The Intricacies of Emotional Intelligence and How To Use Them
We’ve all gone through moments of extreme distress. You panicked. You didn’t know how to react. You didn’t know what to say or do. You lost control of your emotions. Hopefully you don’t beat yourself up about it anymore (or if you are, then stop it), as time heals all thoughts. In the moment however, you felt helplessly stuck. All of us have had a time or two or twelve wherein we react to a situation in some manner, only to get home, recollect and analyze how we acted, and then overthink what we could have done differently. ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ You know what this gut-wrenching reaction is like through your own unique life experiences. We all experience our own thoughts and feelings. They’re an integrated component of the brain and are how we respond accordingly to everyday actions and perceptions. Fortunately for us all, we can make a mistake and learn from it to better ourselves and approach with a different mindset if a similar occasion occurs. What’s unique though is that emotions are very much malleable and capable of being honed for one’s personal growth and development.
I’m talking about emotional intelligence. It’s defined as the capacity of being able to understand, recognize, manage, and utilize one’s own emotions in positive ways to effectively handle relationships, improve thyself, and resolve complex problems. Emotional intelligence has become a heavy topic of study in recent years, with many researches showcasing results that lead to the conclusion of someone with a high emotional quotient transforming into a person of leadership prowess, financial stability, compassionate social skills, and all-in-all life success. While there’s an abundance of information for discussion it, I want to succinctly cover the five pillars that constitute emotional intelligence, and suggest one accessible recommendation for each pillar that anyone can try out and apply to their own life. The five elements that I will touch over are as follows: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, empathy, and motivation.
The first and arguably leading pillar of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness means being able to understand and examine your own emotions and traits, recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, & drives, and comprehending your behavioral effect on others. You have to look at yourself and how you act from an objective standpoint, with your Self being the focus of attention for constructive criticism. Individuals that are able to assess their emotions have been shown to be people of great self-confidence, who have a solid sense of humor and a leadership identity.
One recommendation that I love to advise others for enhancing this component is to place themselves in a third / outside-of-body point of view, and observe without fixing. Imagine you are a stranger just to the side of you and the other person of interest. Take a neutral viewpoint on a scenario (say, an argument between a significant other or family member) and scrutinize the situation. Try to remember what your body mannerisms, facial expressions, dialect, eye contact level, and overall tone of action were portraying. Use mindfulness, and without any judgement, begin to pick apart the actions you exhibited, both positive and/or negative. What did you say, and why? What emotions were in line with your words? What specific emotions were you feeling, right there and then? Be completely honest with your self-reflection, and be open to acknowledging your true feelings. You’re not attempting to lie to anyone in believing what your true intentions were, and you certainly cannot lie to your true self. Know this: you can only bring about change by accepting who you are right now, and how you want to refine yourself.
After you begin to become more comprehensive of your own emotions, self-regulation is the next pillar to tackle. Self-regulation involves controlling your impulses, abilities, inner resources, being adaptable, and expressing your emotions aptly. It becomes one’s ability to think before acting. This pillar is especially important in honing one’s capableness with conflict management and tension diffusion, as well as raising a person’s conscientiousness and integrity.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a pressured on-the-spot situation where emotions and thoughts are all flying by one right after another after another, you know what that nerve-wrecking anxiety is like. Self-regulation aids in times of stress and uneasiness, allowing one to be calm and thoughtful in expressing their emotions with restraint and control.
My suggestion on improving one’s self-regulation is to catch yourself the next time you’re in a predicament. When in any given conflict, we unconsciously act upon it by one of three ways: approaching it, avoiding it, or attacking it. The next time you’re about to react to an occurrence, pause and stop yourself. What are you about to do? What are your motives behind your thoughts? Are you thinking of dealing with the circumstance, or are you thinking of leaving it? What is your train of thought? Think things through, and respond accordingly to the way you believe is optimal not just for you, but for everyone involved. This line of thinking exemplifies people who can manage their emotions in spur-of-the-moment times and try to remedy it to their best efforts.
