1. Get fluent in the language of emotions. To practice EQ, it’s essential to be emotionally
literate. This is multifaceted; one part is to be able to name emotions really
specifically – to differentiate between similar emotions, like feeling sad
versus overwhelmed. And beyond that, it’s super helpful to know the profile of
each emotion – to be able to define it and understand its message. Sadness
is a feeling of loss of something I care about, and it helps clarify what’s
important to me. Just like with any
language, we pick up a good part of it by simply paying attention, but we may
have to study up to become a real expert. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions and theEmotoscope Feeling Chart are two
amazing resources for getting fluent in the language of emotions. We feel all
these different, nuanced emotions, but we don’t always have the words to name
them and make sense of them. And as we’ll go over in the next tip, bringing
this cognitive awareness into the emotional realm is extremely powerful.
2. Name your emotions.Emotions can feel like a powerful current that sweeps us along, takes us for a
ride. But neuroscience research has revealed a remarkably simple practice that
helps us calm the waters: naming our emotions. It has been shown to lessen the
intensity of emotions, simply by shining our cognitive spotlight on what we’re
feeling. Read this
article for a powerful testimonial of how this works when you are
sitting in traffic. Try it out and let me know how it works for you. A slight
variation is to name your emotions…
3. … in the 3rd person.Further research into the power of naming emotions recommends that we DISTANCE
OURSELVES from the experience by using the 3rd person voice. Instead of saying,
“I am frustrated,” I can say, “Josh is frustrated.”
Or, if that’s too
odd, try saying, “I’m experiencing frustration” – or “One of my feelings is
techniques combat the all-encompassing nature of intense emotions, and is a
natural calming mechanism. But remember — emotions are information — so after
you name your emotions, stay with the feeling instead of immediately changing
or fixing them, which leads us to our next tip…
4. Observe without trying to fix. Name
your emotions, and then simply let that be for a few seconds. Let yourself be
frustrated, or angry, or sad. We have been socialized to think of some emotions
as bad, and because of that, we have a tendency to try to push them away as
soon as we feel them.
It’s tempting to
put a comma after your emotion, instead of a period. “I am frustrated, because
he did this or that,” but this
intensifies the emotion all over again. Instead, say “I am experiencing
frustration.” And take a few deep breaths.
It takes about
six seconds for emotion chemicals to be absorbed into the body, so give
yourself at least that long… which brings us to the next tip.
5. Feel your emotions in your body. We often feel our emotions in our physical body. Anxiety before a
job interview may leave us with tight muscles or sweaty palms, and as we walk
to the door to pick up our significant other for a date we may feel like we are
walking lightly and our hearts are pounding with excitement. These are only a
few common examples of how we feel emotions physically. But researchers have found that different
emotions are universally associated with feeling activation in specific parts
of the body.
patterns of bodily sensations are associated with each of the six basic
emotions: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, surprise and sadness. Emotional
feelings are associated with discrete yet partially overlapping bodily
sensations: decreased limb sensations with
sadness, increased sensations in the
upper limbs with anger, sensations
around the throat and the digestive system with disgust, sensations in the chest with surprise and fear, and enhanced sensations all over the body with happiness.
6. Bust the myth of bad emotions. We
too often get stuck in an antagonistic relationship with our emotions, thinking
of them as bad and something that we should suppress. But at the end of the
day, emotions, even challenging ones like anger, are data. They exist to help
Overcoming this mindset that there are good and bad emotions is one of the
hardest parts of practicing emotional intelligence, but it’s also extremely
liberating. Once you truly make emotions your ally, you are empowered to take
control of your life. The first step is acknowledging that emotions are
providing you with valuable information.
neurohormones that we release as a response to our perceptions about the world.
they focus our attention and motivate us toward a specific course of action. So
there aren’t good and bad emotions. They all have a unique purpose and message.
Fear focuses our attention on a threat and motivates us to protect ourselves.
Sadness focuses our attention on a loss and helps us recognize what we care
about. If you want to know how to improve emotional intelligence, the first
step is to stop fighting your own emotions.
7. Notice the build up before the trigger. In
terms of how to improve emotional intelligence, another way is to hone your
ability to recognize when you’re headed in a direction that you don’t want to
go – before something really triggers you. The trigger is usually obvious. “He
said this,” or “I can’t believe she did that.” But we have to remember that
these events don’t occur in a vacuum. Our emotions are based on our perceptions
of the world, and our mental state plays a big role in that. In
fact, our perceptions aren’t as objective as we think. When we are
already frustrated, we’re more likely to see slights. When we’re already
afraid, we’re more likely to interpret something as a threat. So it’s essential
that we check in with ourselves and know where we’re at – what our own biases
could be in that moment. The better and quicker we get at this self check-in,
the less likely we are to overreact or misinterpret something.
8. Recognize recurring patterns:
____stimulus______, I _____my typical
This is may be
the most transformative part of Know Yourself. And to understand it, we need to
dive into a little neuroscience. Our brains have a natural tendency to follow
neural pathways that already exist. So whether it’s in a relationship or by
ourselves, we have a tendency to form and follow patterns. But that doesn’t
mean that all our patterns are serving us well, or that we can’t change the
ones that aren’t.
“when I get angry, I bottle it up.” I learned it from my Dad, so it’s pretty
well engraved in my mind. But with that awareness, I have the ability to notice
when I’m just starting to react… and then I can chart another course, to
practice responding instead of reacting. But the first step in the process was
to simply recognize that pattern in myself.
Marek went on to say, “There are two common
traps. The first is passing critical judgment on others (e.g. “How stupid is
that?” or “What in the world were they thinking?”) This kind of
comment is a crutch to elevate or affirm one’s superiority over another
person’s. The EQ moment begins
when we learn to recognize the habit and then re-train ourselves to restrain
from making any negative comment at all.
The second common
trap is taking offense unnecessarily. This is another area that is a
struggle for many of us. In today’s world we have been taught to take
offense at even the most trivial matters. From taking offense, and
feeling offended, people quickly escalate to criticism, judgment, bitterness,
and unforgiveness, which hurts relationships and even our own health. The EQ
moment: Notice the other person’s comment or action, and
instead of taking offense and taking it personally, just consider it as
data: “Hmmmm, that’s interesting.” Or, “I wonder what’s going on
for her?” Or, “Wow, he must be really stressed…”
9. Write down your feelings throughout the day. Check in with yourself, and don’t think you have
to choose just one feeling. Emotions are multilayered, complex. It’s totally
normal to feel multiple at one time, even if they seem to contradict each
other. Just writing them down is an important practice of validation and part
of the answer of how to improve emotional intelligence.
10. Remind yourself, “Emotions are data.” Emotions are valuable data that help you see more
clearly. When we stop fighting them, ignoring them, or feeling suffocated by
them, we gain an amazing resource. Remember what the purpose of emotions
are: to focus our attention and motivate us toward a specific course of action.
They are simply data, based on our perceptions of the world, about what to do.
Know Yourself is about opening ourselves up to this data, and the next step is
using it to choose exactly where we want to go.