We hear this term a lot these days, but what is ‘emotional intelligence’? Does it mean that emotions have a mind and IQ of their own? Or does it mean that our intelligence is often overpowered by emotions?
What does emotional intelligence actually mean? Google defines it as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’. But this is a very technical definition. Let’s break it down to understand this concept better.
Imagine that you had an uncomfortable experience with your boss at work. You were yelled at for not delivering a task on time. But you know that it was not your fault. So naturally you feel angry and frustrated but you can’t express it. You go home and realize that the dinner is not to your liking and your pent up frustration finds an outlet. You vent your angst at your spouse who, in turn, spreads the anger to the maid the next morning. And so the chain continues.
When you were supposed to express an emotion of love, you showed anger instead and when you could have expressed your dissatisfaction, you faked a neutral emotion. This leads to mismanagement of our emotions and ends up causing a lot of stress, which ultimately has a negative impact on not only our health but the health of our loved ones too.
Now let’s go back to the definition of emotional intelligence. The ability to identify, understand and cope with your emotions as well as the emotions of other people and handle interpersonal relationships judiciously is what is defined as emotional intelligence. Once we learn to accept and deal with our emotions, we are able to control our reactions and their impact on others in a much better way.
Sharpening your emotional intelligence can help you –
- Deal with pressure and challenges in a positive way
- Connect with people in a meaningful way
- Make relationships, personal as well as professional, enriching
- Be stress-free and share your happiness
- Perform better at work
- Influence success
- Make better life decisions
So how does one work on one’s emotional intelligence? It’s easy, simple and a little bit of practice can help you manage your impulses and emotions better. While the Buddha preached an eight fold path for spiritual liberation, emotional intelligence requires a much simpler four fold path –
- Recognize Emotions: The first step in dealing with emotions would be to recognize them. You should be able to recognize all your emotions through various life situations and also the emotions of others. This will help you separate the positive ones from the negative ones and enable you to deal with your emotions in a more positive way. Make a habit of observing your feelings. Write down a journal or make a mental note. Get rid of negative feelings and expand the positive ones.
- Understand Emotions: Once you learn to recognize your emotions, the next step would be to understand the cause behind them. What makes you happy? What makes you angry? What makes you jealous? What makes you compassionate? You need to answer these questions so as to help yourself become a better person.
- Reasoning with Emotions: Our emotions are more deep-seated than we think. Sometimes, a lot of our emotions, fears and phobias emerge from hidden subconscious memories or experiences. So mere recognition and understanding won’t help. We have to discuss them with ourselves, argue sometimes, with the aid of logic and persuade our inner self to be more reasonable with our emotions.
- Managing Emotions: The first step towards managing your emotions is to take responsibility for your actions and behaviour. Acknowledge other people’s emotions and offer to help. This is easier said than done but a little bit of practice can help. Being open-minded makes a huge difference. Practice empathy and compassion. Also, seek the company of those who are emotionally intelligent.
“If you put on your shoes too tight and walk across an empty plain, you will not feel the freedom of the place unless you take off your shoes. People at a distance see you walking there and wish they were out in the open like you, but as they saying goes, they are not in your shoes.” – Rumi.
As much difficult it is to understand others’ emotions, it is equally difficult for them to understand your emotions. Hence, practising emotional intelligence can be of significant help in leading a happier and successful life.