Emotionally intelligent | Yes, but How?!
The key skills required to be more Emotionally Intelligent are well reported and well known: we need to be more empathic and compassionate; more aware of how we and others are feelings. Pretty much all the competences and benefits of having a higher Emotional Quotient stem from these few essential life-skills.
The trouble is, the process of becoming more Emotionally Intelligent is rather a chicken and egg affair: we need to be aware to become more aware! It’s rather like learning to ride a bike: the only way to learn it is to just do it! So what is the EQ equivalent to stabilisers? How can we get a feel for what it’s all about without too much risk of falling off and getting hurt?
Be willing to be hurt! Does a baby worry about getting hurt when taking its first faltering steps? Is a lonely person ever going to be anything other than lonely unless and until they open their heart?
CONTROL & CONQUER YOUR EMOTIONS?
There is a common misconception with regard to EI: that it’s about controlling our emotions, holding them back. Yes, sometimes that may be necessary and appropriate, but more usually we need to recognise emotions for what they are.
For example: We’ve had a first date, or a first meeting with a potential business partner. We felt it went OK, but we’re not sure whether to proceed any further. We feel uneasy.
Those on a conscious EI path will, at this point, stop what they’re doing. This is vital. Giving ourselves time to reflect is an essential part of the process. How can we hope to improve our EQ unless we put time and focus our attention into it? Whatever skill one is developing, it won’t happen without commitment.
TAKE YOUR TIME TO DEVELOP YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
There are many ways of teasing out what is going on in our hearts and minds when it comes to becoming more aware. Here are a few that are worth experimenting with: find the ones that work best for you and be prepared to switch between techniques at different time.
Go for a walk in nature, stopping to admire clouds, insects, blooms: whatever you see on the walk. Take your time. There’s no rush. Giving our mind something natural and, many would say, wonderful, to reflect on, frees the rational mind. It puts it into neutral and thus allows deeper thoughts and feelings to surface.
After a 20 minute walk you may find that the new partner situation, for example, is now clearer: perhaps remembering how your prospective partner kept interrupting you and wouldn’t let you finish your sentences. Not a good trait or helpful for a harmonious relationship of any sort!
Now reflect on a piece of truth that so often comes into the EI journey: that which annoys us in others is often a problem of our own. This is projection, or reflection. Noticing somebody else’s faults is a good first step, but an even more important one is to see and admit ours. So go back to the memory of the meeting. You’re talking. Do you notice that they’re ready to say something and let them into the conversation . . . or ignore it .. or not even notice it? Who did most of the talking, you or them? Did discussions flow to and from you freely and easily?
By stepping back and answering these questions we are beginning the process of becoming more aware.
Understand why emotional intelligence is sooo important.
KNOW YOUR ONOIONS
It’s a process rather like peeling the skin off an onion. And, like onion peeling, it may bring about a few tears. If you’re serious about becoming more intelligent emotionally, you’ll need to get used to tears! They’re our friends, our indicators: that some emotion that had been stuck is now being released. Have a box of tissues to hand and have a good sob. It will make you feel better.
Yes, even if you, like me, were brought up in a household that didn’t do ‘soppy’ stuff. In fact, this is the next layer of the onion peeling: beginning to recognise when and where we took on board our emotional habits. The younger we were at the time, the deeper will be that programmed behaviour and longer it will take to undo it. As you start on the journey, you’ll begin to notice the patterns: you always feel uncomfortable perhaps when you see a child being scolded, or hear a particular song.
Such triggers will be very personal to you, so keep a diary and jot down anything that seem to bring on any strong emotion: anger or sadness, depression or despair. Then, when you’ve a few weeks or months’ worth, take your journal someone peaceful and read through it. Look to the trees, birds, river, grasses blowing in the wind: allow your mind to be transported back in time.
So often it is not what just happened that is the cause of a strong emotion: that is merely the trigger: of something stuck in our sub-conscious because we didn’t express it at the time (probably for good reason). It’s never too late to have that cry or release your frustrations.
And what about the anger? How can we really feel that in a constructive and healthy manner? Good question! We don’t get angry without good reason and knowing that reason is very much part of the EI process. But before we can analyse the reasons clearly, we need to feel it.
At this point that peaceful country walk can turn into a sprint. A quiet potter about the garden can become a rigorous weeding or pruning. Feel the anger. Allow it to express itself and thus be released. Once you’re feeling calmer, you can then ask yourself “what was that all about?” Give yourself time to reflect, allowing deeper insights, more buried memories and feeling to surface.
If you live with others, it’s probably a good idea to warn them what you’re doing: make it clear that these are your emotions and not aimed at them. If they’re willing and able to act as a sounding board, to practice active listening with you, even better.
But don’t worry if you’ve no-one close who can share these personal, intimate and often intense, journeys. You could find a life-guide, mentor or other therapist to help and support you, but there are others ways.
