Emotional Intelligence

"In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships."

--From Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman

 

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by the researcher John D. Mayehe ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” (1). We assess emotional intelligence in two skill sets:  

(A) emotional awareness; the ability to identify, access, and apply emotions to achieve goals.  This ability aids one in tasks like critical thinking and problem solving;

(B) The ability to manage emotions, such as regulating your own emotions and influencing the emotions of others.  

Mindfulness supports the development of emotional intelligence and our ability to respond to a stressful situation.  When we feel emotionally triggered or hijacked, we have a choice in how we react or regulate our emotional response. The contemplative practice of mindfulness meditation increases the gap between impulse and action.   Individuals with mindfulness training build resilience to negative emotions.  They may experience the same intensity of emotion and degree of stress as someone without mindfulness training; however, they will return more quickly to their baseline emotional state.  Dr. Paul Ekman, psychologist, notes that being in the driver's seat of your emotions is hard work. It takes consistent practice over a lengthy period of time and even then you may still find yourself triggered.  It's difficult to learn to notice when you’re becoming emotional and when to choose what you become emotional about.  He also notes that it is a skill worth developing and the outcome will lead to increased self-love and understanding.

Imagine you're on your way home from work after a long day, suddenly, the truck in the lane next to you swerves into your lane and you make an aggressive maneuver to prevent an accident.  You feel rage swelling.  You don’t have any mindfulness training and thus you act automatically.  You wail on the horn and string together an impressive array of expletives at the driver.  For the remainder of the ride home you grip the steering wheel with white knuckles.  Even after you’ve made it to your destination and shared the company of your loved ones, you still feel a twang of anger in the back of your mind.  This feeling last through the evening, maybe even into the next morning before you’ve finally recovered.  Notice how one incident and one stimulus effects the entire rest of the day.  With a little bit of mindfulness training, this same scenario could have gone a very different way.  Recognizing and applying an emotion skillfully can create dramatic changes in our lives.

 

“Between stimulus and response there lies a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”

~Victor Frankl, Psychiatrist

 

A lot has been written on the topic of emotional intelligence lately.  For those wanting to sift through the fodder of information overload, start with the animated book summary found in the video links.  The YouTube author breaks down Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence and gets at the heart of EQ.  For the best bang for your buck timewise, “Mindfulness: How to Call Off the Emotional Attack Dogs” by Dr. Paul Eckman is pragmatic, informative, and knowledgeable in under ten minutes. A tool like Mood Meter that can be downloaded in app store is an easy way to familiarize your emotional vocabulary and develop emotional awareness along the way.

 

Work Cited:

  1. Mayer, John D. “Emotional Intelligence.” Encyclopedia of Psychological Assessment, doi:10.4135/9780857025753.n75.