“When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master.”
We essentially have two minds – one that thinks and one that feels. Our intelligence quotient (IQ) only makes up about 20% of the factors that determine life success and the rest is dependent on our emotional intelligence (EI). Learning to master our emotions and understand the emotions of others helps us to build stronger relationships with others. Here, I summarise key concepts about emotional intelligence presented in the following books:
- Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
The 4 Core Skills of Emotional Intelligence (adapted from Emotional Intelligence 2.0)
Skill 1: Self-Awareness (Personal Competence)
- Self-awareness is composed of two things:
- The ability to identify our own emotions in real time.
- The ability to stay on top of our reactions and understand our tendencies.
- People with a high level of self-awareness have the following characteristics
- They understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
- They understand the motivations for their actions and emotions.
- They are aware of the situations and people that may push their buttons.
- They are not afraid of their emotional “mistakes” and are able to focus on their feelings even if these are negative.
15 Strategies for improving self-awareness
- Quit treating emotions as good or bad: labelling emotions as good or bad prevents us from understanding the emotions. Simply acknowledge the emotions.
- Observe the ripple effect from our emotions: observe how our emotions impact others in real time. Then, spend time reflecting on our emotions and ask others how they are affected by our emotions.
- Lean into our discomfort: avoiding our discomfort is only a short term solution. Our goal should be to lean into the emotion so that eventually we can understand and get through the emotion.
- Feel our emotions physically: as the mind and body are tightly linked, one of the best ways to understand our feelings is to detect the physical changes they produce.
- Know who and what pushes our buttons: understand the triggers and pet peeves that irritate us the most.
- Don’t be fooled by a bad mood: a bad mood often gives us the illusion that everything in our lives is not going well. Self-awareness allows us to rise above our mood and understand that it will pass.
- Don’t be fooled by a good mood either: positive emotions can also deceive us and lead us to make decisions that we may regret later on. Stay aware and cautious of the good moods that encourage us to make foolish decisions.
- Watch ourselves like a hawk: observe our emotions, thoughts and actions as each situation unfolds. Take it all in and give our brain sufficient time to process the information before reacting.
- Keep a journal about our emotions: as it is a challenge to adopt objectivity to our thoughts, emotions and behaviours, it is helpful to regularly write these down and review this after a period of time.
- Stop and ask ourselves why we do the things we do: make it a habit to pause and reflect on the motivations behind our actions. Trace our emotional reactions down to their origins and try to understand the purpose of our feelings.
- Visit our values: when we are caught in the middle of the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to lose sight of our core values and beliefs. It is important to stay true to our values and consider the alternative actions and behaviours that will be more aligned with our values.
- Seek feedback: there’s always a big difference between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Developing self-awareness requires us to develop both perspectives which can be attained through feedback from others.
- Get to know ourselves under stress: be alert about the physical signs of stress e.g. stomachache as they inform us about when to slow down.
- Check ourselves: although self-awareness happens internally, there are outward manifestations to be observed. We have to constantly notice our mood and our corresponding demeanour in every situation.
- Spot our emotions in books, movies and music: be on the lookout for any media that our emotions can identify with. This teaches us a lot about ourselves and helps to explain our inner states.
Skill 2: Self-Management (Personal Competence)
- Self-management is the ability to use our self-awareness to direct our behaviour towards people and situations.
- People with good self-management skills have the following characteristics:
- They do not allow fear to cloud their rational thinking even when faced with a difficult situation.
- They know how to put their immediate needs on hold in order to achieve larger long-term goals.
17 strategies for improving self-management
- Take control of our self-talk: although each of us has an average of 50,000 thoughts a day, the most influential ones are those where we talk to ourselves. These are some examples of how to change the negative self talk:
- Change the I always or I never statements into sometimes or just once.
- Shift from judgemental statements to factual statements.
- Accept responsibility only for our actions and not for anyone else’s.
- Visualise ourselves succeeding: when we constantly visualise ourselves self-managing our emotions well, our brains will learn to accept it as a fact. Make it a habit.
- Create an emotion vs. reason list: create a list that separates the emotional from the rational side of an argument. This helps us in differentiating the two so that our emotions will not take control over us.
- Focus on our freedom rather than our limitations: whenever we find ourselves caught in a difficult situation, remember that we will always have a choice on how to respond. Focus our energy on the variables that we still have control over and remain open-minded.
- Stay synchronised: synchrony is our body language that reflects the emotions it manifests. When we find ourselves without any control over our body language, it means that our emotions are taking the reins instead of us.
- Speak to someone who is not emotionally invested in our problems: when we think about our problems, we are limited only to what we know and feel about the situation. Talking to someone outside of our situation gives us different perspectives and more options.
- Learn a valuable lesson from everyone we encounter: whenever we face people, be open to what we can learn from them even if the encounters are not necessarily positive.
- Breathe right: most of the time, we only take quick and shallow breaths instead of filling up our lungs. In a stressful or emotional situation, breathing oxygen deprivation can affect our mood negatively, prohibiting self-management.
