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Why it’s important to develop emotional intelligence

emotional intelligence
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Emotional intelligence helps you in all areas of life: relationships, workplace, goal setting, and how you feel about yourself in general. And success in these areas will obviously improve your quality of life.

There are 4 components to emotional intelligence:

1. Self-management

This is similar to self-control in that you’re able to avoid acting on impulse. You have good emotional regulation, follow through on commitments, and easily adapt to change.

2. Self-awareness

You can identify your own emotions and see how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You understand your strengths and weaknesses and feel confident in your abilities.

3. Social awareness

You experience empathy and are tuned into the emotions and needs of others. You pick up on social cues and feel comfortable in a social or group environment.

4. Relationship management

You know how to nurture and maintain positive relationships. You are good at conflict resolution, communication, and work well with others.

Childhood trauma and emotional intelligence

If you’ve suffered through childhood trauma, this list might sound disheartening to you. Especially when you consider the importance of emotional intelligence to our levels of happiness and success.

Those of us who were neglected or abused growing up did not receive the keys to emotional intelligence. We never learned to handle our emotions and in fact were forced to suppress them.

As a result, we became emotionally dysregulated and often have no idea what we’re feeling. We’ll do anything to escape our emotions rather than processing them. This leads to the many addictions we suffer, both behavioral and substance-based.

We'll do anything to escape our emotions rather than processing them. This leads to addictions, both behavioral and substance-based. Click To Tweet

Because we never received praise, encouragement, or guidance, our strengths and weaknesses remain a mystery. Our sense of self stays shaky because our parents never helped us understand ourselves or what we’re good at.

Because of the way trauma has rewired our brains we experience social anxiety and fear. Our lack of confidence makes us uncomfortable in social settings where we often wear a mask to feel acceptable.

We recognize social cues and the needs of others too keenly. Instead of a healthy understanding, we see rejection in neutral faces. We abandon our own needs for the sake of others to win their acceptance.

And don’t get me started on relationships! Rather than conflict resolution and clear communication, we grew up with violence, shouting, the silent treatment, and worse. We may have never seen a positive example of a relationship in our young lives.

Learned emotional intelligence

The good news is emotional intelligence can be learned. You can begin to connect to yourself by processing your emotions rather than running and hiding from them.

Self-awareness

Get alone and journal your feelings. Learn to accept anger and sadness rather than pushing them down or away.

You may fear if you give in to these emotions they’ll never end, but they will. Even if you cry for hours, the tears will stop (and probably sooner than you expect).

Self-management

Suppressing emotions only makes them linger longer, then come out sideways as an outburst. That’s the lack of impulse control and emotional dysregulation we referenced earlier.

Suppressing emotions only makes them linger longer, then come out sideways as an outburst. Click To Tweet

Remember you are not your emotions, you have emotions. Stand outside of them, perceiving them and not judging them. Let go of the shame associated with these feelings and let them flow through you.

Social awareness

Practice being mindful in social situations. Avoid the temptation to escape into your phone. Remember to breathe and feel your feet on the ground to stay present.

Take off the social mask and be authentic within boundaries. You don’t need to tell a stranger your life story, for example. Show interest in the other person and talk as much as you listen.

Remind yourself that you tend to see neutral expressions as negative and assess them more realistically.

Relationship management

Many of us who never learned how to handle conflict fear it will end the relationship. For that reason, we avoid conflict at all cost (or create too much of it to get attention).

In fact, conflict is a necessary and healthy part of any relationship. When handled well, it will bring you closer to your friend or partner, and increase your understanding of one another.

Repairing a rupture this way inspires mutual trust and deepens your connection, taking the relationship to the next level. Avoiding conflict has the opposite effect.

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