By Janae McKendry
How are you feeling today? This common question may not be as simple as it sounds. Most of us automatically reply by saying: “fine,” or “good.” However, the real answer to this commonly asked question can be a lot more complicated than a simple one-word response.
Oftentimes we aren’t entirely aware of how we are truly feeling. We are in a state of constantly experiencing emotions, and sometimes multiple emotions at one time. We can feel happy and energetic one moment, then receive upsetting news plummeting us into disappointment and rejection the next. Our lives can be emotional rollercoasters! Understanding that emotions are not just noise we need to tune out, we must learn to listen to them and the informative signals they are sending us.
According to Dr. Mark Brackett in his recent book, Permission To Feel, emotions provide information in five key areas:Brackett, M. A. (2019). Permission to feel: Unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves, and our society thrive.
- Emotions determine what we direct our attention to, how we learn, and how we comprehend information. We can’t fully focus or be able to learn effectively while experiencing strong emotions.
- Emotions greatly impact our decision making. This is especially true when we feel a significant emotion, whether that emotion is positive or negative.
- Emotions matter in the ways we relate to others. “What we feel–and how we interpret other people’s feelings–sends signals to approach or avoid, to affiliate with someone or distance ourselves, to reward or punish.”
- Emotions can greatly impact health. Different types of emotions elicit reactions in our bodies. Cortisol (the stress hormone) is important for health, but too much for too long can be damaging. When you are experiencing high levels of stress for a sustained period of time, your health is at risk. People with high levels of cortisol suffer from severe fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure, and difficulty concentrating among many other issues.Santos-Longhurst, A. (2018, August 31). High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cortisol-symptoms#symptoms
- Emotions affect our creativity, effectiveness, and performance. Brackett cites “another study showed that creative behavior on a given day leads to more positive emotions and a sense of flourishing the next day. As with so much about our emotional lives, there’s a feedback loop at work: feeling good encourages us to act creatively, which makes us feel even better.”
Feelings matter. If we want to be more successful, have positive relationships, better health, and a higher sense of well-being, we must first understand the significance emotions play in our daily lives. We can then choose to develop our emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize and manage our own emotions as well as recognizing, managing, or even influencing the emotions of others.
There are five dimensions of Emotional Intelligence:https://images.ttisi.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/17125937/ttisi_eq_manual.pdf
- Self-awareness: understanding and recognizing one’s own emotions
- Self-regulation: the ability to control or manage emotions in various types of situations
- Motivation: an intrinsic passion to pursue and accomplish goals
- Social-awareness (or empathy): understanding and recognizing the emotions of others
- Social-regulation: competently managing and influencing the emotions of others
Why Should You Learn About EQ?
Learning about EQ is essential because emotions contribute to the decisions you make every day. You can’t simply look at facts and data, and completely remove your emotions because you are an emotional being. Depending on a given situation, you may have an emotional response that can be positive or negative. Your intellectual capacity can also be impacted. When you are aware of the emotional response you’re having, you can identify it. Then, you can work to manage the emotion so you can respond appropriately to the situation.
Did you know that when you experience a negative event, it can take up to four hours for the physical effects of that experience to wear off? In other words, it can take about half of a working day to offset a bad event, which could potentially compromise performance. At the same time, endorphins from a positive experience are also physically present. This means that with the knowledge and the ability to apply EQ, negative experiences can be counteracted by positive experiences.
The Impact of EQ
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman
While your intellectual intelligence (IQ) is important and does contribute to your capabilities, your EQ is actually a better indicator of overall success. Emotional acumen is fundamental in successful organizations that value collaborative teamwork. Additionally, EQ deeply affects personal relationships, as you likely know how complex and challenging marriage, parenting, friendships, and family dynamics can be.
Ways to improve your EQ
Like everything that is worthwhile, improving your EQ takes practice and dedication. Consider the following questions and ideas to help improve each of the five dimensions of EQ:
- Regularly ask yourself, “how am I feeling?” Label the emotion with a specific definition which allows for much needed objectivity.
- Understand the difference between similar emotions that often get mislabeled or misinterpreted (examples: shame v. guilt, stress v. anxiety, joy v. happiness). It’s important to properly label what you are feeling.
- Pay attention to the physical sensations you are feeling (e.g. in your stomach, chest, head, etc.)
- Take time to determine why you are experiencing these feelings and sensations.
- When you are experiencing an intense emotion (being triggered), practice listening first, pausing, and then responding.
- In conversations, be mindful not to interrupt others – be slow to speak and quick to listen.
- To gain a healthier perspective in difficult situations, ask yourself, “will this matter a week from now? or “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” These questions will help you make an appropriate response.
- Identify why your goals are important to you.
- Set aside time each day to work on your goals (e.g. journal your progress).
- Read books, read articles, listen to podcasts, etc. that inspire you.
- Commit to paying attention to what others around you are saying and look for both verbal and nonverbal communication cues.
- Read fiction. “Fiction apparently tricks our minds into thinking we are part of the story, and the empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people.”https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/five-everyday-exercises-for-building-empathy-12061 retrieved on December 18, 2020.
- Develop a mindfulness, meditation, or breathing practice to help calm your mind and focus on the here and now.
- Show genuine curiosity for others.
- Remember people’s names – say it immediately after meeting someone.
- Find common ground and ask “how” and “why” questions.
- Learn from your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions.
This may be a lot to take in. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed as you try to modify several behaviors all at the same time. Start small with one thing that feels realistic and attainable. Don’t forget to make it S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Related to your why, and have a Timeframe). By using our 4S app, you can monitor your progress daily through the check-in feature. You’ll be able to identify your energy levels and emotions which will grow your EQ.
Emotional Intelligence is a work in progress that you have the power to improve. By applying EQ each day, you can get to know yourself better and continue to grow into the best version of YOU!
|↑1||Brackett, M. A. (2019). Permission to feel: Unlocking the power of emotions to help our kids, ourselves, and our society thrive.|
|↑2||Santos-Longhurst, A. (2018, August 31). High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cortisol-symptoms#symptoms|
|↑4||https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/five-everyday-exercises-for-building-empathy-12061 retrieved on December 18, 2020.|