I had just gotten into work for the morning, cold and tired from the chilly winter air. I had barely clocked in, hadn’t even taken off my cap, and moved to the computer in the lobby to get logged in to start my day when the woman began to berate me.
Working at a hotel offered no short supply of instances which tested your emotional patience. She rattled off reason after reason why her hotel room was the worst she had ever been in: Nothing worked, outside noise was too loud, just about everything you could think of. I was listening to this while also logging into the computer so I could check out which room she was in and what her stay looked like in order to possibly accommodate when she very rudely remarked, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Even thinking about those words gets me all in a huff, even though this happened years ago. My emotions stirred and I stood upright, puffed my chest out, and red-faced, I attempted to solve the situation the best I could.
That day gave me many lessons in what it means to be emotionally intelligent. This is a common problem many of those who work in retail have to face. If you want to waste a good amount of time and have a love for getting angry, just head to Reddit’s Tales from Retail section for more examples.
Emotions can be overwhelming sometimes, but it is through emotional intelligence that we can turn troublesome situations into opportunities for growth. It is also through emotional intelligence that we are able to mature and handle ourselves more authentically.
This article will show seven steps to building emotional intelligence.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be self-aware, control, regulate, and evaluate our emotions and the ability to navigate these different emotions in a social setting.
Someone who is emotionally mature is someone who is able to authentically and correctly react to a given situation. They are able to control or regulate that emotion in such a way that helps resolve any outstanding issues.
The analysis of multiple studies shows a strong relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance, which makes emotional intelligence (EI) something very valuable.
Building Emotional Intelligence
Improving your EI, like any skill, requires a deliberate attempt to do the necessary learning and development. Emotions, being a complex and lifelong subject, require patience and consistency.
While I do outline the seven steps I believe most important, this is far from a comprehensive study on the subject. I invite you to use this information as a platform for further learning and to get you started on a path towards improving your EI.
1) Study the Emotions
The first step to conquering your emotions is knowing what you’re dealing with. Emotions are very complex and have been studied thoroughly by many experts, but there is still much that we don’t know.
However, the more you know about the history, purpose, and types of emotions, the better able you are to identify what you are feeling and the better you will be able to communicate those feelings with others.
For a great place to start, visit the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s page on Emotions.
2) Take Part In Emotional Activities
This one’s easy. Step 2 might as well be “Live.” Unless you are hiding away in a cave you are going to eventually encounter situations that make you emotional. The loss of a loved one, an angry coworker yelling in your face, losing the championship game, telling someone you love them, etc.
You’re going to run into life and find that you react strongly to some things naturally. At this point in time there is not much you can do. You can’t really prepare much for many of the emotional challenges life throws at you as some can be extremely devastating.
However, there may be certain things you can try to do in order to aid your further growth:
Practicing mindfulness meditation has many positive effects on your day to day living, but one stands out for dealing with emotionally trying times:
“While when we experience stress, we usually have the tense mobilization of fight-or-flight response, people with a little meditation training are able to instead bring to mind what psychologists call the relaxation response to stress, allaying anxiety and hypertension.” ~ Drake Baer, The Big Chill Out: How Meditation Can Help with Everything, FastCompany.com
Many of the strong emotions we feel are the result of initial miscommunication, misinformation, or strong biases we may have. Hold off for just a couple extra minutes before throwing punches and see if what your feeling actually matches the situation.
Lean on Others
Look to those around you to give you advice or help you around the situation. You may be completely confused, but remember there are others that can help you out. Whether it’s a good friend, a coworker, a sibling, or even an online community, others may have some experience with what you are feeling and can help you get re-oriented.
Everyone initially goes through the first stage of learning about their emotions by experiencing them. This can be troubling, traumatizing, crippling, exciting, etc. The key to growth and emotional maturity comes from the work done in the steps after.
3) Reflect and Ruminate On Your Experiences
Think about yourself and the emotions you have experienced. How you react to certain things can tell you a lot about yourself. You may find you actually do care for Stacy after you see her with her arms wrapped around Steve, your arch-nemesis.
The emotion we feel is a mirror by which we can view ourselves. Using this mirror, we can think about the situation and how we reacted.
- What was I feeling?
- Do I believe this is important?
