Below is a guest post written for the Portage Health Foundation (PHF) website by Community Health Intern Lucy Campbell. Campbell completed an internship at PHF during the summer of 2022.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage and handle emotions. Our emotional intelligence allows us to identify and regulate our own emotions, and recognize and feel empathy towards the emotions and feelings of others. This is a quality everyone possesses, but not everyone knows how to access it. Those have harnessed emotional intelligence are adept at recognizing emotions in both themselves and others, and they understand how to use that understanding in constructive ways. As does any skill or quality, levels and aspects of emotional intelligence vary among every person. Some people may be better at feeling and understanding the emotions of others, but may be worse at communicating their own emotions. Our emotional intelligence is always growing and adapting, and is something that everyone can learn more about and improve upon.
As people we use our emotional intelligence to communicate effectively with others, building healthy and productive relationships with others as a result. This skill affects our ability to have long term relationships, leads to success in school, allows for us to pursue meaningful work, and gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment throughout our lives. Understanding and pursuing emotional intelligence is said to be the key to both psychological wellbeing and physical health, and is found to be more correlated with overall success than IQ. As it is a vital skill for finding success in life, emotional intelligence is difficult to build; it takes a special kind of intelligence to process emotional information and use it effectively. Although this is true, by managing the five components which make up emotional intelligence one can effectively build it. When done well, emotional intelligence facilitates good personal decisions, resolves conflicts, and can motivate one’s self and others.
Five Components of Emotional Intelligence
The five components of emotional intelligence guide us through the emotional situations we have to work through every day. Knowing and understanding each component makes us more comfortable when we feel different emotions, and allow us to make good decisions in an effortless way.
- Self Awareness - This is our ability to know what we are feeling at any time and understand the impact that this emotion has on those around us.
- Self Regulation - Self-regulation is controlling or redirecting our emotions in order to react in a reasonable way. This involves thinking ahead on every situation and anticipating what the outcome may be, then making a decision, rather than acting on impulse.
- Motivation - We can utilize our emotions to achieve our goals, enjoy learning, and persevere when faced with difficulties and obstacles. Our emotions show us what aspects of our lives we need to work on, and the way in which we react brings forth motivation or satisfaction.
- Empathy - Empathy is our ability to sense the emotions of others, something vital to having success in relationships.
- Social Skills - This component deals with the ways we choose to influence others, how we manage conflict, and how we collaborate and cooperate with others. Our social skills lead us through our everyday lives, and having strong social skills allow us to build strong relationships and truly understand both ourselves and others.
Although handling and being adept at all five components leads to the best emotional intelligence, this is nearly impossible. Every person is better at certain components than they are at other components. Having strength in some aspects and lacking strength in others is what makes us who we are, and is by no means a bad thing. As humans we are not perfect, but our goal should always be to improve on these skills.
As knowledge of emotional intelligence and its existence has grown, so has its popularity to be researched, and from that research we have begun to better understand it’s importance, especially in the development of children. In schools with high emotional intelligence levels, rates of bullying, disciplinary problems, violence and drug abuse are lower, and academic performance and behavior are improved. The development and teaching of emotional intelligence, known as social and emotional learning, has been implemented across the nation and continues to grow in popularity. The development of emotional intelligence in children leads to better expression of emotions and allows them to better learn from and understand the challenges they come across as they grow. Especially in young adults and children, high emotional intelligence cultivates adaptability, something required in this ever-changing world.
Even though emotional intelligence is important to develop from a young age, working on building emotional intelligence is something humans can and should do continuously. Developing emotional intelligence may seem difficult, but it is very easy to cultivate in our everyday lives. The most important and likely simplest method, is to listen to your body. Listening to your emotions and linking them to the physical and mental reactions your body has gives you a better understanding of the feelings you’re having, and why you are feeling it. By doing this, when you feel this emotion again you are able to control how you react and perceive the situation. Communicating your emotions and needs is the next step in building emotional intelligence. Humans usually ignore emotions, especially negative ones, but this is the opposite of what we should be doing. In order to fully understand our emotions, we need to share them with others, which provides them the information needed to understand and connect. Communicating emotions builds quality interactions with others, and allows for one to speak freely. Exercising empathy is another way to cultivate emotional intelligence. This is a skill very few have mastered, but essential in understanding others and seeing different perspectives, therefore in growth and development of ourselves. Working on building emotional intelligence isn’t something one constantly needs to worry about. Much of this development happens naturally, but can be expedited through reflection and focus.
Emotional intelligence is defined simply as the ability to manage one’s own emotions, and the emotions of others. One’s emotional intelligence is constantly developing on its own, but development can be excelled through various techniques. Strong emotional intelligence and the ability to process emotional information is linked to worldly success, personal fulfillment and strength, and healthy relationships. Building emotional intelligence benefits not only one’s self, but also those that surround them, a goal everyone should have in order to make the world a better place.