Emotional intelligence (EI) is an often overlooked yet essential part of living a fulfilling life. It’s the ability to recognise, understand, and manage our own emotions as well as the emotions of those around us. It’s not only the key to healthy relationships but also the foundation for personal growth and happiness.
We all have emotions, but some people are better at managing them than others. People with higher levels of emotional intelligence tend to be better at managing their own and others’ feelings.
Are you still a little confused? We have physical health which is connected to exercise and diet, with many schools of thought on what are the best things you are meant to do. Nevertheless, we are aware that our overall health suffers when this area of our wellbeing is not managed properly. When we see ourselves as human, we know that interact with the world and with others through our Actions, our Thoughts, and our Feelings. The Actions are connected to our doing and is connected to the Physical world. Our Thoughts, or what we think, is from the Mental point of view. Our Feelings our how we respond/react and come from an Emotional point of view.
Developing our Emotional Intelligence is a bit like exercising or improving our emotional muscles. So, how can you begin to become more emotionally fit and work on this area of yourself? Try beginning with the following tasks:
1. Start to become aware of your emotions: To improve your emotional intelligence, start by becoming aware of your own feelings. Pay attention to what triggers certain emotions in you and how you react to them. This will help you better understand yourself and identify areas where you need to work on managing your emotions. So, for example, let’s say, you explode angrily at someone, and you feel afterward a little off balance from the experience. When you have a moment to reflect, ask yourself, what was I feeling when that happened? What way did it make me feel? What made me react with anger? There is no judgment here, only Awareness. What was going on? Start here. Be patient and take time with this. You will begin to notice and see how your emotions make you react.
2. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a powerful tool for developing emotional intelligence because it helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness regularly, we can learn how to take control of our reactions instead of letting our emotions take control over us. You can start off with a mindfulness practice that suits you. Standard meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea, although there are other practices that allow us to quieten the inner dialogue and become more present. Some examples of this, that you can Google are mindful walking, mindful photography, mindful breathing, mindful drawing, etc. Find one that suits you, it really makes a difference.
3. Learn to recognise other people’s feelings: Just as important as understanding our own emotions is the ability to recognise other people’s feelings. Take time to pay attention to how the people around you are feeling and how their emotions are affecting them. This will help you better understand and empathise with them, and in turn, it will help you manage your own emotions better. Have you any habits when you are nervous? Fiddling with a pen or rubbing your neck. The more you are conscious of your tells (unconscious actions that are connected to thinking or feeling something), the easier it is to see these in others. Understanding what someone is feeling/thinking allows you to better navigate a situation or help you communicate with them in a more effective way.
4. Develop self-compassion: Self-compassion is the ability to be kind and understanding towards ourselves when we make mistakes or have negative thoughts or feelings. It’s important for developing emotional intelligence because it helps us become more aware of our emotions without passing judgment on ourselves. We all seem to habitually love giving ourselves a good beating every now and again to keep ourselves in check. Stop it. You don’t need to. When I talk to people about this, I say to try to see it like speaking to a child. Will you ever repeat some of the horrible things you say to yourself, to a child? The more you become conscious of your negative inner dialogue, the more you have the capacity to change it. Visualise it like a garden. What do you want it to be filled with? Nurture it to be something beautiful.
5. Accept your emotions: Accepting our emotions can be difficult sometimes but is essential for improving emotional intelligence. Recognising that we all experience both positive and negative emotions can help us learn how to manage them more effectively instead of trying to ignore or suppress them. We all have our Ying and Yang. Dark and Light. Male and Female. You are who you are. It is what it is. I can have negative thoughts or emotions, and not respond to them. When you become more conscious of the parts of yourself, you have choice. Feeling bad about how you feel does not achieve anything. You are not your thoughts or your feelings.
6. Practice self-care: Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for our emotional wellbeing. Taking time for yourself each day to do something that brings you joy—whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or spending time with friends—things like this can help reduce stress and increase your resilience, which are essential for managing our emotions in healthy ways. In the world we live in, this really can be the most challenging. When you look at your schedule, how much ME time have you assigned? It’s understandable that other things get in the way at times. Although when you always prioritse other people or tasks above yourself, you are the one that will suffer and so will those that love you.
Developing emotional intelligence takes effort and practice but can lead to a much more meaningful and fulfilling life when done properly. By becoming aware of our own feelings, learning to recognise other people’s feelings, practicing self-compassion, accepting our emotions, and practicing self-care regularly, we can develop this important skill that will benefit us in all areas of our lives. It starts with you!