Emotional intelligence is not something that you can just learn in one go. It’s a lifetime practice which you need to remember to keep practising so you keep improving. Being mindful that you are likely to meet many hundreds of people in your lifetime, by continuing to master your emotional intelligence, will reap the benefits for the rest of your life. The emotions that you feel in any given situation are all perfectly normal, there are no “wrong” emotions. All of our emotions from anger to happiness are natural reactions and responses to situations that present themselves. It is what happens next that counts towards your level of emotional intelligence.
Take responsibility for your feelings, behaviours and actions.
Your emotions and how you deal with them come from you, and you alone are responsible for them. They don’t come from anyone else even if someone has said or done something to you, you are responsible for your own emotional response. No one else is controlling how you feel and what you do with those feelings, any reactions you may have are the choices that you have made to do. It can be incredibly challenging not to respond with a knee-jerk reaction to something that has upset you or hurt you. But the key point about having high emotional intelligence is understanding we are each responsible for ourselves.
Practice noticing how you feel.
Paying attention to how you are feeling and learning how to trust your own emotions will help you become more competent at managing them. Listen to your body, as we often get physiological symptoms when we are feeling stressed. Notice how you feel when you respond to external demands because this is where you are more likely to act unconsciously in many situations. Taking a deep breath and noticing how you’re feeling emotionally and where it might be feeling physically in your body before you respond to a situation, can bring you in touch with your emotions so you can recognise if your response is going to help the situation.
Connect your feelings with your thoughts.
When you feel a strong emotion, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you are thinking. Don’t judge or edit your feelings too quickly or dismiss them before you have a chance to think them through. Emotions come and go in different strengths quite naturally, so it is good to learn how to recognise how you’re feeling and consider the thoughts you have that justifies your feeling. For example, sometimes we can be angry about something that we think we shouldn’t be angry about. This contradiction creates tension within us and means we are less likely to respond positively to people around us in the given situation because we are confused. It may be you have a completely valid reason to be angry but you feel guilty for having a feeling that is a natural response.
Practice noticing how you behave.
Start noticing your behaviours when you feel different emotions. Pay attention to how you act and how it affects your life, you will probably start noticing you have your own patterns of behaviour that are connected to your emotions, and part of learning how to manage your emotions is recognising how they make you behave. See if you can find connections between your feelings and behaviours and other times when you have felt and acted in the same way. When difficult feelings develop, it may help to consider whether how you’re feeling reflects your current situation or from how you have felt about a similar situation in your past. We quite often behave in a way we have behaved before when our emotional state is linked.
Practice how to respond instead of reacting.
When something triggers us emotionally we tend to behave in an unconscious way to express or relieve that emotion. So if we are in irritated or annoyed by something or someone, we are more likely to react negatively to that thing or person in an instant. However, when you notice how you feel and decide how you want to behave, this becomes a thoughtful response and a conscious decision. So instead of reacting negatively you could explain how you’re feeling to that person so they become aware of how their behaviour has had an impact on you.
Here are some useful tips to help notice and recognise your emotions.
- Don’t avoid uncomfortable feelings, give yourself some space to think about what they are and the impact they are having on you.
- If you’re feeling confused you can ask somebody who knows you and whom you trust, how you’re coming across. Having high emotional intelligence means you are able to recognise and judge how other people are feeling, however, you might be surprised at how you’re coming across to others until you have more awareness of how you are feeling within yourself.
- Write down your thoughts and feelings. This can really help you recognise and notice if there are certain triggers you have a reaction to that you would like to change.
- Learn how to recognise when it’s time to shift your focus from how you’re feeling inside to what is happening in the world around you and the impact you are having on those in your present situation.
- Practice empathising with yourself and others. Understanding why someone feels or behaves in a certain way and being able to communicate with them so they understand you empathise enables people to take a moment to carefully think how they want to respond rather than having a knee-jerk reaction.
If you are conscious of the environment around you and make time to notice what is going well this will not only improve your quality of life for yourself and those around you but will increase your self-awareness, self responsibility and empathy. The results of which will be an improved level of emotional intelligence. So make it part of your behaviour to create a positive environment around you.
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