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What's Emotional Intelligence and How Do I Get It?

Emotional Intelligence

Do you have a difficult time noticing and understanding emotions? Do you sometimes feel confused or even uncomfortable when others are talking about their emotional experience? You may even be in a relationship with someone who gets frustrated at what they perceive as a lack of emotional intelligence. If this sounds like you, I have some good news for you. You can develop and improve your emotional intelligence.

So what is emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence and he identified five components that make up emotional intelligence:

Self Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Self-awareness depend on one's ability to monitor one's own emotion state and to correctly identify and name one's emotions.

Self regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting. Hallmarks include trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; and openness to change.

Internal Motivation: A passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status -which are external rewards, - such as an inner vision of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks include a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure, and organizational commitment.

Empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers. (In an educational context, empathy is often thought to include, or lead to, sympathy, which implies concern, or care or a wish to soften negative emotions or experiences in others.)

Social Skills: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks of social skills include effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, and expertise building and leading teams.

This is all great information, but how do we use that to improve emotional intelligence? I often use the example of flexibility when explaining improving emotional intelligence to my clients. I bet that if I asked you to do the splits right now, you probably wouldn't be able to do so (if you can, well done you flexible thing, you!). But if you worked at it for a few minutes every day, you would begin to notice over time that your flexibility would improve. And one day you could very likely do the splits. It wouldn't happen overnight, but with consistent work toward that goal, you would get closer and closer to being able to do the splits. So if you'd like to develop your skill of greater emotional awareness and intelligence, follow these tips:

  • Make regular note of your emotional state. I like to ask the question "what's it like to be me right now?" Can you identify an emotion you feel? What types of things tend to make you upset or angry (triggers)? Do this several times a day, every day, and increase the frequency and length of the check-ins over time. You'll find that it becomes easier to identify your emotions over time, and ideally you'll get to a place where you're constantly/regularly tracking your emotional state. This knowledge and skill can help inform your decisions, make you more aware of the emotions of others, and overall be more emotionally intelligent.

  • Be open to feedback from the people you trust and who have your best interests in mind. You might ask them some of these questions:

  • What's it like to be friends/partners with me?

  • What behaviors do you believe are limiting my potential?

  • What do you think I'm good at? What are some areas where I could improve?

  • Do you ever avoid saying things to me because you're afraid of how I will react?

  • Practice mindfulness. Research has show that folks who have a mindfulness practice have greater emotional intelligence and are less reactive. Check out this blog for ideas on how to get started with a mindfulness practice.

If you'd like to get started working on your emotional awareness and to develop your emotional intelligence, call me at 512.814.8616 to set up an intake appointment today!

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