Emotional Intelligence is the ability to monitor your own feelings and emotions which means that you understand their source and impact. By source we mean that you know what triggers them, such as a traumatic experience, betrayal, inherited among others and you also know how they influence your relationships and professional life. If, for example, you are a high tempered person, you are able to understand that possibly your anger comes from your tendency to perfectionism, lack of time management which means you are always in a rush or inherited the habit from one of your parents. You are also able to observe how your anger is destroying your relationship with your spouse, friends or workplace. With this information in mind, you decide to be more patient with your mistakes, manage your time better and count to ten before you respond to something that makes you angry.
It is not all about negative emotions either way. People who are too optimistic can ran into dangers too if they do not control their optimism. They can end up trusting the wrong people, taking unnecessary risks and get hurt. Knowing that this is the case can help one to be more cautious and responsible.
EI also includes monitoring the emotions of others. It helps to know when your boss is not in the mood to have an extra problem dropped on their desk. It is wise to know when to ask your spouse or parent or friend for a favour. More importantly, your relationship will be in a far better place if you can read the mood of your partner and know when they are sad or upset and be there for them or when they are excited and happy and celebrate with them. Missing these cues can make you come across as insensitive, selfish and uncaring. Knowing the timing of when to ask or say something is a mark of EI and will help you in building and maintaining proper relationships.
How are you feeling now? Good or Bad? Well, there is no such thing as a good or bad feeling or emotion. This is because saying simply good or bad may be covering a huge variety of emotions. When you say you feel good, do you mean peaceful, happy, accepted, excited, satisfied, contented, accomplished or pleased? What about, bad? Do you mean angry, hungry, sad, sleepy, disappointed, betrayed, disgusted or spiteful? Your capacity to distinguish and label different emotions and feelings is vital since it helps your mind to process those emotions properly and help you to come up with proper responses and thus, better actions. This capacity to distinguish and label emotions is a character of EI.
There are many individuals who claim that when they make decisions about people, careers or business, they don’t like getting emotional about it. Thinking and deciding, they say, should be purely logical and mathematical. However, it is nearly impossible to eliminate the impact of emotions in your work, including doing objective work such as math. It is possible to make a mistake in math if you are too excited or buried in grief. In the same way, your expectations about the decisions you make tend to be informed by how your felt in the past (regret or pride) more than you are conscious of.
This nature of emotions to ‘whisper’ ideas to us while we are thinking logically should not be viewed as a burden to be carried or a problem to be solved. Emotions and feelings are friends if they are welcomed and regulated such that one knows how to listen to them but also control their impulses. Indeed, psychological studies around EI show that people who are capable of using their emotions and feelings in their work, relationships and business tend to make better decisions and experience greater satisfaction in their relationships than those who do not. Logic and emotions are the two wings of a plane without which, the plane is grounded and if in the air, about to crash land.
So, befriend your emotions. Learn to pay attention to how you feel in certain situations, when you are with certain people, when about to make decisions and even when you are in the mall deciding which item to buy. Listen to them and have a discussion and if they do not change, trust your ‘gut’ and follow them. (In fact, neuroscientists today understand that the ‘gut feeling’ is a real thing.
Scientists have found that neurons that regulate feelings and emotions have been traced in our stomachs. The thing is, you have a brain in your stomach!). When you are having a conversation with someone important to you, pay attention to how they feel and not just what you are saying.
Be less interested in being right factually, but also being loving. What you say ought to be accompanied by how you say it and must be informed by whether you should say it all in the first place. Once you say it, you should pay attention to how the other person receives. Ask yourself, do they actually care about the message or are more interested in winning the arguments and being right? As you move towards balancing being caring (loving) and being correct (truthful), you can stand up tall as someone who is Emotionally Intelligent.
This article is written by Kamau Mwangi, a Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Speaker, Author, and Talk Show Host.