Emotional Intelligence as a Breakthrough for Me (May 2016)

In recent years, there has been a breakthrough in the study of the human mind, with new research supporting the psychology of emotion (read: Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’). It is defined (by the Oxford dictionary) as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’ The term is abuzz, even in the workplace: from nonexistence in former decades to rising as one of the top criteria for recruitment. New awareness of this then-underestimated soft-skill gradually found its way into evaluating would-be managers (and one’s success in life!).

Millenials are encouraged in many ways to be extremely concerned about themselves and their reputation, commonly painting a pretentious picture of themselves on social networks (I am a victim too, no less). We now have room to voice out, at times being impulsive and sounding alarmingly calloused. Apart from that, we can at times fall pray to every little piece of dogma or opinion we come across, unaware of its impact on our judgments. Such is why I believe that an introduction to such skill could help us generate a better outlook in life: not easily subscribing to crowd philosophy, and discerning which principles to stand by in a world full of (ideological) noise. And so, allow me share with you my thoughts on how to go about the notion based on my own experience.

THE SAD THING
In my four years in college (I graduated a little over a year ago), the term never popped up in lectures. Simply put, you don’t usually learn the concept in regular classroom settings, especially in traditional schools. You’re not explicitly taught emotional psychology as a lifeskill. However, you practice and build on it in real-life experiences: when you respond to situations, react to failure, deal with heartbreak, etc. While it hasn’t found a place in modern-day education, you learn the topic in certain books and articles. I first dealt with the idea of it in college, when I picked up a critically acclaimed book, the famous “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. It was a good start.

BUILDING EQ = EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT
How? The first step is self-awareness (that book taught me much about it, too). It starts with knowing yourself emotionally better than anyone else; probably looking at yourself as objectively as possible. You have to be able to ask yourself what ticks you off, what lifts you up, what soft skills you’re good at, what of those do you need to work on and know how you usually respond to situations. You become aware of your own biases and know how they shape you. You tend to question your own thoughts and actions. It may require more introspective thinking and believe me, it gets philosophical, existential, and bothersome at times but eventually refreshing—kind of like a mental detox.

Little by little, you build an understanding of your own emotions and project that understanding towards others’ feelings. You become more aware of how your actions generate favorable and unfavorable responses from people, thereby adjusting your attitude to the response called for in a situation. An integral part of emotional intelligence is the action that results from the mindset you develop. That is what makes you extra valuable as a new hire. That is what helps you deal with your peers (and yourself) a little better.

SOME PRE-REQUISITES TO HARNESSING THAT ABILITY

  1. You have to be able to think clearly. By that I mean, you’re able to properly articulate your thoughts (at least within yourself). If you think you’re a little slow on that, start with constant reflection. A few minutes each day wouldn’t hurt. Writing can help you. Voice notes can help you. Maybe drawing can, too. Find a medium to express yourself; as long as it’s palpable. The point is to train your mind; to exercise it.
  2. You have to be a keen observer. Activate your senses. Be critical. Start by being curious and don’t be afraid to question things. What’s that famous saying? “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Well, that comes with it: the burden of lost ignorance. With great sensibility comes great responsibility (and a sense of purpose, too!).

You can look up the term and probably find a million reasons companies tend to hire and promote people with strong EQ (if you hire / look to be hired, I encourage you to educate and train yourself on this remarkable quality). Over the course of this article, you might have a clue as to why, as well. The people who possess it tend to be open-minded, self-motivated, focused and not easily distracted. They take failure and rejection much better and usually have a bigger, noble goal in mind. They commonly possess positive self-esteem. They have the ability to influence, inspire, and lead transformationally. They’re sensitive and empathetic; and they enjoy building relationships. I can go on and on but you get the picture.

I myself have a long way to go but I’m proud of where I am now. There is a shift in focus from achievement only for the self to constantly evaluating impact in others’ lives. Former paradigms were shattered; and a renewed sense of vigor for life emerged. To feel is no longer more exhausting than not for the mind is at the top of things. Peer pressure is no longer taxing; and solitude more appreciated. Everyday is suddenly a gift for I know how my simple, ordinary actions can create ripples of good change (or none at all). I see a bigger picture: I see interconnectivity, between me and the billions of people in the world; because we’re all made to be different but wired in the same manner—to possess emotions and to co-exist. Such purpose is most real; and such is why I continually aspire to be better in handling emotions throughout the course of my life; and I hope others will find the need to work on it, too. Just my two cents.

*This was a LinkedIn article published in May 2016.

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