We are social beings, and at our innermost core, we all aspire for happiness, fulfillment, and a desire to be appreciated, loved and valued. However, human interactions are usually a complex interplay of engagements that are emotion-laden, and requires the ability to communicate needs, expectations, and satisfaction (as well as displeasure), in a productive manner. Unfortunately, misunderstandings are all too common, even when we are convinced, we had clearly expressed what we want; and the other party in all sincerity, had gone to great lengths to carry out the expressed wishes. So how can we improve our social interactions and minimize misunderstandings in order to have satisfying relationships at home with family members, at work with colleagues and with others in our various layers of engagement? The key is to invest in nurturing and strengthening our emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand yourself, to recognize your emotional reactions to situations on the one hand; and to also value and understand the emotions of significant others. Even more importantly, it is the ability to deploy this understanding of self and of others, to practical use, in a way that promotes the best chances of having a successful, happy and truly worthy life. Where everyone in your sphere of influence, feels valued, understood, and respected. It also increases the chances, but cannot guarantee it albeit, that they will reciprocate in a similar manner. Thus, in summary, it is the ability to be responsive and sensitive to one’s feeling and to those of others too.
Can Emotional Intelligence be acquired?
Most certainly, Yes. Everyone can work hard at developing their emotional muscles, and in this case, emotional intelligence. It just takes training and re-training to get used to the pattern of pausing to reflect on your emotional responses in different situations, and carefully considering why the situation elicited such reactions from you. If you felt disrespected and therefore experienced a flash of anger, was that the intention or it was a coincidental occurrence that was not meant to show you disrespect. Indeed, the ‘guilty/offending’ party may not even be aware that they had caused offence. Thus, while you may have left the interaction seething with anger and frustration, the other party has moved on to other things – oblivious to your discomfort.
What are the components of Emotional Intelligence?
Self-awareness: The very first, and perhaps the most critical component of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand one’s emotions, and their impact on others. Appreciate why you are angry when something happens. Or why and how you feel appreciated and warm, when you get a thank you note from someone, when you did not even expect them to remember you did anything. When people rub you off the wrong way, what exactly about them do you dislike? Or when you like some people ‘naturally’, what exactly about them makes you positively disposed towards them?
Empathy: The second most critical component of emotional intelligence is the ability to understand other people’s point of view and to navigate their emotional reactions with compassion, as well as the desire to explain, clarify, re-assure and encourage; rather than humiliate and denigrate others. Individuals with high emotional intelligence are sensitive to other people’s feelings and would hardly ever hang them out to dry for their perceived ‘foolishness’ or ‘stupidity’ when they make mistakes.
Self-regulation: This requires the discipline to pause and not rush to condemn or praise individuals until they have all the facts. They are not hasty to judge others, and they are able to restrain themselves and ensure an even keel of their own emotions.
Love: Individuals with emotional intelligence have a genuine love for humanity, and they can appreciate and value every human being for their uniqueness. Thus, others can feel the genuine affection with which they interact and the care and concern they exhibit, strikes a chord in others. And it is then reciprocated sometimes.
Communication: The ability to express one’s thoughts clearly and to seek clarifications in a respectful and non-disagreeable manner is vital to nurturing emotional intelligence. Understanding the nuances of language and context is also helpful.
Motivation: Persons who desire to nurture their emotional intelligence must not be fixated on financial benefits as a determinant of actions or inaction. Rather, the driving force should be passion and optimism to achieve positive impact.
Social skills: Lastly, but certainly not the least component, is the ability to successfully negotiate with others and achieve compromise to arrive at a middle ground and build consensus towards common goals. They demonstrate a philosophy that allows everyone to feel like a winner around them, without deception.
Conclusion: Emotional intelligence is a soft skill that is increasingly important in today’s complex world – especially as the quality of human interactions continue to dwindle over time, and loneliness and social isolation become the norm.