- Put a mental recharge into our schedule: taking care of our minds also means taking care of our bodies. We can give our minds a break while engaging in physical activity.
- Set aside time in the day for problem solving: take 15 minutes each day to separate ourselves from the rest of the world to think and plan clearly, ensuring that our decisions are not clouded by emotions.
- Accept that change is just around the corner: change is inevitable and this mindset helps us to adapt to any changes that my happen in our lives so that we can protect ourselves from shock, fear and disappointment.
- Make our goals public: when other people know about a goal that we have set for ourselves, the sense of accountability we have with them can be the necessary motivation for helping us to achieve this goal.
- Count to 10: whenever we are struggling with self-control, take 10 deep breaths and count from 1 to 10 with each exhalation.
- Sleep on it: time and patience can ease the pain and provide clarity when it comes to uncomfortable situations. Take time to digest the situation and allow for new realisations and different perspectives.
- Talk to a skilled self-manager: find someone who has a natural gift for self-management and use them as a role model.
- Smile and laugh more often: in a negative emotional state, forcing ourselves to smile can send signals to the brain to trigger a mood improvement.
- Clean up our sleep-hygiene: quality sleep provides us with the flexibility, clear-headedness and alertness required to develop self-management skills.
Skill 3: Social Awareness (Social Competence)
- Social awareness is the ability to pick up emotional signals from others and the ability to understand their thoughts and emotions.
- The most important part of social awareness is knowing how to listen to and observe other people.
- People with social awareness have the following characteristics:
- They can consider another person’s perspective even when they are caught up in their own emotions.
- They are empathetic, organisationally aware and service-oriented.
17 strategies for improving social awareness
- Live in the moment: the key to social awareness is living in the present moment. Our thoughts tend to drift away to the past or future so we need to learn how to refocus on the current reality.
- Step into their shoes: stepping into someone else’s shoes is social awareness as its best. Set aside our own emotions and thinking patterns to understand their perspective.
- Practise the art of listening: listening is not just about paying attention to each word or the literal meaning of someone’s speech. It is also about watching out for the tone, speed and volume of the person’s voice. When engaging in dialogue, remove all other distractions from our path and focus.
- Go people watching: observing people in public places is a simple, effective and safe way to increase social awareness.
- Understand the rules of the culture game: the people we interact with come from various backgrounds and cultures. We must identify the rules related to family background, business culture and ethnicity and adapt to these differences.
- Watch body language: body language provides a lot of clues to what a person is thinking and feeling. The right way to study it is to start from head to toe but be careful not to stare impolitely.
- Seek the whole picture: it takes courage and strength to be open to seeing ourselves the way others see us. Muster the strength and confidence to ask people about their perception of us to help us understand the behaviour changes we require.
- Catch the mood of the room: when we have learnt how to read a person’s cues and emotions, we can apply this on a larger scale by reading an entire room.
- Clear away the clutter: social awareness relies on us being socially present and this is impossible if we have too much internal clutter such as self-talk that tunes the world out. Hence, we have to first clean up the internal clutter and if we are distracted, we can refocus on the other person’s face and words.
- Test for accuracy: no matter how socially aware we are, there will be times when we may be caught off guard. In such cases, we need to ask the other party questions to confirm if our understanding of the situation is correct.
- Make timing everything: when it comes to emotions, timing is everything. We need to consider our audience, adopt a correct frame of mind and ask the right questions. Social awareness is not about us but about acknowledging others the right way.
- Develop a back-pocket question: a back-pocket question is the card we can use to get us out of any awkward moment or uncomfortable silence.
- Place our attention on others instead of taking notes during meetings: meetings involve people more than anything else. If our attention is on taking notes, we may not be able to observe the body language of those around us.
- Greet people by name: calling someone by name is a simple yet meaningful way to engage them.
- Go on a 15 minute tour: becoming socially aware is learning to enjoy the current journey we are on and the people we encounter along the way. Take time to walk around the workplace just to take in the surroundings. A daily 15 minute observation tour will help us to notice new things.
- Watch EQ at the movies: film is a medium that showcases a limitless range of social cues. When we watch a film, we can take the opportunity to learn these cues and build our social awareness without having to be emotionally involved.
- Plan ahead for social gatherings: planning ahead frees up our mental energy, allowing us to focus on the present moment.
Skill 4: Relationship Management (Social Competence)
- Relationship management taps into all the other three skills: self-awareness, self-management and social awareness.
- Relationship management is based on how well we manage our interactions with others through an awareness of our own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
- This leads to the formation of solid bonds, strengthened by good communication and effective conflict resolution.
- Stress is the biggest hindrance to relationship management.
17 strategies for improving social competence
- Be open and curious: being open means ensuring people know enough information about our background so that our views are not subject to misinterpretation. Being curious refers to asking questions about the other party so that we can meet their needs without misinterpretation.
- Avoid giving mix signals: sometimes we feel one thing but say another and our words and body language do not match up. This can confuse and frustrate others.
