Happy Monday! I hope your week is off to a great start and you’re ready to tackle it with determination and vigor.
If you’re not feeling the week, let’s nip that in the bud now. You probably experience a case of the Mondays every week, but what if you didn’t have to? What if you could handle your emotions and control them like a champ, which would make you more productive, improve your relationships, and bring you peace of mind?
Think about the last time you got upset or angry. What amount of control did you have over your words, actions, and expression of that anger or distress? Or did your emotions control you? How well were you able to communicate your feelings to your significant other, a friend, or a parent?
When, if ever, did you feel you controlled your emotions and ran the show, not the other way around? If you reacted poorly, my bet is that afterward, you felt embarrassed or ashamed for how you expressed yourself and the words you said.
I know because I used to be that way and I still am sometimes. But, developing emotional intelligence, or the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically (Google definition), will teach you to identify and read information from your emotions that arise in response to a situation, statement, or other stimulus. Emotional intelligence teaches us to read emotions as information, identify them in others, and help us pick the appropriate action.
This is a journey like anything else, but it will take you further and build stronger relationships than any other skill. In fact, emotional intelligence and “social and emotional learning”, or SEL, is taught in classrooms all over the world to help children communicate and learn to manage their outbursts from a young age.
A Small History Lesson on EI and SEL
Daniel Goleman, who popularized emotional intelligence and SEL, came across it while writing for the science section of the New York Times. He later wrote a book, combining scientific research on the topic and neuroscience findings on how emotions are regulated and controlled in the brain, which then spread like wildfire across the global scientific community, eventually prompting schools to use it in their curriculum. Schools that implemented SEL and taught emotional intelligence reported
better achievement scores and increase GPA’s over schools that did not, according to a massive meta-analysis study conducted by Roger Weissberg of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
It’s also now used in the business world for leadership and professional development. Harvard researcher Shawn Achor discusses the science of happiness in his numerous books and 2011 TED Talk (I highly recommend ALL of his research and work). Brendon Burchard, another very popular author and life coach, uses many of the same theories and applies them to being more productive. Yale created an ENTIRE ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT dedicated to studying and teaching emotional intelligence.
This is insane.
So What is Emotional Intelligence?
As I said before, emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically (Google definition). According to the scientific community, it usually consists of 2 parts: personal competence and social competence. Let’s break down personal competence.
Personal competence is our main focus today and it’s the portion of emotional intelligence that is a great place to start your own development. When looking at your personal competence you should be self-aware: knowing your own personal preferences, ideals, values, resources, intuitions, experiences, etc.
Then you should be able to use that self awareness to be able to
- recognize your own emotions objectively without taking on the emotions of someone else (This can and does happen with HSP’s and empaths, so watch out for this!!!). This is Emotional Awareness.
- know your strengths and limits, including when to push a little harder or back off. This is Accurate Self-Assessment.
- finally achieve self-regulation, or control your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Self-Regulation will help you have more self-control, help you adapt to a changing situation, help you be more conscientious and trustworthy, and help you be more open-minded.
Now, I want to make a note here that suppressing your emotions or how you’re feeling is NOT THE GOAL OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. The real goal here is to help you manage your impulses, feelings, and emotional resources until you can find a safe space or some quiet time to fully process how you’re feeling and then deal with it. Suppressing your emotions will only make them scream louder. Emotional intelligence helps you acknowledge your emotions and gives them a voice without letting them run the show. Our emotions feed us extremely important information about the world around us and help us prioritize.
Emotions are like small children. They want to be acknowledged and heard, then tended to, and then they calm down.
When I was in therapy after my rape and after the school hearing, the counselor gave me a very powerful tool for managing my emotions and I’d like to share it with you. I remember clearly sitting in the chair and looking out across the quad while I listened to her.
So there was a woman who took in 19 puppies. They demanded attention all the time: to be fed, to be petted, to be snuggled, to be watered, to be let out, to be played with, to be loved, etc. She still had to complete all her chores, go to school, eat, sleep, and otherwise function.
She became overwhelmed by all these puppies constantly demanding her attention. She tried to give them away, day after day. No one would take them; they all had their own puppies for which to care. She left them at the docks, took them to the shelter, left them on people’s doorsteps, ignored them at night.
But the puppies kept reappearing at her doorstep and wouldn’t stop demanding her attention and affection.
One day, she decided to try something different. She started to the puppies attention. She played with each of them. She loved up on them. One by one, each of the puppies settled down and became calm. Whenever one would start to have a fit, she would do the same thing: give him the attention he needed. Then he’d settle back down.
The Moral of the Story and How to Use it
If you’re just starting out developing your emotional intelligence, the story about the puppies might seem a little extreme. But think of the puppies as all the chatter your emotions are giving you. It can be really overwhelming sometimes.
No matter how much you ignore your emotions, give them away, or try to just get rid of them, they’ll never go away.
So, care for your emotions like you would care for a puppy, with love and praise. Assign each puppy an emotion and when they start begging for attention, don’t ignore it. Sit with it and care for it, so that you can understand yourself. When it settles down, thank it for the information and for helping you.
This is the basis of emotional intelligence and using it to your advantage in your personal life. As you improve in your personal life, you will see your social life flourish. You’ll have more confidence and focus, and your communication will improve too.
Start to see your emotions as little puppies full of information and pay attention to them. They’re here to help you.
If you want more information on emotional intelligence and tools, check out the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and begin there as well. They use rulers and charts. They publish videos and hold seminars throughout the year. They also help implement EI and SEL in classrooms.
I hope that this helps you as much as it helped me. My emotional intelligence has skyrocketed since I started implementing this practice. It’s improved even more since I started meditating regularly.