Moving right along to the next pillar comes excellent social skills. Social awareness is the segment of understanding the emotional state of those around you and interacting well with others. This is the pillar in dealing with how you deal with all relationships in your life. You can pick up emotional cues from others, are comfortable in a social setting, and can essentially read the room. In the work world, having high social intelligence allows for development of a strong rapport between leaders and co-workers. These individuals are characterized by their ability to effectively listen, have high conversational skills, and communicate with clear messages.
And while some may think redundant of it, one of the greatest ways to strengthen one’s social awareness is by improving their active listening skills. The next time you’re with a friend who’s venting to you, practice quieting your mind during the conversation. Don’t let your thoughts roam around, don’t wait to speak, and don’t interrupt. You’ll be surprised at what inflections and mannerisms you may catch from them when you are undividedly giving them your full attention. You’ll also notice how much you naturally / unconsciously move around or reply without thinking. It’s showing genuine interest in someone else, and your attentiveness will not go unnoticed to them.
The fourth pillar is bit interesting to me, in that it’s a trait you would think people should / would have, yet it does vary quite extremely person to person. That trait is demonstrating empathy. Empathy is being able to emotionally understand and consider what other people are experiencing, and feel what they must be feeling. To empathize is to truly plant oneself in someone’s shoes, and walk a mile and a half in them. It is a lifelong skill with great integration to relationship navigation. Empathetic individuals can see from someone else’s perspective, try to help others in need, and open themselves up to resonate with others’ experiences.
As aforementioned, empathy is something that differs vis-à-vis. One person might brush away a homeless individual in suffering, while another would offer a meal or funds for their survival. One of the best ways to build empathy is to immerse yourself in someone else’s position. Get inside their head and see what they’re really going through. Are they saying what they mean? Are they lying — and if so, for what reason(s)? What emotions are they exhibiting, or holding back? Again, you have to walk in their shoes, not just put your feet inside and stand there. To really begin to empathize is to really care deeply about other people. We all hide some of our life away behind our smiles, no matter who you are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with caring, and exhibiting collectivistic orientation over an individualistic one will get you farther in life, no matter what society might push and stress otherwise.
Finally comes the fifth and last pillar, which is having high intrinsic motivation. While for the most part we as people work for external rewards such as money, recognition, and/or fame to some extent, these are not the qualities emotionally intelligent individuals seek out. Instead, self-motivation here refers to being goal-oriented, improving one’s drive for their achievements, and finding new ways to better themselves. Having intrinsic motivation consists of doing an activity out of pure enjoyment. If you’ve seen Disney / Pixar’s Soul (2020), you’ve seen them discuss the ‘flow — to just get into whatever you’re doing, with no distractions, no looking at the time, no boring feelings. Just pure enjoyment of an activity. Individuals with high intrinsic motivation see an opportunity as a chance to explore, learn, and actualize their potentials. They’re people who are creative, productive, committed to their work, and exemplary at taking the initiative.
How do you boost your motivation though? Especially since it’s something that’s distinct and dependent on someone’s interests, lifestyle, and environment. A recommendation that I like to share is to be realistic when you set a new goal. You’re not going to succeed all the time, 100% of the way. You’re going to face problems, setbacks, and experience failure. But failure in and of itself is the best learning opportunity. Without mistakes, you wouldn’t know what not to do. So when you’re setting yourself up for a new goal, say for 2021, then it’s important to maintain a positive and optimistic mindset, be prepared to leave your comfort zone, don’t be hesitant to reach out to someone for help, and utilize your resources. In our current time, information is just at the reach of your computer / phone. Consider your interests, set goals that you CAN achieve at a reasonable pace, and watch your motivation slowly but surely expand from the satisfaction of completion, one step at a time.
Emotional intelligence is not an easy ability for anyone to grasp, straight up. In my opinion, I don’t think anyone can really even master it, no matter who the person is. It’s a skill that can be fine-tuned to death. Literally, until the moment you die. You could be the most successful, stress-free, lavish-life-living individual and still mess up despite calibrating your emotional intelligence to its pinnacle. With that said, that’s why I enjoy learning about it and teaching myself how to incorporate its pillars into my life. I’ve noticed little and big changes alike of my self-perception, as well as with how I ameliorate situations now as they come along. Emotionally intelligent people truly do see the world through different lenses, with a higher appreciation for themselves, others, and all that life offers to them.