Have you ever wondered what emotional intelligence is? Have you wondered why it’s important? Emotions exist because they provide valuable information, help us adapt to change, and improve our social lives. But do you know how to interpret what they’re trying to tell you?
In order to take full advantage of them, you have to identify and make sense of them. That way, you’ll be able to see why you feel them and what they mean in different situations.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Gaining emotional knowledge
More emotional knowledge will result in more emotional intelligence. It will give you the criteria you need to identify and differentiate between your emotions and those of others. You’ll also understand why you feel them and how they can help you. You need emotional knowledge and experience in order to regulate them effectively and keeping them from causing you so much distress.
If your emotional intelligence is underdeveloped, you now have some good reasons to try to improve it. So how can you start getting to know your emotional self?
You can start by keeping a weekly journal where you write down all the emotions you experience throughout the day and the situations when you felt them. Then you’ll become more aware of which emotions are most dominant in your life. This will also help you see that we often experience contradictory emotions.
To sharpen your identification abilities, create a list of questions to answer. They could be, “Which emotion was it?” and “What did this emotion feel like?” That will help you keep track of the information you’ve observed that hinted towards one emotion or another.
Taking advantage of your emotional intelligence
Once you’ve increased your emotional intelligence and learned how to identify your emotions, it’s time to put it into practice. The goal is to understand the function of your emotions and how they move you to action. The idea is also to understand that everyone has different thoughts, emotions, and intentions. This knowledge will benefit your social interactions.
To do so, practice understanding emotions in different situations. This could range from ones you’re not involved in, such as videos or other people’s stories, to conflicts you’ve been involved in.
Now you’re clear about the emotions and situations that you want to practice working on. Next, it’s helpful to divide the situation into sequences as it develops. For each one of them, and for each different person involved, analyze it. Analyze what they say, do, and think, and what emotion they’re feeling.
That will make you more aware that emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are all related. Additionally, you’ll also understand that what you think and feel doesn’t always match what other people think and feel. Lastly, you’ll understand the motivational function of emotions we mentioned. You’ll see that emotions inform us and push us to get what we need.
Don’t try to analyze emotions all the time!
Like everything else in life, you should use your emotional knowledge in a balanced way. Yes, it can’t help you if you don’t have it. But it also can’t help you when you’re constantly fixated on your emotions and bodily sensations. Therefore, learn to cut back if you’ve started to analyze every single emotion you feel. If not, you run the risk of losing the dynamic power of your emotions.
“Shift your attention, and your emotion shifts. Shift your emotion, and your attention shifts.”
For an entire week, dedicate a half hour each day to thinking about what makes you upset and what you can’t get out of your mind, and to feel unpleasant emotions without avoiding them. This exercise isn’t for you to wallow in your misfortune. Instead it’s to give yourself enough space to feel it.
If you feel an unpleasant emotion, don’t let it run circles around your mind. Hold off really feeling it until that half hour you’ve reserved. During that time, sit in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and set an alarm for 30 minutes. When it goes off, go back to your daily activities.
“It’s amazing how once the mind is free of emotional pollution, logic and clarity emerge.”
Do these exercises and you’ll be able to take advantage of your emotional intelligence. You’ll be empowered to use your emotions in favor of your physical and mental well-being. It’s normal to feel negative emotions, but it’s important to learn how to identify them so that you don’t feel them too often, too intensely, or for too long a time.
Images courtesy of Aral Tasher, Alejandro Álvarez, and Averie Woodard