- Enhance our natural communication style: use our self-awareness, self-management and social awareness skills to shape our natural style of communication.
- Have an ‘open-door’ policy: showing others that we are accessible will open all lines of communication and help to establish bonds.
- Explain our decisions, don’t just make them: when we are faced with the responsibility of making decisions that affect others, we have to explain the reasoning behind our actions, offer alternatives and acknowledge its impact on everyone.
- Make our feedback direct and constructive: to give feedback in the most effective way, we need to use all 4 EQ skills.
- Firstly, identify our feelings about the feedback (self-awareness).
- Secondly, decide on how to act on these feelings (self-management).
- Thirdly, consider the person receiving the feedback and how they will be affected (social awareness).
- Lastly, give the other party a chance to share their thoughts and thank them for their openness to our feedback (relationship management).
- Take feedback well: always be prepared to receive both positive and negative feedback so that we will not be caught off guard.
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings: this is a good starting point for anyone who has trouble managing relationships. The key is to acknowledge and not to try to change the other person’s feelings even if this makes us uncomfortable.
- Align our intention with our impact: sometimes we have the best intentions and act on them but it does end up the way we intend it to. We need to align our behaviour with our intentions using our social awareness and self-management skills. Firstly, observe the situation and the people involved. Next, think before we speak or act and make an appropriate response. Then, do a quick analysis. Think of an experience when our intentions and actions were not aligned. Finally, reflect on what we could have done better.
- Complement others’ emotion or situation: copying someone’s feelings is not the same as complementing them. A complementary response is one that says we recognise and give importance to the other party’s emotion.
- Build trust: trust takes time to build but it does not take long to lose. It is strengthened through open communication, consistency in behaviour and reliability in following through on agreements.
- Tackle a touch conversation: Start with agreement: begin with common ground
- Ask the person to help us understand their side
- Resist the urge to prepare a rebuttal
- Help the other party understand our side
- Drive the conversation forward
- Keep in touch
- Only get mad on purpose: anger creates discomfort but this does not mean that it should be completely suppressed or ignored. It is an emotion that exists for a reason. Managing anger and using it purposefully can actually enhance our relationships.
- Do not avoid the inevitable: many situations in life will call for us to cooperate with those with whom we would rather not be friends with. This is when relationship management becomes essential.
- When we care, show it: the smallest gestures of appreciation can go a long way. When we get the urge to do or say something nice for someone, do not pull it off until later.
- Offer a “fix-it” statement during a broken conversation: sometimes a simple conversation can go out of hand and become a full-blown confrontation. Instead of passing the blame around, focus on repairing the conversation. Set aside our tendencies and assess our own emotions together with the emotions of others.
- Remember the little things that pack a punch: it is important to incorporate pleasantries and courteous statements into our relationships. Appreciation is always necessary to build strong bonds with others.
Emotional Intelligence Concepts (adapted from Emotional Intelligence)
- Emotions are strong impulses that urge us to take immediate action. They are based on fundamental needs (usually survival needs) and neurologically designed to propel us into action without overthinking.
- There is nothing wrong with feeling emotions but problems may arise when the emotions are out of tune with the situation or we do not express our emotions productively.
- We essentially have two minds: a thinking one and a feeling one. We cannot change our emotional reactions to things but we can learn how to respond to our emotions differently.
- Emotional hijacking occurs when the limbic system, the emotional centre of the brain takes over without notice. This sends our body into panic mode and makes it more difficult for us to control the actions we take.
Emotional Intelligence Skills
Emotional intelligence comprises the following skills:
- Knowing our emotions: the goal is to be self-aware in relation to our emotions. Most people deal with their emotions in these 2 unhealthy ways:
- Engulfed: these people allow their emotions to shift and overpower them. They often feel out of control.
- Accepting: these people are do not feel like anything needs to change. They are either in a good mood, hence they do not have any motivation to charge or they are in a bad mood, hence they feel resigned.
- Managing emotions: the 3 emotions that people find difficult to regulate include anger, anxiety and sadness. These are some methods to deal with these emotions:
- Anger: we can try to challenge the assumptions that made us angry, physically cool off with exercise or distraction, use relaxation techniques or write down our thoughts and reflect on them
- Anxiety: we can ask realistic questions and use relaxation techniques.
- Sadness: we can challenge the sad thoughts to find a positive spin, schedule pleasant distractions or engineer small successes.
- Motivating ourselves: motivation has to do with what we believe about our own abilities. The ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal is necessary to achieve almost anything. People who are good motivators:
- View themselves as resourceful
- Try different approaches to accomplish their goals
- Tell themselves things will improve when times are tough
- Break down large tasks into smaller and more manageable goals
- Empathy: empathy is the fundamental people skill, allowing us to understand what others want. Empathy changes the way we look at the world.
- Building relationships: the ability to manage relationships can be broken down into 4 distinct abilities:
- Organising groups
- Negotiating solutions
- Personal connection
- Social analysis
p.s. Leave a comment if this resonated with you. I love to hear your stories!
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