Emotions are very contagious, and when it comes to success in personal, social, academic, and career life the role(s) that emotional intelligence plays cannot be undermined.
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“All learning has an emotional base” – Plato
Since the early 90’s emotional intelligence has been discovered and even practiced, though not well conceptualized. However, since the late 90’s, John Mayer and Peter Salovey have become the leading researchers on the topic of emotional intelligence. Paraphrasing their definition of emotional intelligence, they conceptualized it as an aspect of social intelligence that involves having a clear understanding of one’s personal emotions alongside those of others, and being able to effectively use this understanding to guide our thoughts, actions and decisions.
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In essence emotional intelligence is not the singular ability to express, understand and control our emotions, but furthermore the ability to perceive, understand and also react accordingly to the feelings of others.
Because a single person can easily influence the emotional state of another or a group of people, it would be disturbing to imagine a world where we cannot understand what the next person’s emotions are. For instance, imagine if we cannot tell when a friend is sad, or when a family member is in pain, or when a colleague is angry. It is this ability to fully understand and interpret the emotions of others (besides ours) that psychologists have till date coined as emotional intelligence.
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The concept “Intelligence quotient (IQ)” is a widespread idea which measures the ratio of an individual’s mental age as compared to his/her chronological age. As important as IQ is, some experts are starting to suggest that emotional intelligence can be more important. With emotional intelligence, you are able to relate with others better, establish healthier relationships at home, school, work and even personally, and in all have a more beneficial life.
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Given below are four different factors of emotional intelligence, as they were identified by Peter Salovey and John Mayer;
Ability to discern/recognize emotions: to understand any emotion:
You must first perceive them correctly. Emotions can be transmitted through many signals which can be verbal or even non-verbal, involving body languages.
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Ability to reason through the use of emotions:
When emotions have been accurately perceived, the next step to understand them is promote our thinking using these emotions. Our attention is acquired and priorities are set with the help of emotions.
Ability to understand emotions:
The emotions we project can at one time carry a possible variety of meanings. We must be able to interpret the meaning of a particular emotion and the root cause. For instance, an angry customer, can be angry as a result of his/her dissatisfaction with the service being offered, or because he/she could not secure a good parking space on time.
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Ability to manage emotions:
This is the core of emotional intelligence. Proper emotional management would therefore involve controlling and responding appropriately to personal emotions, and also regulating and responding appropriately to other people’s feelings.
Needless to say that the importance of emotional intelligence is not only limited to paper or researches, its effects can be observed in almost every aspect of our lives – ranging from work to personal wellbeing, mental health, and personal relationships.
Emotional intelligence and the workplace
A psychologist named Daniel Goleman proposed that cognitive skill (IQ) might help you get a job, but emotional intelligence (EQ) would help you sustain the job.
From the perspective of the employee, emotional intelligence guides your interaction with others, helps you effectively lead and motivate others, and improves how you deal with the social intricacies of the work place.
Also, every organization in today’s high-tech economy requires the services of good employees armed with the competencies to manage challenges peculiar to organizations today.
These challenges which include massive and rapid change, innovation and creativity, information overload, customer loyalty, scarce human resources, etc. all involve people in various roles, and as such emotional intelligence cannot be separated from the effective management of these challenges.
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Emotional intelligence and your personal well-being
Stress which can be biological or psychological, is the body’s response to threats (stimulus) – e.g. death of a loved one, loss of job, divorce, financial crisis, etc. – that we feel we do not have the resources to deal with.
A very important evidence of emotional intelligence is the ability to deal with stress, because the inability to adequately manage stress levels can result in serious health problems (increased blood pressure, risk of heart attack, risk of stroke, increased rate of aging, and suppressed immune system). Emotional intelligence is relevant in that it helps you understand your emotions fully and this understanding enables you to prevent them from overwhelming you.
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Emotional intelligence and your mental well-being
As important as it is to care for our physical bodies, it is also twice as important to ensure our mental stability and wellness. The lack of emotional intelligence means not being in sync with your emotions, therefore, you become susceptible to mood swings, anxiety, frustration and depression.
These feelings also would result in the inability to relate well with people, making it almost impossible to form strong relationships, resulting in one ending up alone and isolated too often.
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Emotional intelligence and your relationships
An adequate understanding of your emotions, inadvertently translates into confidence, happiness, and emotional stability. With these you can express how you feel effectively and also be able to perceive and understand how others feel about you. This ability enhances communications and forges healthy and strong relationships, whether it is at work, home, school, your personal life, church, or neighborhood.
Now that we have established the importance of emotional intelligence and how it affects different areas of our lives, it is only necessary to also discuss how we as individuals can build or improve our emotional intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence can be improved by learning certain basic skills which are centered on learning to reduce stress effects, staying focused and communication.
Dissipating stress in the moment
Stress has the capacity to overwhelm the body and mind, getting in the way of our perceptions, interpretations and hence our judgments of situations, circumstances and people’s feelings.
However, the ability to quickly relieve our minds of stress, helps us to keep in focus a clear picture of whatever challenging situation(s) we are faced with. You can develop your stress alleviating skills by:
- Understanding stress and how it affects you – e.g. headaches, stomach upset, increased heartbeat
- Knowing how your body reacts to stress – e.g. anxiety, depression, withdrawal
- Discover ways, methods and/or activities that ease your stress – e.g. listening to music, cleaning, cooking, baking, reading
Staying in tune with your emotions can prove to be a very hard chore, and this is an aspect where a lot of people seem to be lacking, mostly as a result of upbringing, environment/orientation, or negative childhood experiences. Many people grow up to shut out, numb, or deny their emotions by default.
Interestingly, though, one cannot attain any kind of emotional intelligence and stand the risk of becoming overwhelmed by circumstances, without emotional awareness. Some experts suggest conscious meditation as a way of trying to reconnect with emotions and managing uncomfortable feelings. When you are attuned to your core emotions, accept them and become comfortable with them, you attain emotional health and intelligence.
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Connecting with others through non-verbal communication
The ability to communicate well, most times, goes beyond possessing the right verbal skills. This is because the manner a message is communicated is sometimes more important than the message itself.
Total communication involves every signal in the form of gestures, gesticulations, actions and postures assumed during communication. It is the awareness and control of these body languages that help you catch and hold the attention of your audience, and establish connection and trust.
When communicating with other, you must be able to;
- Make and hold eye contact
- Focus on the other person
- Gauge the other person’s response
- Pay attention to non-verbal signals from yourself and the other party
The use of humour
When in challenging and critical situations, humour always comes in handy as a good antidote. Turning to humour and laughter helps you relax, keeps things in perspective, expands your thinking and boosts more creative ways of dealing with the matter at hand.
By allowing yourself a good laughter and some play, you are able to express more properly things which had previously seemed difficult, reduce stress effects on your mind and body, elevate your mood and view situations from more ways than one.
Resolving conflicts positively
This last skill is the culmination of the previously mentioned four skills. When you can effectively manage stress, embrace and accept your emotions, perfect your non-verbal communication, and employ humour in difficult situations, you become emotionally capable of resolving issues in a positive and trust-breeding way.
In conclusion, because the human mind is programmed in such a way to give a flight, fright, or freeze response to overwhelming situations, each and every one of these skills are relevant in helping us bring our emotions into balance, giving us access to countless choices and giving us the ability to make good decisions for a better and fulfilling life.
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