four ways you can be more emotionally intelligent

15.9.15

I don't think it's any secret that moving house, changing jobs and getting to grips with starting a new life in a new city is taking its toll on me emotionally.

And understandably. Every single part of my life is in a state of upheaval right now. Even my relationship with my boyfriend, which is otherwise going strong, is about to experience a change in dynamic as we move in together full-time.


Of course, these are all changes I have chosen to make and I'm nothing but completely happy with doing so but that doesn't alter the fact that in five weeks time, nothing in my life will be the same as it is now.

The truth is, I've found my emotions running away from me a bit in the past week. I've been letting the significance of all the changes I am making get on top of me and I've felt scared of what lies ahead... which is apparently a good sign

"The presence of indifference is a sign you're on the wrong path," says Brianna Weist on Huffington Post. "Fear means you're trying to move toward something you love, but your old beliefs, or unhealed experiences, are getting in the way - or, rather, are being called up to be healed."

I know pushing this fear aside won't do me any favours. I need to acknowledge how I'm feeling and move on. It's virtually impossible - and probably very unhealthy - to try to control our emotions but I've been reading quite a few articles online about emotional intelligence.

"Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) can be defined as the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one's own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others," explains communication expert Professor Preston Ni on Psychology Today.

"Emotional Intelligence is absolutely essential in the formation, development, maintenance, and enhancement of close personal relationships. Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, our EQ can evolve and increase with our desire to learn and grow."

So exactly how can we evolve our EQ? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here are some tips I've gathered from the experts about becoming more emotionally intelligent.

Practice observing how you feel & pay attention to how you react

One of the main parts of being emotionally intelligent is recognising how you feel. When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become far more adept at managing them.

"One of the core areas of emotional intelligence is self-awareness," says counsellor Steven Stein. "You can become more self-aware by using a notebook to record your feelings at various preset intervals. By increasing your emotional vocabulary and using it to describe your full range of feelings throughout various parts of the day, you can figure out how to pay more attention to your emotions."

Once you've become aware of your emotions, start really monitoring to your behaviour too. Notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life.



Take charge

"Your emotions and behaviour come from you—they don’t come from anyone else—therefore, you’re the one who’s responsible for them," says relationship coach Hannah Braime.

Hannah also suggests practicing responding rather than reacting. "Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way whereas responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave," she explains.

You can manage your responses in three basic ways:

  • Distraction: When you sense a problem in impulse control coming on, you can most quickly deal with it by distracting yourself. Shift your thinking by counting to ten or focusing on prepared distracting thoughts.
  • Analytic: An analytic approach involves stopping and analysing your thoughts when you feel impulsive. 
  • Coping: A coping strategy involves a number of specific coping thoughts that you practice in advance. 

"These strategies can help you successfully deal with stressful problems or events when you practice them in advance," says Steven. "You can’t effectively try out these strategies on the fly but with planning and practice, you can go a long way in dealing with impulsive thoughts, words, and actions."

You might also choose to share your feelings but be mindful of what words you use and who you share with. "Assertiveness is the appropriate sharing of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Basically, you need to let the right people, at the right time, know where you stand," says Steven.


Empathise

I wrote extensively about empathy last week - it's also a very important part of being emotionally intelligent. "Start being more empathic by paying more attention to other people," says Steven. "Listen carefully when communicating with someone. Listen to both what she tells you and what she wants you to hear. By getting better at picking up and paying attention to what people are really trying to say, you become more empathic."

Be more flexible

Sometimes things just don't happen the way we envisaged or planned - and that's OK. It's how we deal with these changes that can point to true emotional intelligence.

"Being emotionally intelligent involves knowing when to stick to and when to switch your emotional attachments," says Steven. "When it’s time to move on, people high in emotional intelligence can make that adjustment. If you find change difficult, look at the possible consequences. What might happen if you stay with the status quo? On the other hand, where might you be if you go with the flow? Change is part of growth."

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