Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence

PERSONAL GROWTH

Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence

Many of us have been conditioned to control, ignore or dismiss our emotions rather than use them as a source of valuable information. This leads to what is known as “bucket dumping”. We accumulate our feeling responses inside of us and when full, we dump it on whatever situation or person that happens to add the final drop into the bucket.

Growing up, my mother frequently chastised me for fighting, arguing or acting on some childish impulse. “For someone so smart, you sure act stupid” she would lament! She could not understand why I would not apply my precocious intellect and control my emotional outbursts and inappropriate behaviours. As a result, I grew convinced that my inability to control my emotions all of the time had something to do with a radical “stupid gene”, a flaw in my intelligence. My upbringing taught me that my emotions were to be controlled and dismissed rather than understood and used to enhance my ability to succeed in life.

My mother’s lack of understanding was not unusual. Until recently behavioural responses were believed to be under the control of the rational mind. This meant that the smarter you were scholastically, the more expectation there was placed on you to behave in a “smart” or mature manner. This explains why many people who have achieved success in business are plagued with problems relating to poor impulse control (addictive behaviours, road rage, etc) and interpersonal relationship problems (co-dependency, conflict, etc.) as they unsuccessfully attempt to control their emotions with their mind.

Researchers have now discovered that although IQ can predict to a significant degree one’s academic performance and, to some degree, professional and personal success, it does not guarantee the expected outcomes. The fact is that people with remarkable IQ scores do not always succeed in life and frequently do not know how to have successful relationships with coworkers, friends and family. In fact, they seem to be wasting their potential by thinking, behaving and communicating in a way that hindered their chances to succeed. As a result of this research, psychologists have currently proposed that traditional forms of intelligence such as those measured by IQ tests may not be the best predictors of success in life. Instead it appears that Emotional Intelligence or EQ, the ability to understand our own and others’ emotions is a more important predictor.

EQ asserts that human beings can also handle emotions intelligently and in doing so increase their ability to succeed in personal and professional relationships. Emotional self- awareness is the core of emotional intelligence. Knowing one’s emotional state allows the possibility of expressing feeling appropriately, or making the choice to withhold the expression of the emotion. Self-awareness allows us to take an emotional upset into account before acting on the powerful impulses it generates – in other words, managing our emotional responses. We cannot manage feelings of which we are unaware – as in an emotional hijacking, where emotions express themselves in words and deeds before we have a actually identified their nature or even their presence. People often undermine themselves through inappropriate outbursts of anger, frustration or tears because of their inability to manage their emotions diminishing their personal or professional success

Many of us have been conditioned to control, ignore or dismiss our emotions rather than use them as a source of valuable information. This leads to what is known as “bucket dumping”. We accumulate our feeling responses inside of us and when full, we dump it on whatever situation or person that happens to add the final drop into the bucket. Irrational and inappropriate behaviour is the result of having controlled or ignored our emotions. Ultimately, the accumulation of feelings explodes through cracks of fatigue or stress, negatively affecting our professional and personal relationships.

Emotional intelligence and its appropriate application can be learned and taught. Unlike IQ, which some argue doesn’t change throughout life, emotional intelligence can be developed. It’s a neurological fact that the brain is patterned throughout life; brain structures and circuits shape themselves through repeated experience. You can discipline yourself and get better at things you once weren’t good at. In fact, emotional intelligence tends to increase through each decade of life. It’s what we used to call maturity – how we handle ourselves and other people. You get better at it as you age.

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