One cannot be emotionally intelligent without mindfulness of one’s emotions and without sound and consistent emotional intelligence, one’s happiness is merely a mirage in the desert, seen but never truly reached.
Despite appearing seemingly unattainable, emotional intelligence can actually be cultivated. Much like intellectual intelligence, which is manifested through reading and learning, emotional intelligence can be fostered through a mindful existence.
But lets start at the beginning…
The 3 Elements of Emotional Intelligence
Psychology Today define emotional intelligence as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and those of other people. It incorporates emotional awareness, emotional application, and emotional management (Emotional Intelligence 2016).
All three elements in this definition are essential to a strong foundation of emotional intelligence. So let us explore each element individually starting with emotional awareness which basically means being aware of the emotions you are experiencing, as well as those of people around you. Being self-aware is the ability to notice the emotions you are feeling in the current moment without judgement or alteration (The Emotional Intelligence Framework 2015).
Emotionally aware individuals learn to accept who they are because they learn that each person is different and that everyone handles their emotions uniquely. This kind of awareness leads to greater love and compassion for the self as well as the other which is an extremely different experience to simply reacting with anger or frustration.
The second element is emotional application which implies that you are able to utilize your emotions to your benefit and for assisting others.
This skill means you can proactively apply your emotions into your everyday life instead of allowing your emotions to engulf your thinking. Rumination, self-loathing, and fear are negative thought patterns which ultimately lead you down the road of stress and despair. Luckily when you can apply your emotions, both positive and negative, to work for you not against you, you begin down a much happier road.
An alternative to holding onto or disregarding negative emotions like anger, which eventually transpire into eruptions of negative emotions, you can try acknowledging the negative emotion. You can master the emotion you are experiencing by recognizing it and figuring out where it is coming from. In this sense, you are applying the emotion to become something more resourceful.
The last element of emotional intelligence is emotional management. It is rather self-explanatory and involves being able to manage your emotions. Once you have obtained the ability to be aware of your emotions and are able to harness them for your benefit then emotional self-management becomes essential.
Managing your emotions means that you can take stock of how you are feeling consistently throughout the day. You try to be positive, as much as possible, but you are not naïve to the fact that negative emotions are also play a part of life. Emotional management is imperative to gaining control over your life and and imploring emotional intelligence when making decisions especially during inevitable stressful periods.
Instead of reacting to your emotional impulses and letting your feelings govern your interactions, you can choose to to express yourself in more skillful ways. You don’t ask “Why me?” as often as you ask “Why I am experiencing this particular emotion now and what does it mean?”.
Essentially emotional management encompasses taking responsibility and learning to control the relationship you have with your emotions. It also entails respecting the emotions of the people around you and being able to uplift those around when needed.
Summarizing Emotional Intelligence
Emotionally intelligent individuals experience more trust in their relationships. Trust is the reward that emotionally intelligent individuals earn for the time they spend observing, listening, and communicating mindfully with others.
They don’t view others’ emotional reactions judgmentally, rather they attempt to understand their reactions in order to be helpful and other people see them as reliable because of their honest values (2015). They are also skilled at detecting emotional distress in a partner, friend, colleague, child or parent etc.
People with high levels of emotional intelligence usually display high levels of resilience. This makes sense as simply put, when situations get highly challenging, emotionally intelligent individuals don’t crack easily and become victims of their emotions but rather they use their emotional awareness, application and management to cope and overcome adversity.
When hoping to apply your emotional intelligence to benefit and assist those around you, try not to force your own ideologies on them, rather foster a compassionate understanding of their emotional experience. It is imperative to learn that every person will respond and react differently to their emotions and you can empathize with others because you have experienced your own emotional pain.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill that takes time to develop; however if it is nurtured it can be hugely rewarding helping you improve your most important relationships, as well as impacting even the briefest daily interactions you have with the people around you.
How Mindfulness Breeds Emotional Intelligence
According to Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol (2015) in his paper Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress, mindfulness meditation helps manifest emotional intelligence in three major ways:
- It improves your ability to comprehend your own emotions.
- It helps you learn how to recognize the emotions of other people around you.
- It strengthens your ability to govern and control your emotions.
He also notes that mindfulness improves a person’s ability to use their emotions effectively by helping them determine which emotions are beneficial when undertaking certain activities.
Positive emotions might be valuable in many scenarios however there are some situations where negative emotions are more reliable (2014). If you have certain tasks you need to perform, utilizing mindfulness techniques can help you properly approach a task with the right frame of mind.
Applying Mindful Emotional Intelligence: A Short Example
Say you notice that you are experiencing negative emotions at a time when you need to be productive, haven’t we all experienced that! Practicing mindfulness can be helpful in that situation by making you aware of your current emotional state.
Perhaps at that moment being productive isn’t possible for you as your emotions are chaotic and you feel rattled. If you attempt to be productive at this time your work output will most likely suffer.
However if you can use your informal mindfulness practices at this moment to tune into your emotions and come back to the present moment. From this time, after a few mindful moments you are more likely to apply and manage your emotions effectively which will in turn improve your productivity when you return to work.
Next time you notice your emotions causing havoc in your daily activities or disrupting your interactions with others, give mindfulness a chance and you may be surprised at your responses and new sense of control!
Take Home Message
Emotional intelligence is resourceful skill to develop in your life. It can help to ease relationships and provide a grounding element to emotional impulses. Emotional intelligence is made up of three elements; emotional awareness, emotional application and emotional management. Each one of these elements can elevate you to a new level of competence and understanding when dealing with your own and others emotional reactions.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool as it offers an opportunity to create space between an action and your reaction. Mindfulness practices are useful in developing emotional intelligence by bringing awareness to your emotions and those of people around you. It can also help you to learn to apply and manage your emotions effectively through mindful thought and action.
Want to know more?
If this topic interested you and you would like to know more. Check out the SIY Emotional Intelligence lecture series available at the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute’s Youtube Channel.
Charoensukmongkol, P. (2014). Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress: Evidence from Thailand. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 16:171-192. Retrieved from: http://bodimojoblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Benefits-of-mindfulness-meditation-on-emotional-intelligence-general-self-efficacy-and-perceived-stress-Evidence-from-Thailand.pdf.
Emotional Intelligence. (2016). Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence
The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (2015). The Emotional Competence Framework. Retrieved from: http://www.eiconsortium.org/pdf/emotional_competence_framework.pdf.