DRAW, PAINT, WRITE
Creative art is a wonderful ally for the EQ process. But do remember that it is not the intent to produce ‘good’ art. Indeed, the whole point is to be spontaneous, to have no preconceived ideas as to what it is you’re aiming to produce. Which art form you choose is entirely up to you: if you have skills in one, better to choose another (otherwise your inner critic will want to judge and control the process). You may want to:
Draw or paint. Tip: try wax crayons. These will immediately take you back to art as a youngster, before any rules or techniques. Spontaneity is the key. Let the picture create itself. This is you sub-conscious finally getting the chance to have its say!
But don’t worry if you don’t have wax crayons, anything will do: basic pencil, ballpoint pen or treat yourself by going to a local store and buying whatever you’re drawn to. It is worth remembering that we are all children at heart.
Maybe you can try meditative drawing shown in this video.
Likewise with creative writing: it doesn’t even matter if what you produce is legible, let along having correct spelling or punctuation. Prose or poem, story or doodle . . . deep inside you will be something that will relish the chance to see the light of day. Let it come. Let it flow. Let it out.
If you’re tempted to analyse what you produced, then you may do so, but this is healing art rather than art therapy. The power is in the creation: no need to analyse.
Being emotionally intelligent is the difference between being childish and being childlike. When we are child-like then we are able to be spontaneous, to play, to see the magic and mystery in life: to be creative and allow things to happen, to explore, to wonder. All of which are positive things to be doing and it’s from these places that we can be creative in our work, in our art, in our relationship and in life generally.
Being childish is when we are, let’s be honest here, being a nuisance: when we are just being selfish. For example, doing something just to get attention, when we’re doing whatever we’re doing in order to be awkward, being demanding.
But if we are truly emotionally intelligent then hopefully we have grown out of childish tantrums. Because that is what improving our emotional intelligence is all about: growing up emotionally.
We should try to live and work more child-like as discussed by Liz Wiseman.
So the child that is growing through play is exploring their world; that is, allowing their play world to unfold, that’s being childlike. Here, again, is where we can use drama: through storytelling, not just on paper but as an expression: role-play is a particularly powerful and useful thing in emotional intelligence development.
This is the sort of thing you might do with a therapist, or fellow EI traveller: you might take the role of your mother or sibling, and somebody else would play you. Exploring a memory or situation from ‘the other’ perspective can be very powerful.
ALWAYS THE PARENT OR ADULT
Another powerful technique is to recognise that within us we have many different characters; the many different roles and parts that we play in the course of our day-to-day lives. So, for example, if in our working day we are called upon to be particularly intense in a problem-solving and organising capacity, then our adult self will have been at hard stretch during the working day.
Which is why we may feel the need to do something silly of an evening: watching a romcom, for example. But what if we don’t know when to stop? What if we are always playing some role to fulfil someone else’s expectation?
Drama, role-play, playing games are all examples of where arts can really help us to reconnect to the different parts of ourselves. Last but by no means least let’s not forget dance. Whether it is by taking waltz or tango classes or going to a nightclub and just bopping. Or perhaps the most intimate and useful emotionally intelligence use of dance is in our own lounge: to put on a bit of music that you’re intuitively drawn to and allow yourselves to express yourselves to it and with it.
As with all other uses of arts for emotional intelligence improvement, there are no rules. It is not about creating a good dance or creating a good bit of art. You just need to give yourself permission to be free. To be Free: to dance, as the expression goes, like no-one is watching you.
FREEDOM TO BE YOUR REAL SELF
Think about it. Emotional intelligence is about being free of our conditioned reactions to things. It is about being free to be spontaneous, to be truly present, in tune with our own body. Once we are at peace with ourselves, there is a much greater chance of being able to tune into other people … and to the unfolding of life.
Of course there are other ways of reaching the state of being in tune, of being present. many of you may already be practising some form of mindfulness, meditations that help us with our awareness, with being connected to our true self, with the situation we find ourselves in.
Thus to answer the question “how to be more emotionally intelligent?” or “how to become more emotionally intelligent?” (the two questions probably amounting to one and the same) we need to explore these different techniques for becoming more connected, more aware. This is what we will look at now.
MINDFULNESS AND HEALING
Becoming more emotionally intelligent is really about reconnecting to our bodies, to our sub-conscious and to who we really are. Some call this deeper aspect of ourselves our inner or higher self, our core essence, soul or spirit.
If those ideas make you uncomfortable then we’ve probably uncovered an underlying cause of poor emotional intelligence. How can we be at peace with the world if we are not at peace with ourselves? But who are you? Really? Deep down?
It is thus useful to equate the process of growth of emotional intelligence with an emergence of our true self and a deep healing. Most of us are so full of conditioned ideas as to who we are and what we are (such as an Englishman or a painter, ‘sad’ or a prankster) that we spend all our time reacting through these labels: not exactly the natural response of the truly emotionally intelligent!
