Feelings and emotions are central to being human. Sometimes we enjoy them and at other times we are afraid of them in ourselves and others. Understanding emotions allows us to succeed in the areas that matter most to us: Home life, career, and friendships. Yet this doesn’t work the same for those of us that are smarter or more intelligent. Oddly enough, this has nothing to do with luck or the right “connections”.
Feelings Play an Important Role in our Lives
They are difficult to understand. You cannot see, hear or touch them. They defy what we consider logical and rational thinking. They are stronger and more powerful than we think. They cause us to act the way we do in relationships. They are so strong that we cannot REALLY wish them away. When we hide our feelings it makes things worse later.
Feelings are Neither Good or Bad
Feelings can cause us to feel happy, sad, or joy. They are not “good” or “bad”. Feelings just are. A frequent error is to tell someone not to feel “that way.” Feelings exist without any conscious effort on our part. Forcing feelings to go away makes them say around longer. The longer we “bottle-up” feelings the more we will explode. Feelings that are “bottled up” can also cause physical problems.
Feelings are Owned by the Person Experiencing Them
No other person causes you to feel the way you do. How we react to others is our choice. Others listen more when you talk about how you feel. Avoid “You-Blaming” statements. Feelings can be talked out and need not be acted out. Feelings belong to the person who “owns” and experiences them.
Feelings Can Be Assertively Expressed
Assertiveness is very different from aggressiveness. Learn how to identify your feelings. Not all feelings need to be acted on. Use feelings as a guide to understanding your needs and those of others. Understanding feelings can be the key to unlocking the past, present, and future. Feelings need not be feared. Helping children understand the feelings behind their actions can allow them to grow and relate better to others. Resolving feelings requires a “process” over time. It is not just a decision or an event in time by one person over another.
The Truth About Emotional Intelligence
The surprising truth is that our ability to work with our own emotions is more valuable than simple smarts. This Emotional Intelligence (EQ) allows us to form almost flawless relationships with both ourselves and other people. It’s a far better predictor of how successful we will be in life over just mere intelligence (IQ).
Emotional Intelligence is much more likely to dictate who will be a leader. Being intellectually smart (IQ) might get you in a certain career or connected with the right people, but it doesn’t make you stand out. Emotional intelligence does.
In fact, IQ is least likely to be a factor in predicting success, even in fields where smarts are required. This makes sense when everyone is essentially the same; that is, everyone hired for a particular career is smart: The ones that stand out aren’t the smartest anymore; it’s those that know how to understand and work with their emotions that are noticed by others.
This means that you could get an advanced degree in business, be the best FBI profiler in the business, or simple read up on any academically challenging field. In the past, this made you stand out. Now that “everyone is doing it”, nobody stands out. What sets people apart is our ability to manage our own emotions and develop positive relationships with other people. Simply put, these are the fruits of having Emotional Intelligence.
How to be Emotionally Intelligent (EQ)
Want to become more emotionally intelligent? You’ll have to master these areas:
- Self-Awareness: Understanding your emotions, how they can hijack rational thought, and having acceptance of this rather than simply trying to ignore it or push past it through willpower alone.
- Self-Regulation: Knowing how to manage your moods by keeping volatile emotions and impulses in check, and instead focusing this energy into productive areas of your life.
- Self-Motivation: Gaining skill at using your emotions to help you achieve your goals and maintain resilience with eventual setbacks.
- Empathy: Being able to sense and understand other peoples’ feelings and their point of view so that you can better connect with them in a way that they can feel seen, heard, and understood.
- Social Skills: Knowing how to motivate others’ emotions through communication, building relationships, and generating influence.
These skillsets of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) are crucial in order to excel in every area of life, whether you are career, family, or socially driven. Unlike raw intelligence capabilities, which are established at birth, EQ can be developed, refined and built upon at any age. It’s not uncommon for people to continue to grow in EQ through their late 40’s and mid-to-late 50’s.
How to Learn the Skills of Emotional Intelligence
You’ll want to start with awareness, the first step towards Emotional Intelligence. Start by taking stock of what you are feeling several times throughout the day. Over the course of a week, you’ll have a full blueprint of the depth and variety of your emotions: How you’re feeling, what’s going on under the surface, and how you use the energy of the emotions you experience.
It’s important to do all of this without judgment. If you notice feeling sad or irritated, and you roll your eyes and ask out-loud, “what’s wrong with me,” you haven’t really noticed anything of depth at all. In fact, you’ve completely ignored the additional emotions of frustration or anger you’ve used in judging your original emotion.
Replace this instead with what I call the Wildlife Observer Effect
The Wildlife Observer Effect
Imagine a wildlife observer sitting down in a field, taking notes on the animal kingdom. Along comes a lion, who proceeds to pounce on, and attempt to eat, a squirrel. Regardless of your position on squirrels, consider whether this is a poor wildlife observer or a good one.
With a rush of adrenaline, the Poor Wildlife Observer immediately tosses his clipboard in the air, rushes towards the lion and frantically yells, “Shoo! Shoo! Go away!” This is all in a effort to save the poor innocent squirrel, whom they pick up and stroke as if to say that everything is going to be all right.
However, the Good Wildlife Observer allows the interaction to take place. Undeterred by the protests of the squirrel, the lion simply proceeds with his midday snack. The Good Wildlife Observer simply nods, picks up his clipboard, and with deliberate action writes a single entry: “Lion exhibits squirrel-eating behavior. Interesting,” and shrugs.
Reacting to our thoughts and emotions rarely makes us wiser. Acceptance and curiosity allows us to access a deeper, more complete picture of our emotional landscape.
Identify an Emotional Role Model
It can also help to have someone that you respect serve as an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) role model. These are people who excel not only as individuals, but also know how to work with others in harmony towards common goals.
Watch them as they go about their day. You’re looking for some key events. Notice how they:
- Genuinely persuade others towards an idea
- Handle criticism from other people
- Deal with setbacks
With this information in-hand, along with your goal of tackling the first element in growing Emotional Intelligence (EQ), your awareness will grow.
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