How much of what you learned in school do you still remember? Even more importantly, how much of it do you actually use on a daily basis? Though we may not need to know the Pythagorean theorem or what happened during the Spanish American War, we do—or at least should—understand how and why people feel and act the way they do. Most of us, however, aren’t taught how to identify or deal with our own emotions, or the emotions of others. These skills can be valuable, but you’ll never get them in a classroom.
Emotional intelligence is a shorthand that psychological researchers use to describe how well individuals can manage their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. People who exhibit emotional intelligence have the less obvious skills necessary to get ahead in life, such as managing conflict resolution, reading and responding to the needs of others, and keeping their own emotions from overflowing and disrupting their lives. In this guide, we’ll look at what emotional intelligence is, and how to develop your own.
What is emotional intelligence?
Measuring emotional intelligence is relatively new in the field of psychology, only first being explored in the mid-1980s. Several models are currently being developed, but for our purposes, we’ll examine what’s known as the “mixed model,” developed by psychologist Daniel Goleman. He first came across the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990 when he was a science reporter for The New York Times and by chance, came across an article in a small academic journal by two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, which offered the first concept of emotional intelligence. Fifteen years later, Goleman wrote an article for the same newspaper outlining the five key areas of the mixed mode of emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of, when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are.
- Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic.
- Motivation: Everyone is motivated to action by rewards like money or status. Goleman’s model, however, refers to motivation for the sake of personal joy, curiosity or the satisfaction of being productive.
- Empathy: While the three previous categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately.
- Social skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others, managing others in a work environment and being persuasive.
You can read a bit more about these different categories here. The order of these emotional competencies isn’t all that relevant, as we all learn many of these skills simultaneously as we grow. It’s also important to note that, for our purposes, we’ll only be using this as a guide. Emotional intelligence isn’t an area that most people receive formal training in. We’ll let psychologists argue over the jargon and models, but for now let’s explore what each of these mean and how to improve them in your own life.
Before you can do anything else here, you have to know what your emotions are. Improving your self-awareness is the first step to identifying any problem area you’re facing. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness:
- Keep a journal: Kickstart your self-awareness by keeping a journal of your emotions. At the end of every day, write down what happened to you, how you felt, and how you dealt with it. Periodically, look back over your journal and take note of any trends, or any time you overreacted to something.
- Ask for input from others: As we’ve talked about before when dealing with your self-perception, input from others can be invaluable . Try to ask multiple people who know you well where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Write down what they say, compare what they say to each other and, again, look for patterns. Most importantly, don’t argue with them. They don’t have to be correct. You’re just trying to gauge your perception from another’s point of view.
- Slow down (or meditate): Emotions have a habit of getting the most out of control when we don’t have time to slow down or process them. The next time you have an emotional reaction to something, try to pause before you react (something the internet makes easier than ever, if you’re communicating online). You can also try meditating to slow your brain down and give your emotional state room to breathe.
If you’ve never practiced intentional self-awareness, these tips should give you a practical head start. One strategy I personally use is to go on long walks or have conversations with myself discussing what’s bothering me. Often, I’ll find that the things I say to the imaginary other end of the conversation can give me some insight into what’s really bugging me. The important aspect is to look inwards, rather than focusing solely on external factors.
Source: Read more on Life Hacker