Emotional Intelligence is the ability to tune into your own emotion and identify it – the ability to respond to your emotions appropriately – and the ability to connect to the emotions of others.
Let’s break this down:
Tuning In and Identifying Your Emotions.:
Anger and Righteous Indignation are big ones that are hard to see beyond. They’re the big wall. They tell you that you have this big emotion and you don’t have any responsibility to curb that emotion, because it’s the world’s/other person’s fault. But usually, if you were to sit in the quiet of your anger then you’d realize it was also disappointment, frustration, guilt, shame, confusion, disillusionment, sadness, etc. Those are all emotions that make you vulnerable, so anger rides in on its white stallion to allow you to feel the “bigness” of the emotion without feeling the accompanying vulnerability of it.
A person with developed Emotional Intelligence can feel that anger or righteous indignation, and know that there’s probably something else under it. They can feel the anger while also searching for the other emotion and feel that one as well, knowing both are valid, even if they’re uncomfortable.
Responding to Your Emotions Appropriately:
Some people will feel ashamed of their big emotions and will hide them, stuff them down, cope in unhealthy ways. Some folks will engage in horrible self talk, lash out, or use sarcasm to hurt others who they deep down feel have been hurtful to them. Some will “wear their heart on their sleeve” and inappropriately disclose or emote in situations that would have best been avoided if they had connected to their emotions and declined the invitation. However, responding to your emotions appropriately means having the self-control to stop the sabotaging inner voice or unhealthy behavior. To fight against it if you see it there.
Responding appropriately means crying when you’re bereaved. It means going for a fast-paced walk when you’re angry. It means talking calmly to the person who disappointed you to let them know how you feel about the situation and giving them an opportunity to rectify it. And it means saying “no thank you” to a party invitation when you’re struggling with something emotionally and you won’t be able to shake it off while you’re there.
Connecting to the Emotions of Others:
This is different from empathy (which is basically being able to feel the emotion someone else is feeling). Connecting to the emotions of others is being able to identify what someone might be feeling and knowing what they can handle in the moment. Someone is crying about the death of their beloved pet, they are not in a place to handle joking, criticism, guilt, or other negative interactions that will compound their bereavement. You don’t have to feel their feeling to know that they can’t emotionally take on certain other emotions (that’s why it’s different from empathy).
A person with Emotional Intelligence can identify what someone is experiencing emotionally and then respond with appropriateness.
Emotional Intelligence is something that is taught during childhood. Your parent, teachers, friends, and friends’ parents all take part in helping a child learn how to identify their own feelings, others’ feelings, and then coach them how to respond. Some kids are born into families in which the parents aren’t very connected to emotional intelligence, so they don’t have that role modeling or coaching. They might not have the other close relationships with other adults either. Then those kids grow up to become adults with poor emotional intelligence.
Those folks are difficult to be married to: they pile it on when things are already hard, they don’t understand why you’re so sad about something and tease you about it at the worst times. They are difficult to have as colleagues or friends because to them you should just “grow up.”
Whether you’re the spouse, friend, or colleague who needs to improve your emotional intelligence or if you’re in a relationship with someone the good news is that you can hone this skill. You’re not doomed to be on the outskirts of your heart or society. This is doable.
This is something that can be worked on in therapy since each person has their own strengths and barriers to their emotional intelligence. It’s something that is worked on through stories in your past and present, and rewriting the narrative from your past and honing skills to use today.
Emotional Intelligence is a topic I feel pretty strongly about and love helping people through. If you ever want to sit down with me as one of my clients please feel free to contact me at (530) 994-5114 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org