Mastering the Art of Emotional Intelligence

As human beings, we can’t escape emotion. And quite frankly, nor would we want to. Feelings are what make life rich, they alert us to what matters to us, they deepen our connection with others, and they are often a guiding star to help us recognize what matters most.

However, emotions can and do get in the way of personal effectiveness when we are in “reaction” to a situation, and when we lack the emotional mastery to realize our triggers and manage our responses.

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

And don’t balk and think this is some kind of “soft skill” that isn’t critical – TalentSmart has researched this topic extensively, and concluded that EQ accounts for a staggering 58% of positive job performance in all types of roles and industries. Plus, needless to say, emotional intelligence has just as significant an impact in the home and in our interpersonal relationships with our friends and families.

So how do we develop this emotional self-mastery?

With regards to our own emotions, we must first recognize what we are feeling. As crazy as this sounds, many, many of my clients have a hard time articulating their feelings when asked – they are so used to rushing on the hamster wheel that they feel almost numb. But we must slow down, take some deep breaths, and allow the body to reveal the true emotions that want to be expressed.

Then, we must witness those feelings with compassion. We must ask ourselves the root of these feelings. What thoughts and interpretations of our circumstances are causing these feelings? What are these emotions pointing to in terms of what we need?

It’s up to us to then explore how to get our needs met – maybe it’s asking something of someone, maybe it’s setting a boundary, maybe it’s advocating for ourselves, maybe it’s just that we need to process grief or disappointment…

However, the knowing and honoring of our feelings – and determining what next action we need to take from a place of self-compassion – that allows us NOT to slather our out-of-control emotions all over other people. It’s unattended-to emotions (unattended-to by us) that creates the collateral damage of our losing control and therefore losing ground and credibility with others.

Once you have developed the muscle of emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to use this to great effect when you see others having emotional experiences. This comes in very handy as a leader, manger, life partner, and parent…. In fact, you’ll find many circumstances where your experience with EQ will be of great value. You’ll be able to recognize that someone perhaps needs a safe space to feel their feelings – to be encouraged to slow down and breathe – and to brainstorm what these emotions are trying to tell them.

You’ll likely be able to inquire a little bit about what their thoughts, beliefs, and narratives are regarding their situation – which is causing these feelings – and coach them to see if there is perhaps another way to look at their circumstances. Meeting them without judgment, yet helping them to deconstruct their feelings and explore their needs, allows them to feel seen and heard, yet to come up with a set of constructive next steps rather than letting their emotions get the best of them.

Remember, when emotions rise, they’re signals. Every interaction, every emotion, is an opportunity to grow. Your mastery of emotional intelligence will lead you to calmer seas, stronger relationships, and unparalleled interpersonal effectiveness.