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Emotional intelligence is described as the individual having three main skills; being able to (1) identify, understand one’s own emotions (emotional awareness); (2) harness the emotions and adequately apply them in tasks such as problem-solving and thinking; (3) manage one’s own emotions and helping others to manage their own. It is also being aware of how motivation and behaviour are influenced by emotions. Workshops or discussions relating to emotional intelligence are generally geared toward helping people gain insight into self-awareness and self-management. This should eventually give them the tools to control their emotions and actions to experience a positive impact on their personal and professional lives.
The emotions that are identified, harnessed, and managed include all emotional states such as frustration and sadness. Persons who are able to identify their own emotional states are likely to understand the emotions of others. I believe it is safe to say then that someone who is sensitive to his or her own feelings and that of others is usually a desirable or suitable, business and romantic partner, leader, parent, and friend.
The importance of emotional intelligence
When emotions are adequately managed, the individual is able to empathize with people, effectively communicate, relieve stress, resolve conflicts, and overcome difficulties. Emotional intelligence helps individuals to be successful at work and school, achieve goals, and build more solid relationships. We know by now that it is not the academically smartest people who become the most successful or live the most fulfilled life. There are many academically smart people who are not successful in their relationships in the home and at work. Your intellectual ability can certainly get you into a good college, university, or job, but it is not enough to help you manage emotions and stress that come with college and eventual work and personal life. This is where emotional intelligence becomes necessary.
What is impacted by emotional intelligence?
Social intelligence: you become able to connect with people close to you and within the wider society. You get to identify and differentiate who are friends and those who are not for or with you, measure the level of interest in you from another person, and experience happiness and love through social communication.
Performance at work or school: when your emotional intelligence is high, you are better able to manage the social complications at work and school, motivate and lead others, as well as be at the top in your career or studies. Several companies use emotional intelligence testing to make hiring decisions because they believe these skills are as important as having a technical ability.
Mental health: your mental health is greatly impacted by uncontrolled stress and emotions as this can make you vulnerable to depression and anxiety. The inability to identify, understand, become comfortable with, and manage emotions can also lead to struggles in forming strong relationships. Eventually, you will be left feeling isolated and lonely and this can only make mental health issues worse.
Physical health: it is likely that you are not able to manage your stress if you are not able to manage your emotions. Unmanaged stress causes an elevation in blood pressure, harms the immune system, increases vulnerability to strokes and heart attacks, and speeds up the process of aging.
Relationships: when you are able to understand your emotions and control them, expressing your own feelings and understanding how other people are feeling become easier to do. This facilitates the forging of stronger relationships and more effective communication in work and personal life.
How to hone the skills in emotional intelligence
- Self-management: when overwhelmed by stress, it is not easy to think clearly and make rational decisions about yourselves or others. To hone the skill of self-management you must practice taking distressing or offensive information without allowing it to dominate your control over thoughts and actions. Take deep breaths, pray, take a walk if you can, or do whatever else is necessary to give you time to think a little before responding or making decisions.
- Self-awareness: to be able to manage core emotions like fear, sadness, anger, and joy, you have to learn that emotions greatly influence actions and thoughts. If emotions were valued as a child, it is likely that you are able to manage them as an adult. But if responses to the expression of your emotions resulted in pain, confusion, and threat, you are likely to avoid identifying and expressing your emotions. Self-awareness is being able to connect with current emotions; connect with changing emotional experiences; turn your thoughts inward without judgment. Some questions you should ask yourself to hone the skill of self-awareness include: do physical sensations in my chest, throat, or stomach accompany my emotions? Are emotions like joy, fear, sadness, or anger evident in my facial expressions? Do emotions factor into my decision-making?
- Social awareness: being socially aware allows you to identify and interpret the mostly nonverbal cues that others constantly use to communicate with you. The true feelings of others, their changing emotional states, and what they regard as important will be easier to detect when you practice social awareness. In short, you are socially comfortable and empathetic. A lot of us are proud of our ability to multitask, but this usually gives no room to be present to or mindful of the moment. To improve this skill you must be present in the moment to ensure that you do not miss the emotional changes that are taking place in others which would help you to understand them.
- Relationship management: emotional and social awareness increase your ability to work well with people. When these skills are present, additional skills can be effectively developed that will enhance your relationships and make them more successful and fulfilling. It is almost impossible to avoid revealing what you think and feel by way of nonverbal messages to others through the muscles around your mouth, forehead, nose, and eyes. When you identify and control nonverbal messages that others get from you, this can greatly improve your relationships.
The main factor involved in the struggle to acquire the skills for emotional intelligence is uncontrolled stress. This makes it difficult to avoid and control conflicts with others. Therefore, here are some ways that you can start practicing these skills. Use the natural antidotes of laughter, humour and play to relieve stress. These antidotes balance the nervous system and work to not only reduce stress, but to calm you down, sharpen the mind, and allow you to become more empathic. Understand also that disagreements and conflicts are unavoidable in human relationships and they reveal the different expectations, opinions, and needs of others. Learn to appreciate conflicts as opportunities to know and grow closer to people, rather than as punishing and threatening. Trust between you and others is likely to become strengthened when you learn to resolve conflicts in healthy and constructive ways. In addition, relationships experience feelings of safety and creativity, and freedom is encouraged when you acquire the skills of resolving conflicts in a healthy way.