Emotional Intelligence: What It Is, How To Develop It

Emotional Intelligence: What it is, How to Develop it

Have you ever looked back on some of your life choices and thought, “Did I really do that?” or, “What was I thinking?” We’ve all made decisions we regret and moments we wish we could take back. If you’ve never heard of emotional intelligence (EI) you may be surprised to know that it could be a key factor behind your decision-making.

Emotional intelligence involves the ability to identify our emotions as well as the emotions of those around us. You can use EI to recognize feelings, manage emotions better, and to inform your thoughts and behavior.  

EI is important to our quality of life because of the power it has to shape our day to day behavior and affect our relationships.

What exactly is EI and how can you develop this influential life skill?

The book, Emotional Intelligence, was written by Daniel Goleman in 1995 and in it he introduced the concept that increasing awareness of our emotional state can help us to live with greater satisfaction, independence, and purpose.

Being an emotionally intelligent person means being aware of your emotions, both positive and negative, e.g. anger, frustration, sadness, and having the power to manage them. But EI also involves the skill of being able to identify the emotions of others. Being sensitive to moods and emotional states can definitely help you to be a better partner, friend, employee, the list is endless.

In short, people who tap into their EI use their understanding of mood and emotion to proactively navigate life’s ups and downs, versus simply reacting.

We all know what having a high intelligence quotient (IQ) means, and according to Goleman, having a high EI is just as important, and can help you to become a better communicator, decrease conflicts, enhance relationships, and reduce emotional stress.

Think about it: how often do you make significant decisions based on your immediate circumstances and how often do you view your circumstances as being beyond your control?

Making decisions based on either of these precepts unnecessarily limits your choices. On the other hand, you can use EI to reflect on your choices, with the end goal of making decisions that make the most sense for you.

Is it possible to develop your emotional intelligence? It absolutely is! One of the best parts about cultivating EI is that it has the potential to not only influence your relationships, but it has the power to increase your own sense of well-being.

If you’d like to learn more about growing your EI, we have some suggestions to get you started!

Self-regulation is key to increasing EI. While it’s true that strong emotions often arise without warning, you do have the power to manage an emotion once it surfaces. For example, you can choose to reframe a negative situation into a more positive light. Taking time out for meditation is another way to take control of your mood. Even taking a short walk can give you the space necessary to reflect on your mood away from the circumstances that brought it on.

Self-awareness can be difficult to master but is crucial to developing EI. Being self-aware is the ability to label, recognize, and understand one’s own emotions. While focusing on strong emotions can be uncomfortable, it’s necessary in order to properly manage our feelings. Stuffing negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and sadness only make them fester, not go away. Recognizing how mood affects our thoughts, behaviors, and decisions is key to cultivating self-awareness.

Emotional regulation also involves the control of emotion by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive or destructive manner. Developing the ability to sit with unpleasant feelings and to give ourselves the time and space to decide how we may alleviate or reduce negative feelings cultivates self-confidence. Emotional regulation also helps us develop the ability to consider various solutions to a particular situation or problem. Not reacting solely from an emotionally charged state results in better decision-making outcomes.

When we empathize with others, we form deeper, more intimate relationships. Empathy is the ability to recognize what people are feeling, and it allows us to anticipate, recognize and meet their needs. Empathy is a powerful tool in that it helps us to help others when they are struggling to cope with life’s challenges.

In general, having good social skills means being able to communicate in a clear and direct manner. Many experts view strong social skills as being at the heart of emotional intelligence, and it’s hard to disagree. If you think about it, being able to communicate our needs and wants is essential to success in every area of life, from school, to work, to relationships. Conflict management, collaboration, and nurturing relationships all revolve around one’s ability to properly communicate boundaries, preferences, and desires.

By now you can probably see the similarities between EI and IQ. It’s a no-brainer that knowledge contributes to our ability to set and meet goals. But being emotionally equipped to handle success and disappointment is equally important.

According to Harvard professor Howard Gardner, emotional intelligence is your, “ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.” 

To a large degree, your success in the real world depends on your ability to comprehend and respond appropriately to feelings as much as it depends on your ability to memorize facts and apply them.

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