We define emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive our and other people’s emotions, to clearly identify them, understand and control them. In its practical sense it refers to emotional and social skills. It is focused on the role of emotions in our everyday life, the way they influence our reasoning and behaviour and how we can use them as efficiently as possible.
We take our feelings and most emotional skills in our daily life for granted, believing they are there by default and that we should not be occupied with them. However, when we have difficulties in coping with some stressful situation, when we are breaking down under the pressure, or when we are easily confused, when we do not know how we are really feeling or how we can solve a problem we have encountered, when we lack self-confidence or fail to respond and believe we should have, while in some other situations we lack self-control… – then we wish we could manage our feelings and better understand ourselves and others.
Individuals with emotional skills can cope with the requirements and pressures of the environment more easily, and psychologists say they are the persons with better developed emotional intelligence. They are not easily confused, rarely regret their actions and decisions, efficiently cope with stress, accept challenges and do not break down under pressure, have high self-esteem and can recognise their own capacities.
Requirements and pressures of the environment for which we need emotional skills, follow us in all periods of our lives from our childhood, which encourages us to deal with emotional intelligence, especially since it can be developed.
There are five basic areas or dimensions of emotional intelligence:
1. Knowing ourselves and our emotions: which emotions we have, why we feel as we do, our strengths and our limitations.
2. Managing emotions: especially managing unpleasant, disturbing emotions or impulses, contributes to flexibility, easier and better adjustment, positive attitude and resistance to pressure.
3. Motivation/self-motivation: moving to a higher goal by undertaking small, practicable steps needed to achieve the goal and maintaining perseverance to pursue it.
4. Empathy is related to “reading” and understanding others’ feelings from the tone of their voice or facial expressions, not only from the words uttered.
5. Social skills: positive and adjusted behaviour in conduct with others which contribute to more successful relationships with the environment and better personal satisfaction.
Emotional intelligence is not opposed, but complementary to rational intelligence.
As opposed to classically understood intelligence (the ability to cope in new situations), which is mostly genetically conditioned, it is not proved that it is the same with emotional intelligence. So, it is significant that emotional intelligence can be developed and learned throughout our whole life. It is of extreme importance to learn it at an early age as a series of research indicate emphasising that children with better developed emotional intelligence have better academic achievement at school, find job more easily, maintain it and show better results at work, are typically more satisfied and successful.
The above mentioned surely answers the question when it is necessary to start developing emotional skills. The good news is that we really can do something and have opportunities to help children grow into emotionally more competent individuals. Seemingly, it is easiest if we become those persons which we want our children to grow into.
We are all models for our children, every contact and interaction with our child is an opportunity to show and teach him/her emotional skills. It is worth remembering that children learn more by watching what we do than by listening to us. We should not be afraid of our mistakes if we can learn from them, that is a valuable message to our child that nobody has immunity to failure, showing them how one can cope with it and start over again.
Here is some advice how to develop emotional intelligence:
1. Learn how to recognise your own feelings. Ask yourself how you feel and be honest, you have the right to any feelings and should not be ashamed of them.
2. Take responsibility for your feelings. Having recognised them, try to understand why you are feeling that way, what it was that made you so happy, or angry, or that hurt you.
3. Ask others how they are feeling since we can not know that unless we ask. Ask yourself if sometimes you looked angry, while in reality you felt hurt or worried. Listen to other people carefully, without judgements and ask yourself if you would like to be listened to that way.
4. Try to anticipate your feelings. Try to recognise in advance how you are going to react after certain event, what some situation or person will provoke in you. That way we can avoid certain activities or situations which provoke unpleasant emotions in us.
5. Try to be less sensitive. We are different in sensitivity, but we can learn how to control it. If someone tells us something we disagree with, we should not immediately withdraw or attack because such reactions only show that we cannot cope with criticism and can affect our certainty and self-confidence as well as the image others have about us. Instead, we can thank for the openness and focus on the value of the comments and criticism received, learning something from them.
6. Consider the problems integrally. When we experience something bad, regardless of how bad it really is, we feel that our world is falling apart, we feel our hopes are crushing down, we are engulfed with unpleasant feelings which affect all other aspects of our lives. Then we can think about how serious that present problem will seem in five years, five months, five days.