- Am I frustrated because I don’t want to be doing this anymore?
This is the time to ask ourselves the tough questions. We may have thought one thing about ourselves but our knee-jerk emotions showed us another. To make sense of this we have to reflect on our current values and if we are on the right path.
4) Evaluate Our Emotions
Now is the time to be critical!
We have to be honest about those emotions that are hindering our ability to build relationships and mature.
Take anger for instance. Anger is a very strong emotion that can take control of us and make us act irrationally. Many times we get angry to protect our ego, but it is that very ego we must let go of in order to grow up and mature. It takes an honest moment in an individual to let that ego go and look for better ways to solve a situation.
The evaluation of our emotions is a very important step in our building of EI. It is when we discover what it means to correctly feel an emotion, when it is the right circumstance, how strongly we must feel, and whether or not that emotion has a place in a life well-lived.
5) Build Better Emotional Habits
Having evaluated ourselves and determined the kinds of emotional reactions we would like to have, we need to start planning ahead. More trying times are coming and unless we pursue a better way of conducting ourselves, we will react the same time and time again.
Setting up good emotional habits is similar to how we set up other kinds of habits and the same tips and tricks can apply here.
Know What “Triggers” You
Through reflection you can see what kinds of situations cause you to go overboard. If these are avoidable and unnecessary, there is no reason you should be involving yourself in them. However, we don’t live in bubbles and as such we need to mentally prepare ourselves to do the right thing.
Go into these situations knowing that you may be emotional but stay focused on how you would like to act.
Set Up Cues
If you are prone to anger, calm yourself through breathing techniques or by “counting to ten.” If you are the office Negative-Nancy, force yourself to think about the good outcome of a project before you look at the bad. You need some influence in order to remind you that you have pledged to change your behavior.
Cues can be your “emotional alarm clock” and give you a chance to become aware of your actions, allowing you the chance to break bad habits.
Focus on the emotion you want to mature and the conduct associated with it. When issues arise that you know will cause an emotional spike, you must actively think about a better way to act, in spite of yourself. This can be pretty difficult which is why understanding the emotion and its current place in your life beforehand is extremely important.
For more habits of emotionally intelligent people visit this article.
6) Use Feedback For Further Learning
Use trusted sources of feedback to gauge the efficacy of your methods and continue to reflect upon your emotional life.
Examples of positive feedback may include:
- You find the group dynamic at work is improving.
- More cooperation and less negativity.
- Situations do not escalate as quickly as they used to.
- You are a bit less anxious.
- You respond appropriately to certain situations.
Staying aware of yourself and how your actions are affecting those around you will give you some reassurance that your methods of taming yourself are working.
Furthermore, feedback gives you more information by which to reflect just how emotions can be regulated and controlled, deepening your understanding and awareness of them even more.
7) Empathize and Understand Others Emotions
Emotional Intelligence is not just a personal endeavor. It is through your personal endeavors that you can begin to understand others’ struggles as well.
One of the reasons EI is so important for success is because a person who understands the emotional dynamic of a group is able to utilize those emotions in a positive manner. They know when to piss the group off a little bit or when to cool things down so that important things get done while keeping everyone interested.
They are also capable of navigating their way though tough situations, knowing when to ask a coworker if they need to vent or if they should just be left alone. They know when to speak up and when to keep their mouth shut.
They know this because they understand emotions on a deeper level, having not only experienced them but also thought deeply about them. They have attempted to reign in the troublesome emotions, learning just what it takes to overcome one’s natural urges to react strongly to certain things. They also understand how differently people feel and react to the same kinds of emotions.
Things to Consider
“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” ~ David Caruso, From “Emotional What?”
This process of building emotional intelligence is by no means a journey with a definite start and finish. If you are reading this article it is most likely because you are already involved in the process and would like to improve your emotional life.
Also, we must look to continually alter our views if our reflection and feedback provides a strong enough case to do so. We can never be afraid to change our opinion or be honest that maybe we are overlooking an issue.
When you understand the journey and how to build intelligence the right way, this intelligence becomes wisdom. Emotions are not just tools by which to succeed or get ahead, but constitute the medium by which our experience of the world becomes laced with meaning.
Our mind works with our heart to determine what we find truly important and through the things we find meaningful we can build a life truly worthy of living.