exhausted and spent, and ultimately ineffectual.
Instead, self-regulation is like guiding a boat downstream. Managing the swift, strong currents, the rapids with white water spraying in your face, the slow-moving lulls, the jetties in your way, and potentially dangerous undertows.
The social-emotional world may be swirling around you. Your own inner world may be tumultuous or conflicted. Effective self-regulation is capably guiding yourself through this with clarity and aplomb to get where you want to go, quickly, easily, safely.
Self-regulation includes managing your focus, and levity, while “coping ahead,” and responding to stressful emotional and social situations.
Some simple thoughts on what this means in real time: In difficult times, breathe slowly and completely, watch the speed of your mind. Develop the ability to self-soothe healthily. Stretch your perspective taking ability. What might this look like from another person’s perspective? Stretching perspective taking may mean stretching benefit-of-the-doubt-giving. It may mean stretching patience and generosity. Ah, the good stuff.
How do you practice these things and how do you “cope ahead”? Meaning, how prepared are you for the white water down river?
STEP 1 PRACTICE. What are healthy coping mechanisms for negative emotions? Try one today.
STEP 2 DISCUSS. What was your experience of this? Also, where do you succeed and where do you fail in self-regulation?
STEP 3 TAKE THE BOAT DOWN THE RAPIDS. How transparent are you with your trusted partner about your emotions? And your humility? Try stretching your transparency AND/OR your humility. Try stretching your patience and generosity.
WARNING: humility is a hard one to stretch!
5. Empathy / Sympathy: Same Difference! 🙂
STEP 1 PRACTICE. Observe, describe, and name other people’s emotions. (Good chance you aren’t exactly right.)
STEP 2 CONVERSATION: What does it feel like for them? Where did it come from? Where is it going? How can you help, if at all?
6. Communicate and Express: How, to Whom, and When
STEP 1 CONVERSATION. Practice talking about emotions. Learn when and how and with whom to talk about them. Both sides of the conversation: asking/listening and telling/sharing.
7. Bonus Questions
To discuss over dinner, coffee, wine, or while snuggling.
- Who do you consider to be a skillful user of emotions?
- What is different about emotions for men and women, or boys and girls?
- When was a time you think you exhibited a high level of emotional intelligence?
- What are the variety of emotional environments you like to inhabit? For example, this exciting starting line of a race, the calm and quiet intimacy of bed time, the matter of factness of physical labor, etc.
- What is emotional strength?
- How does our culture treat emotions? What are emotions’ place?
- What are the stigmas surrounding emotions and the expression of emotions?
Thank you for reading! Now, go put on your cape!