Emotional Intelligence in Seven Lessons

They say Einstein had an IQ of 190. What is your IQ? Theoretically, the highest possible IQ is 200; though some people have claimed an IQ higher than that. It’s nice to have a higher IQ. It shows you are an intelligent person. But in this article, we are going to talk about another kind of intelligence called “Emotional Intelligence”.  Let’s define it first:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand, use, and manage emotions. This includes recognizing your own emotions as well as those of others. For instance, you are emotionally intelligent if you can realize that you are about to lose your temper, or if you can predict if someone else is about to get angry. With this realization, you can adjust your behavior to avoid an unpleasant situation.   

Some people think emotions are relevant only in romantic relationships or in the heat of a physical fight. However, emotions are an essential part of our daily lives. Without emotions, there won’t be any difference between us and a machine. They are part of every interaction we have, every situation we deal with, and every decision we make in our daily lives.

While emotions are an unavoidable part of our reality, being intelligent about them can be beneficial in both personal and professional life. The following seven lessons should help you be emotionally intelligent.

Lesson One: Emotions Are Beneficial

Emotions help us in many ways. They help us keep track of old memories and experiences and learn from them. Here is an example. Imagine you touch a hot stove and burn your hand. The pain you go through will become a part of your memory. Whenever you get close to the stove the next time, the memory will trigger you to be watchful. You can say you have learnt from the physical pain that you shouldn’t touch hot stoves.  

Just like physical pain, emotional pain resulting from events such as failure in exams, careers, or relationships helps you learn from our mistakes, and to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. In this way, emotions are beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing.   

Lesson Two: How to Pre-empt a Punch in the Face

Apart from learning from our mistakes, emotions help us interpret the feelings of others, thereby allowing us to predict their actions. Imagine you are talking to your neighbour, and your talk turns into an argument. The argument gets heated and as you observe the person’s body language e.g., clinched fists, or loud voice, you can predict if he is going to punch you in the face.

Above scenario describes a situation where you are not just dealing with your own emotions, but also the emotions of the man you are confronting. As his emotions take him over, his body language will convey to you the impending danger ahead. However, your own emotions are not totally out of the equation.

As you pre-empt a possible punch in the face, your own emotions will come into play, and you will prepare for a response, such as whether to duck the punch or attack beforehand. Pre-empting others’ emotions and controlling your emotions are fundamental to being emotionally intelligent.

Lesson Three: Emotions Can Go Wrong

Our emotions are vital for understanding and interacting with our environment. However, they are not infallible. They can go wrong and can lead us to make mistakes. One such situation is when our emotions go into overdrive, and we lose control on them. When emotions engulf our minds, there is little room left for rational thought. Thus any choices or decisions made in an emotional state are more likely to be flawed.

A few examples: 

  • When you are frightened, you mistake a sheet on the washing line as a ghost.
  • When you are happy or excited, you are likely to make promises that you may not be able to fulfill.
  • When you are angry, you may make decisions that you will regret later.

So although emotions are important, they can take control of our minds and disrupt rational thinking. It is therefore important to manage them effectively. How? Let’s see in the next few lessons.

Lesson Four: Be More Self-Aware

The first step towards taking control and managing your emotions is to be able to recognize and name them. A few common emotions are anger, happiness, despair, hope etc. Ask yourself questions such as, what makes me angry today? when do I feel happy? What gives me hope? The answers to these questions will make you more self-aware, and you will be able to manage your emotions effectively.

Lesson Five: Be Empathetic

Emotional intelligence is not limited to managing your own emotions. Managing your social interactions with other people are important as well. One key skill in this regard is empathy. Being empathetic means putting yourself in another person’s shoes and make an assessment of your interactions with them.

For instance, before mistreating someone, imagine swapping the roles with that person. How would you feel if you are treated the same way as you are treating others? In this way, empathy can improve your interactions with friends, colleagues, and family members.

Lesson Six: Feeling Brain Versus Thinking Brain

In order to understand our emotions, it is useful to assume that we have two brains, although physically we have just one. Let’s name the two brains: the thinking brain — where we develop our rational thoughts, and the feeling brain — the place where are emotions are born. The two brains are intertwined. Emotional intelligence demands a balance between the two.

Let’s take an example. Imagine you hear a loud bang. Your feeling brain will respond to the bang and go into overdrive. Your body will go into a state of alert. Being emotionally intelligent means that your thinking brain analyses the situation to determine if there is a real danger. If not, it will calm the feeling brain down and stop your emotions from taking over. This is called emotional self-regulation and is an important part of emotional intelligence.

Lesson Seven: Emotional Intelligence Is Vital for Success

It is commonly thought that most successful people are smart or intelligent i.e. they have higher IQ than others. In fact emotional intelligence is as important as IQ. For instance, a student with higher IQ but lower emotional intelligence may succumb to an impulse to watch a movie while he should be studying for the next day’s exam. On the contrary, a relatively less bright but emotionally strong student can make a timely effort and perform better in the exam.

Further to academic success, emotional intelligence becomes even more important in careers and relationships. People with better emotional intelligence are more likely to attain higher positions and be more successful in their personal lives. To conclude the topic, education on emotional intelligence should be mandatory, for anyone and everyone.

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