Hence the need to:
- Reconnect to our real, inner, true self
- Reconnect to this facet of others
- Reconnect to the equivalent in the wider world; the ecosystem, the natural world, the seasons, etc…
This is why you’ll see mention of eco-intelligence, social intelligence, cultural intelligence and so on. They are not separate nor different to emotional intelligence, just EI applied to particular sorts of relationships. Underlying each of these facets is the deeper intelligence that comes naturally through reconnecting ourselves.
IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO. . .
There are numerous ways of doing this. And that’s part of the problem … and of the solution: to not get caught up on the specific method or technique. Getting it right is about choosing an approach that works for you and throwing yourself into the process.
Having an intent of relinquishing old ways of thinking and of reuniting different facets of yourself is going to reap far more rewards than religiously practicing any particular technique or doing something by rote.
EI isn’t about box ticking or following instruction, often it’s the opposite: being willing and able to trust what the ‘still small voice of calm’ inside you is saying.
And that is an on-going process and one an increasing number are committing to. Many parallel developments complement the EI/EQ journey: the rise in mindfulness practice for example. Whether you’re drawn to Eastern techniques and ancient wisdom or to the recent more scientific (Westernised) versions of mindfulness, it is the intent that matters. To step back from our emotional reactions and to see them for what they are: thoughts that we don’t need to get attached to.
Likewise any meditation technique: the precise method isn’t important: the intent and commitment is. To focus on our breathing or candle flame is to take the focus of our conscious attention away from those thoughts and feelings that would otherwise go around and around inside our heads. By detaching from such thoughts we automatically allow ourselves to reconnect to deeper thoughts and feelings. That helps us both to demonstrate a higher EQ and to improve it: through making us more aware of what disturbs our natural sense of inner calm.
But enough talk and theory! I’d like you now to reflect on all I’ve been saying. You could do this, for example, whilst going for a walk in nature or, if that’s not practical, watch the video below, filmed in my local aquarium. Just be with these wonderful sea creatures. Observe them, sense their energy. Avoid any temptation to name, label, describe or judge:
Take your time. Whatever you do to reconnect to your real self, take time over it: do it frequently, do it spontaneously. Do it when the emotions start to take over.
BUT I’VE TRIED. . .
Some of you may be thinking, “but I’ve tried meditating. I’ve tried going for walks. It doesn’t make any difference; I still get wound up by the same old things” Join the club: that’s perfectly normal!
Many of our low EQ bad-habits stem back to habits we picked up as kids (such as not liking being told what to do, for example). Such reactions are hard-wired into how we think; it’s unlikely we can change them over-night or even over a few months of awareness.
This is a long-term, on-going process. So be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself. Do that now:
Give yourself a hug and say to yourself “I forgive you”. Such a simple thing to do and often extremely powerful.
PRACTICE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYWHERE
Because improving our EI is a long-term process and one that can be triggered (by what we see or hear) anytime, anyplace, anywhere, we need an approach that can be applied wherever we happen to be.
One such technique is Reiki, or to be more accurate, the Usui System of Reiki Healing, after its founder (about 100 years ago in Japan) Mikao Usui. Often considered as an alternative/complementary therapy, Reiki is far more than that.
Whilst you can go to your therapist and receive a Reiki treatment, its real value is in self-treatments: after a short course (typically 2 days, but also available on-line now) you can ‘give yourself a Reiki’. What Reiki does, naturally, is to reconnect you to your own intrinsic self-healing, sense-of-self and inner knowing.
During a Reiki session our sense of calm is restored and we become aware of a ‘still small voice’ within. To do this amidst the usual clamour of society is a wonderful ability for EI: rather than react to things that annoy us, Reiki helps us to step back from getting even more angry or frustrated.
It allows us to see the deeper truth behind a situation, to focus on our own inner healing and thus to connect to those we live and work amongst at a more honest and compassionate level.
I hope, in the article, I’ve taken EI past the theory and brought it into real-life and practical focus. Because EI is about emotions, it often doesn’t help to get all analytical and rational. The only way to learn about your emotional self (and thus EI) is to tap into your real emotions. I hope I’ve enabled this process for you.
About the guest author
Keith Beasley is a rare individual: he is both an artist and a scientist. Qualified as both a PhD and a Reiki Master he understands and embraces both the conventional ways in which we learn and the more magical, mystical ways that are equally part of being human. Keith can be contacted via his website.
In 1987, before the phrase become popular, he authored an article on Emotional Quotient (EQ) in the British Mensa magazine. His intent then, as now, is not to categorise or attempt to measure EQ, but to encourage and enable us all to restore a healthy balance between IQ and EQ: head and heart.
See here for his summary of what Emotional Intelligence is and why it’s important.