When we refer to intelligence, we normally think of the term IQ (intelligent quotient), a term that scientifically defines a person’s ability to use their cognitive functions, for example solving rational problems or calculations.
A relatively unknown type of intelligence (however crucial to our mental wellbeing) is the concept of emotional intelligence. The psychologist and author Daniel Goleman popularised it in his book, Emotional intelligence Why it can matter more than IQ.
He defines emotional intelligence as the ability to understand and manage our emotions in efficient ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others and overcome challenging life events. We have scientific proof that shows that emotional intelligence is a significant pillar for our mental health and that it helps us to navigate our relationships in work and private life, especially when it comes to uncomfortable emotions, such as fear, anger or shame. The ability to understand our own emotional reactions allows us to recognise internal stressful triggers and defuse them. Instead of suppressing or avoiding these feelings we can learn to be aware, observe and acknowledge them as a part of us, without getting overwhelmed by them.
Accompanied with this skill comes the ability to act less reactively and be more self-determined in what are normally triggering situations, i.e. in conflict situations. Problem solving and relationship building are enhanced, because processing emotions efficiently, resets our nervous system (which is stress relieving) and enables us to access higher brain functions.
Like any other skill, emotional intelligence is an ability that can be learned by anyone regardless of age, gender or IQ.
A few tips to increase emotional intelligence:
- Our emotions and thoughts: Take 2-5 minutes per day, where you observe what happens within you (your emotions and thoughts). Try to create a distance between you and what you perceive – we are not our emotions; we are not our thoughts!
- Body awareness: Emotions are produced by our nervous system and perceived as sensations in our body. Think about where in your body you feel the sensations and breath into that area to relax. This should help to ease any tension.
- Keep a diary: Write down triggering events and the accompanied emotions and body sensations – this will allow you to understand your personal triggers and know how to create distance in conflictual situations.
- Take a tour: Take 15 minutes to walk around the office or your workspace. Sometimes we get stuck in our own world, so much so that we fail to notice what happens around us. We can learn so much from this. By taking a walk we observe: the behaviour around you; who is talking to whom; what are their moods; how are their desks organised; what are their individual feelings; what is the overall group mood; how is the dynamic among the team. What do you see and hear? This is not stalking; this is learning about the people around you.
- Create an emotions chart: This will help you to get to know your different emotions and their subcategories. Research shows that by writing down and naming the exact emotion, this can decrease their intensity.
- Celebrate the good ones: Take your time to enjoy comfortable emotions (e.g. joy, interest, contentment) and locate where in your body you feel them and give it a name.
At MindBerry all our professionals are fully qualified psychologists, therapists and coaches who use all the latest accredited tools and techniques to support those looking to increase their emotional intelligence. We offer face-to-face, video or audio one-to-one sessions with a professional of your choice, so ‘GET IN TOUCH’ today.