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One of the reasons why I started my podcast, Life Stuff 101, is because I’ve often wondered, amongst other more practical and valuable knowledge: Why isn’t emotional intelligence taught in school?
When it comes to all forms of intelligence (whether it’s rational, physical, creative or emotional), it is my belief that many people believe that we either have it or we don’t.
While it’s true that we are all born with varying degrees of different areas of intelligence, ultimately to operate on a higher level in any area, it requires training and practice.
We take for granted that in order to compete at the higher level in sports or other kinds of competition, there is a need for training and it can be that much more helpful to get direct feedback through coaching.
Yet, specifically when it comes to emotional intelligence, there’s no clear narrative about what could be helpful for us to all consider.
What is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional intelligence is having the ability to understand and monitor your own emotional state, and also being able to understand the emotional states of others, too.
In other words, are you able to understand and name your emotions, and to effectively use what you learn from your emotions to help guide behaviours and decisions?
And just because someone can be considered to be very smart intellectually, it certainly doesn’t mean that they have a correspondingly high emotional intelligence.
In fact, there have been studies that show that those with average IQs have higher emotional intelligence than those with the highest IQs 70% of the time.
Having high emotional intelligence also has connections to success: It turns out that 90% of “top performers” have high emotional intelligence. While 80% of lower performers have been measured to have lower EQ.
Daniel Goleman has literally written the book on Emotional Intelligence and his model identifies five components of emotional intelligence.
Self awareness is having the ability to understand and recognize our moods, feelings and motivations. It also having the ability to understand how we may be impacting others in relation to ourselves.
Goleman refers to being more emotionally intelligent as being more “emotionally mature”.
Emotionally maturity when it comes to self-awareness can look be: self-confidence, the ability to accept and even make light of mistakes, and understanding how we relate or are being perceived by others.
Self regulation is having the ability to identify emotions and being able to respond or act deliberately.
Traits that would demonstrate this is the ability to not act impulsively, the ability to not immediately respond before acting or speaking, and be able to take responsibility for your own actions.
Motivation is developing the resilience to navigate obstacles and following through, through learning and challenging yourself.
Many of us are highly focused on navigating around a problem, as opposed to building emotional strength and resilience through learning how to problem solve and being able to persevere during challenging times.
Working through challenges makes us stronger. Challenging ourselves physically, makes us stronger. Lack of sustained physical challenge means that we deteriorate or atrophy.
Empathy is the ability to acknowledge and have a sense of the emotions and actions of others through their own subjectivity.
I think that many people assume they are empathizing with other people, when often it’s a projection of what they would be feeling onto someone else’s experience.
Empathic people have the ability to be fully present with others, have the ability to engage in active listening, and have a developed sense of nonverbal communication.
Social skills, in relation to emotional intelligence, is having the ability to work with others effectively by having skills in persuasion, communication, conflict management and the ability to build meaningful relationships.
An individual with developed social skills have the ability to communicate and resolve conflicts with others effectively, have the ability to lead well, and the ability to build and maintain good relationships.
Based on the five components of emotional intelligence, if there are areas you can specifically identify as ones to work on, you can start by focusing on improving those areas.
But the following are three skills to help with developing better emotional intelligence, which I know personally have been incredibly helpful for me:
Learn to identify and be able to name emotions
Many of us can identify the strength of what we’re feeling, but often have difficulty connecting what we’re feeling to words.
I often say that learning the language of emotions is like learning a completely different dialect.
Using something like the Emotion Wheel (developed by psychologist, Robert Plutchik) to start identifying and putting words to your feelings can be a helpful tool.
Rethink the idea of “bad” emotions
While there are definitely emotions that feel bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the emotions themselves are bad.
Often, when people feel badly a lot, they can start believing that feeling badly means that there’s something bad about them or who they are.
But feeling badly is more often connected to something that our internal system has identified as something to address.
Which brings us to this point…
Think about emotions as “information” or “data”
Everything about how we’re designed to operate is based on helping us to survive.
If we take that as the basis of why emotions exist, rather than to judge ourselves based on how we’re feeling, it could be much more valuable to be curious about what the “data” is trying to tell us.
If we’re feeling badly about something, rather than to automatically assume that it says something about who we are, what if we were to wonder why we may be feeling what we’re feeling?
It can be a very different experience and ultimately outcome, to be an investigator about your feelings, rather than being critical of them.