What if we were given emotional report cards as children? This would imply many things, including an education grounded in emotional intelligence. As a society we strive to teach around cognitive and intellectual ability. Likewise, the intelligence quotient or IQ is based largely on these abilities. Nevertheless, emotional intelligence is highly correlated with success and is often a quality that exists in the best and most inspiring leaders. Moreover, emotions are involved in every aspect of our experience, yet often dismissed as insignificant or soft in a world filled with distorted notions of strength and an emphasis on intellect and rational thought.
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to identify and manage or control one’s own emotions, while also being able recognize and respond to the emotions of others. A person with high emotional intelligence is typically able to name the emotion they are experiencing, harness that emotion, and apply emotions to problem-solving. Such a person has a good capacity for emotional regulation and can typically help others to do the same. An emotionally intelligent person often builds and maintains the best possible relationships as they are able to understand and validate how others feel, manage conflict, communicate clearly, and remain present and open to new experiences.
Good news – the skills of emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened through practice!
According to Dr. Marc Brackett, an emotion researcher, author, and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, the first step is to give yourself, “permission to feel.” Allow yourself to pause and self-reflect. Ask yourself how you are feeling and be curious and open to whatever comes up for you. Can you accurately label how you are feeling? You can practice developing skills in the following five areas of emotional intelligence that form the evidence-based approach to social emotional learning referred to as RULER:
Recognizing – Recognize emotions in yourself and in others. Notice how emotions are expressed in our faces, voices, and bodies. Acknowledge, rather than dismiss or minimize your feelings.
Understanding – Understand the causes and consequences of emotions. Reflect on your emotional responses or interpretations of challenging situations or interactions. Reflect on how your emotions influence the behaviors of others. Explore the information provided by your emotions. Ask others how they are feeling.
Labeling – Label emotions accurately. Use a wide range of feeling words and find the best and most nuanced way to describe your feelings. Research a feelings chart on the internet as an aid to provide language in labeling your feelings.
Expressing – Express emotions appropriately. Consider the best time, place, and ways of expressing your feelings. Talk about how you feel with others. You might also write down how you feel or create art to express your feelings.
Regulating – Regulate emotions effectively. Practice self-regulation skills such as mindfulness and meditation. Monitor and notice your self-talk and reappraise the things you might be saying to yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Make a list of the things that help you calm down or feel grounded. Practice acceptance and self-compassion.
Emotional intelligence is underappreciated and often lacking for many people. Many adults and most older adults had little or no instruction or role modeling to follow. However, with practice, anyone can work to improve their emotional intelligence and model the importance of emotional awareness for the next generation. Get started today by giving yourself permission to feel.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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