Improving emotional intelligence

Improving emotional intelligence
The term emotional intelligence was first used by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. It became a pop-culture term in the 90's by a book called Emotional Intelligence, written by psychologist Daniel Goleman. 

Before researchers began talking about emotional intelligence, many people believed that intelligence, or IQ was the primary determining factor in success. However, researchers were perplexed by studies where people with an average IQ outperformed those with higher IQs at least 70 % of the time.  After decades of research, it was discovered that emotional intelligence was the missing link and critical factor in determining long-term success. 

There are two components of emotional intelligence. 

Intrapersonal intelligence is about personal emotional competence and intrapersonal intelligence is the social aspect of emotional intelligence. 

Intrapersonal intelligence describes our ability to be aware of our own moods, emotions and motive and to manage them appropriately or redirect them and their subsequent behaviors. This means having the ability to be flexible and think before reacting. It also means we are open to change and aware of our emotions impact others.

Interpersonal intelligence is comprised of social awareness and our ability to manage our emotions inside of relationship. 
Our love and belonging needs drive our motivation to connect with others. We are programmed to live our lives inside of community and not in isolation. Interpersonal intelligence means we understand and can empathize with the needs of others. When we understand the core needs, motives and moods of others, we can better understand what drive their actions and behaviors. This requires that we first understand ourselves. When we can empathize with the needs of others, we can communicate better and interact better and treat people accordingly. 

Rewiring the brain takes time and practice. But we can improve our emotional intelligence with patient Commnication. This means, patiently interpreting the signals we receive from the environment and applying logic to the interpretation of that subsequent emotion. It requires communication between the brain and body. It requires communication and cooperation between two different parts of the brain, the limbic system or emotional center, and the prefrontal cortex or rational thinking mind. 

Some people believe that all emotions are irrational and can't be trusted, while other believe you should always trust your emotions. So, which is it?

The answer is both. 

Emotions and feelings are never right or wrong, but our interpretation of the internal sensations can be irrational or incorrect. 

While our unconscious mind is grabbing sensations and cues from the body and environment, it is our conscious mind that makes the interpretation that ultimately drives our decisions and behaviors.

Or is it the conscious mind? Many of us have our interpretation skills on autopilot, without giving much thought to whether the interpretation is accurate or not. 

Sensation -> Thought (Interpretation) ->Emotions -> Decisions -> Actions -> Results

Therefore, the first step towards achieving emotional intelligence is awareness of the thought that drive our feelings, decisions and behaviors. 

Awareness of all the ways we react automatically, based on split second interpretations can be life changing. 

You may be wondering how you can gain awareness of something that you already unaware. That is a good question.

Mindfulness practices are a great tool for helping us build awareness. Now that we understand how our actions are created, we can insert a pause between feeling and reaction. 

This gives us the chance to determine if our feelings are accurate to the situation and the action we are about to take is in alignment with our values, goals and beliefs. 

Next time you feel reactive to a situation, STOP, PAUSE, BREATHE, ASSESS and then DECIDE and ACT.

The process of awareness takes practice and dedication, but when we become more mindful of the sensations that are causes interpretations, we can find that moment to adjust course before we react. This improves our own interpersonal awareness and spreads into our relationships and communication style, eventually, our new mindfulness habit can become automatic as well. 

The first time I saw this theory, it included only these steps: Thought (Interpretation) -> Emotions -> Decisions -> Actions -> Results

Honestly, I balked at the idea myself originally, because I was so adamant that my emotions were real and not created by my thoughts. 
It was my interest in somatic psychology that helped me understand that sensations and feelings are not the same. While I may feel a tingle in my tummy before a big speech, maybe I am not actually nervous. Perhaps I am just hungry and those flutters I interpreted as anxiety were just mis-interpreted hunger pains. 

So, you don't have to judge your feelings harshly, they are what they are and they are real and valid. 
But, maybe our interpretation of the cues is wrong. This could be for many reasons and is a topic for another day.

For today, I just want to emphasize the idea of Awareness.  First, we need to become aware of this process of interpretation which may exist outside of our conscious awareness.  When we become aware of these interpretive patterns and insert a pause that allows us to assess the feasibility of our interpretation and choose a way forward, it can open new layers of connection in our lives, connection with ourselves, between body and mind, and connection with others as we become more apt at our assessments and learn how to better communicate our emotional needs in relationship to others.

We learn to me more direct.
We learn to be more understanding.
We learn patience, empathy and kindness.

That's a whole lot of benefits gained from a simple practice of taking a pause.

What do you think about this concept? Does it make you shudder, like it once made me? Or does it resonate with you? Do you think adding a pause between interoception and interpretation can be life changing? It sure has helped me on my own journey. Share your thoughts below.