Personal development

Emotional Intelligence – a contradiction in terms?

Is it really possible to be emotional and intelligent at the same time and why does it matter?

We are emotional creatures and can be over-whelmed by our feelings sometimes.  This is not always a bad thing since our emotions give us feedback about what is going on and can propel us into action.  The problem is that a flood of feeling, can prevent us from any kind of thinking intelligence and this can be an impediment in many aspects of life; commonly observed road-rage is an example of this.

In the workplace, where good communication and relationships with colleagues are essential for success, it is really important to be able to ‘self-regulate’ and to be aware of what we are feeling, but also to be able to understand our impact on others.

The term emotional intelligence is not new since Daniel Goleman put it on the agenda of importance for work-place competencies in the 1990s.  It is now widely recognised that the most successful leaders and managers possess the qualities of emotional intelligence as well as their technical ability.

Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, the good news is that our EQ can evolve with our desire to learn and grow.  Our brains are wired to react in certain situations but we can re-wire the circuitry with repeated practice and application.

Since we cannot change the behaviour of others, even though we might like to think we can, beginning with ourselves is a good starting point in the pursuit of emotional intelligence.  Some areas to work on:

1.Dealing with our negative inner voice

Perhaps no aspect of EQ is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they don’t overwhelm us and affect our judgment. This is not always easy but we really do have the power to change the way we feel by changing our thoughts in any given situation where we react negatively in the moment.

2.The Ability to manage our stress and not be overwhelmed

Stress is part of life and we need some positive pressure to function.  However, when pressure becomes too much, we need to learn how to reduce it. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled.  Finding ways to increase resilience is an important part of self-regulation.

3.The Ability to Be Assertive and Express Difficult Emotions

There are times when it’s important to set our boundaries so people know where we stand. These can include exercising our right to disagree (without being disagreeable), saying “no” without feeling guilty, setting our own priorities and protecting ourselves from undue pressure and harm.  Being able to own and express our feelings without blaming others is an important aspect of being assertive.

4.The Ability to Stay Proactive, Not Reactive in the Face of a ‘Difficult Person’

We all encounter difficulties with relationships and it’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. Developing empathy is very important for emotional intelligence. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what they might be dealing with. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you will have found a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce the problem instead of making it worse or more complicated.

5.The Ability to Bounce Back

The way we choose to think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus pessimism.   With every challenging situation we encounter, asking ourselves important questions like “What is the lesson here?” “What is most important now?” etc. can help to move us forward.  Asking constructive questions can help us gain new and better perspectives to help us deal with the situation.

Learn more about Emotional Intelligence with Chrissie Wright on our upcoming course