Emotional Intelligence is a well-used term that explains how we prepare to react, respond and interact with others. It is easy to focus on facets of EI, without actually getting to the bottom of what it means and how to harness it.
At its roots, it’s about learned and learnable capabilities, and going back, over millennia, human beings have been exposed to everything from natural disasters to illness, wars, predators and starvation. These events have attempted to wipe us out. They didn’t. But that means the surviving human beings (us!) have learned to look at the environment and people we meet as potential threats.
What it also means is that we are inclined to experience more negative emotions than positive ones. We are predisposed to dealing with potential threats, as considering risk serves our primary survival drivers. We are programmed to assess and categorise quickly. That’s why, when a bad first impression has been made, it can be tricky to get over it, even when there’s plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.
Overcoming first impressions is often absolutely what’s required in professional contexts if we are to function well within teams, with clients, and with stakeholders. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. That’s why understanding and working on Emotional Intelligence development is so valuable.
Tapping into our Emotions
Understanding that emotions are part of how we connect socially is an invitation to respond to others in ways that go beyond judgements, that are likely to be only partially true. Realising you may well be wrong about a particular person or not know the whole situation when you’re inclined to think ill of them makes good sense, and one great side-effect is you feel better too.
Emotional Intelligence is about creating more choice. And choice is what makes the greatest difference to a situation. You will probably not be able to change the choices others make. But in having the ability to make a wider range of choices within the systems that you are part of, will increase your ability to influence those systems, and the people involved in them.
If you can work out the triggers to your emotions that will help you to manage them. Feeling angry is fine, it is a natural human emotion, but hitting out at someone as a result, is a negative response. It’s better to accept the anger, allow time to calm down and rationalise the situation and respond after reflection.
Here are some further ways to boost your capabilities:
- Focus your energy on making the most of your strengths before exploring your weaknesses
- Be persistent – try out new approaches rather than giving up
- Remember, you can only control what you can control, i.e. your own behaviours, thoughts or emotions
- You can only influence the behaviours, thoughts, or emotions of others, not control them
- If you feel demoralised, remember that feeling negativity is draining your energy, so find an outlet to refresh yourself – take a walk, stroke a pet or listen to music
- You need to be receptive to, and ask, for feedback, and be tenacious about it if you want to be more effective in developing awareness and behaviour