Emotions play a huge role in our life. They impact our sense of wellbeing and motivation. They affect the decisions we make and how we respond to situations and challenges. They also play a huge role in relationships. There is now wide recognition that our skill with emotions is a big factor in our personal and career success.
Yet many people struggle to understand their feelings. Others become overwhelmed, and others dismiss or try to avoid emotions. Most of our emotional learning takes place in our early family environment. Families have “display rules” that signal whether emotions are important and how they should or should not be expressed. Some families are emotionally expressive, while others are not. This learning takes place informally, so we accept it as normal. It can be confusing to learn, e.g. at school, work, in relationships, that others have different rules.
EMOTIONS HOLD VALUABLE INFORMATION
All emotions carry signals that communicate information:
Joy Satisfaction, goals reached, reward
Anger Goals frustrated, injustice, lack of fairness
Fear The sense of risk, threat
By figuring out what the emotion is communicating, you have more information about what is going on and what the options are.
EMOTIONS AND PROBLEM SOLVING
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is about using emotions to help solve problems. Here are the four EQ skills and what they involve:
Recognising emotions: Being aware of emotions in yourself and others rather than dismissing or minimising
Experiencing emotions: Feeling the feeling rather than ignoring it or pushing it away; not getting lost in distressing emotions and not reacting
Labelling emotions: Putting words to the emotion so you can “read” what is going on inside and around you. This helps to translate the feeling into a problem that your thinking mind can solve
Managing emotions: Responding to the emotion in a useful way that helps ease or solve the problem. This could involve seeking advice from others
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AT WORK
Effectiveness at work involves more than knowing the facts and technical aspects of the job. Emotional intelligence helps you access information about people that doesn’t appear in procedure manuals. People with good EQ generally understand themselves and others. They are good at emotional problem-solving. This means they come across as authentic and interested in others. They can sense the mood in a room, develop rapport with others, deal with difficult situations and produce outcomes that people are satisfied with. Emotional intelligence helps to build connections between people and with the bigger picture. It helps to generate options in how challenges can be approached, rather than simple black and white solutions.
Without emotional awareness, leaders can be out of touch with what is going on around them and can miss important cues that indicate that something or someone needs attention. Some leaders can be so busy focusing on the task they don’t pay enough attention to the relationships involved. Emotional “blindness” can hamper teamwork and productivity.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AT HOME
When couples, parents and children are emotionally in “sync” with each other they feel heard and understood. Problems can be worked on with less misunderstanding and conflict. Children lack the cognitive skills needed to put feelings into words and need help in understanding and managing emotions. Children also model the behaviour they learn from observing others. If they see others reacting rather than thinking before responding, this becomes their “norm”. Parents have a role in helping children develop good emotional problem-solving skills.
CAN ADULTS DEVELOP BETTER EMOTION SKILLS?
Becoming more skilled with emotions is often a central part of coaching and psychotherapy. The benefits can include:
Being less reactive, leading to more considered responses
Developing perspectives and insight into other people
Becoming more aware of your impact on others
Feeling more connected with yourself and others
Making more informed decisions
Managing stress and being more resilient
Feeling more confident to deal with problems