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Emotional Intelligence is Difficult. Here's How You Can Get Started on That Work

Emotional Intelligence is Difficult. Here's How You Can Get Started on That Work

I'm not the only person who's been getting into more conflict during quarantine, am I?


My timelines are filled with every imaginable type of conflict. We're all irritable and learning that it's somehow possible to be overstimulated - d*mn kids/roommates/pets always in our faces - but also under stimulated with limited access to our usual coping tools.

On my quest to be a less grouchy human, I ran across the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). EQ is our ability to notice and correctly identify our emotions and the emotions of others. The skill allows us to be more intentional in the way we show up in our interactions.

The five components of emotional intelligence are Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence are more reflective, better at setting boundaries in their relationships, and often have better listening skills. All of these make it easier to have healthy relationships.

I was shocked by how much EQ could help resolve some of this quarantine-conflict. And I'm shocked that I didn't learn about it in school. (I lied, I'm not shocked. We were too busy learning algebra. Yea, that's come in handy as a full-time writer and mom.)

There isn't a consensus on whether you're born with EQ or if it's a skill you can develop with effort. But it's a pandemic, might I suggest working on emotional awareness during your idle time?

Here are three basic steps toward emotional intelligence.

Permit Yourself to Feel Your Feelings

Permitting yourself to feel your feelings is a non-negotiable on your journey to emotional intelligence. Despite what we've been told, there are no bad feelings. Some just require more processing than others.

By taking the time to feel your feelings, instead of suppressing them, you get the chance to examine what might be at the root of your discomfort. Sometimes, it's easy to get to the source. Others, it's layered under a pile of negative past experiences.

It's also helpful to look for patterns in the way that you react to certain situations. When you know your triggers, you're less likely to say or do something that you'll regret later.

Journaling is GREAT for this kinda self-work.

Give Others Permission to Feel THEIR Feelings

Now, here comes the hard part.

'Member all that grace and space you gave yourself to get to the root of your feelings?

You gotta keep that same energy by giving grace to others.

EQ is as much about you giving other folks the space to feel their emotions as it is them doing the work to understand what they feel. As if that wasn't challenging enough, you're eventually working towards being able to identify what they're putting out. That's where the empathy comes in.

Another helpful tip: Spend less time guessing other folks' emotions and just ask them. It challenges them to think and frees you from trying to assume.

Watch How Others Communicate

This one is weird but useful.

We've all witnessed a communication breakdown transform an everyday conversation to a full-blown brawl – sometimes we're the one on the other side.

It's scary to test these tools out in real-time. If only there were a risk-free way to watch communication happen and practice picking up on the cue's others are putting out.

Oh, wait! There is. TV!

It sounds silly, but watching tv – both scripted shows and those that they lie and say aren't scripted – can be a fun way to practice your emotional intelligence skills without the risks.

Try and identify the nonverbal cues that identify a rising conflict. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

What are the underlying feelings that each actor is neglecting to include when expressing their concerns? How did everyone do at setting or respecting boundaries before that conflict?  How could the situation have been handled differently? Bonus: Is this a one-off or a pattern of disrespect?

You'd be surprised what you can learn from your favorite TV shows!

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