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How to Teach Yourself to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Learning is a lifelong process, and some things aren’t taught in school.

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When we’re young, we attend school, learn how to read, write, simple mathematics, science, and history. Once we’re older, the classes we take become harder and more in depth, taking simple addition and subtraction to new levels including algebra and calculus.

No matter how difficult our studies become and how they challenge our minds, one class you’ll never find in traditional schools is one teaching emotional intelligence.

Learning the skill of identifying and dealing with our own emotions is one key to self awareness. Couple that with learning how to do the same with the emotions of others and you’re building a toolbox of skills to last a lifetime.

People who exhibit emotional intelligence have the less obvious skills necessary to get ahead in life, such as managing conflict resolution, reading and responding to the needs of others, and keeping their own emotions from overflowing and disrupting their lives.

There is no validated test or scale for emotional intelligence, as there is for general intelligence, so many argue it’s not a valid construct.

Despite criticism, emotional intelligence or emotional quotient has gained wide acceptance. Potential employers are even including emotional intelligence questions within their interviews with the theory that someone with high emotional intelligence will make a better leader.


What is emotional intelligence?

Experts in the medical community may not agree emotional intelligence is a valid construct, but they agree it exists. Research began in the 80s, by psychologist Daniel Goleman on what he called a mixed-model.

The five key areas of this mixed model form the basis of emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness

You know what you feel, what you’re capable of, what your triggers are, and when you need help.

Self-management

Keeping your emotions in check, even when they are running high or low.

Motivation

For the sake of personal joy, curiosity, and the satisfaction of being productive.

Empathy

The skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately.

Social Skills

Applying empathy and negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground, working with others, and being persuasive.


Learning to be more emotionally intelligent means examining ourselves in each of the five categories. The order isn’t important, however, beginning with being more self-aware can jumpstart your progress to becoming a more aware individual all around.

Analyzing our self-awareness

Improving your self-awareness is a good first step to identifying any problem you may be experiencing. Keeping a daily journal of your emotions is a good place to start. At the end of each day, make a short note on what went on that day and how it left you feeling. How did you react to your feelings?

Over time, you can look back at this journal and gauge times you overreacted in situations and what you can do to correct this behavior.

Meditation keeps us mindful, but for those of us who have difficulty with the practice, slowing down is a good way to start. Pausing before we react gives us a moment to think about why we’re upset, angry, or whatever other emotion we’re feeling.

Managing ourselves

When you’re more self-aware, it’s easier to manage your emotions and reactions. You learn to do what’s best for your needs.

Changing our environment is a key way to manage our emotions. Taking deep breaths and counting to ten, walking outside, anything that breaks your routine.

How people treat you is your karma, how you react is yours. — Wayne Dyer

Motivation

Your inner drive to achieve a goal lights up your prefrontal cortex. This is motivation. When we have goals we want to achieve, working toward those goals in small ways brings us joy. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself the grace to achieve your goals in bite-size pieces. You’ll thank yourself later.

Empathy

Being aware of and managing our emotions is important but only half the equation. Every person you encounter has their own set of emotions, triggers, and fears. Empathy is your most important skill when dealing with interpersonal relationships.

I taught my children from a young age; you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Actively listening is one of the key concepts of empathy. When we listen to learn, rather than react, we give the person we’re dealing with the time and attention they deserve. Bonus, we learn what’s bothering them, making them happy, or making them angry.

It’s one thing to know something, it’s another to understand it. Understanding is key in empathy. If you say, “I know, but,” you’re not understanding.

When someone takes the time to explain how something affects them, what they go through daily, try putting yourself in their position. How would you react if this was your life?

Social Skills

There’s more to social skills than self-awareness, self management, motivation, and empathy; but you have to start somewhere. Your social skills affect everything in your life from your career to your romantic relationships.

Some social skills include meeting new people and identifying with them, socializing with people of varying mindsets, and being able to resolve conflict.

When you apply all you’ve learned about yourself and how to interact with others, you’re well on your way to creating a toolkit of social skills laced with emotional intelligence you’ll use for a lifetime.


Final Word

We can learn emotional intelligence. Putting in the effort will reap rewards not only for yourself but also your career and every relationship in your life.

Originally published on Medium.com

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