Emotional Intelligence; Post 5

In our last post about Emotional Intelligence, we look at the fifth component of EI: Social Skills. When we think about social skills in the context of emotional intelligence, it is about the art of being able to effectively communicate with others, being influenced by both your emotions and your ability to read into what other people are feeling. Social skills include being able to convey our point of view while respecting someone else’s, being able to manage conflict, being able to manage change, co-operation skills, being open to work as a team member, and leading by example.

Ways that we can increase our EI social skills include:

  • Build your self-confidence. Don’t like small talk? Practice it. Don’t like confrontation? Take a course on conflict management skills. Create a bigger window of opportunity for yourself to practice your skills and increase your confidence.
  • Keep your established relationships healthy. When we are actively working on the relationships we have, not only is it good practice for the outside world, it emphasizes the importance of good social skills in relationship.
  • Emphasize a collaborative climate. When we work towards creating cooperation both at home and at work, we focus on the importance of the relationships in accomplishing tasks.
  • Smile. You’d be surprised at how far a smile will go in letting people know that you are open minded.
  • Practice gratitude. Saying thank you is a simple and effective social skill.

Five components of Emotional Intelligence. EI starts with Self-Awareness and understanding our own emotions which leads us to being able to manage them – Self-Regulation. From there, we can use our emotions to reach our goals through Motivation. Once we have a good grasp on our own emotional intelligence, we move towards Empathy, and the art of understanding other people’s emotions and finally through Social Skills, we can secure healthier environments for ourselves and others.

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Emotional Intelligence; Post 4

Moving right along in our series about emotional intelligence, today’s post features the fourth component: Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others; it is about being aware of or being sensitive to another person’s emotions even, at times when it is not being fully communicated. When we have good empathy skills, we can imagine what it would feel like to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – it is a vicarious experiencing of the feelings.

How do we increase our empathy skills?

  • Listen. Listen to understand and not just to hear. Try to imagine what it would feel like if you were in the same situation they were in – connect with the emotional component in their words.
  • Allow yourself to feel vulnerable to their experience. If we struggle with empathy, it may be because we protect our vulnerability. Attempt to come into the conversation from an open and flexible place.
  • Be curious. Ask questions about their experience. Ask yourself questions about how you may or may not feel differently than they do and why.
  • Notice non-verbal cues. Facial expressions and posture can tell us a lot about emotions and can provide valuable insight as to what others might be feeling.

When we have good empathy skills, we tend to be less judgemental, better at managing relationships, and we relate well to others. It is a valuable component of EI and one that is considered essential to our relationships. Tomorrow’s post will feature the fifth component of emotional intelligence: Social Skills.

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Emotional Intelligence; Post 3

People who have emotional intelligence also tend to possess Motivation – the third component of EI, and topic of today’s post.

If we are constantly distracted by our emotions, we may find it difficult to see tasks through to completion. When our emotional brain makes decisions for us, we can de-rail from our goals,  reinforcing self-defeat, and feelings of failure.  When we have self-awareness and are able to regulate our emotions; however, we are free to move forward in our goals and as an extension, feel more motivated.

Daniel Goleman identified four elements that make up motivation: our personal drive to achieve, commitment to our goals, initiative, and optimism. Ways that we can boost motivation include:

  • Create an action plan by writing it down. What is achievable right now where a goal is concerned? How much time can I set aside to dedicate to it? What will help me to accomplish it?
  • Celebrate small wins. Breaking down our goals into stepping stones greatly increases our chances of success; we tend to reinforce our achievement when we acknowledge our successes along the way.
  • Work on changing your internal dialogue. If you notice a consistently negative voice in your mind, work at replacing your internal dialogue with something more affirming. Positive affirmations are often helpful to keep us on the right track.
  • Be curious. Explore options, new interests, what makes you feel excited or hopeful. Being curious allows us to challenge the fears that often work against our motivation.

The components of Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation and Motivation are what Goleman considered to be personal skills indicative of how we manage ourselves. The last two components focus on how we manage our relationships with others – tomorrow’s post explores Empathy; considered to be the second most important component of emotional intelligence.

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Emotional Intelligence; Post 2

Yesterday’s post looked at the first component of Emotional Intelligence; Self-Awareness. Today’s post looks at Self-Regulation.

When we begin to have a greater understanding of our own emotions, we can begin to manage our emotions more efficiently, which leads to feeling capable and self-confident when it comes to controlling our emotional response. Some ways that we can build emotional self-regulation skills include:

  • Taking a pause. When emotions begin to feel out of control, take a pause – by way of a deep breath, by actively slowing down – we  give ourselves time to allow our rational brain to weigh in on how our emotional brain is reacting. This gives us a more informed decision as to how we want to move forward by way of action.
  • Being accountable. When we make a mistake, we need to own it. If we said something we regretted, lost our temper, did something we wish we could take back – it becomes important to acknowledge not only to ourselves but to those we affected that we messed up. Doing so tends to build our self-regulation skills as it reinforces what we don’t want to do.
  • Manage stress. Living in chronic stress tends to wreak havoc with our ability to regulate our emotions. By managing stress (self-care is a good place to start), we create a better foundation for emotional self-regulation.

Emotional self-regulation promotes feeling efficient; we begin to feel emotionally stronger when we can see the results of having controlled an emotion that we may have struggled with in the past. Tomorrow’s post will explore the third component of EI – Motivation.

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Emotional Intelligence; Post 1

When we possess emotional intelligence, we tend to have a good understanding of our emotions. We are aware of how we feel, are able to control our emotions when necessary, and can express our emotions to others. A strong EI (also called EQ) tends to make us good listeners, as we apply the same awareness of emotions to others as we do to ourselves.

Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and author of the 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence.” He created five components of EI that help to define emotional intelligence. We will explore each one in the next five posts, with the first being Self-Awareness.

A key ingredient to self-awareness is being able to recognize our emotions. This may seem simple, but think about the number of times that your emotions may have led you to a certain thought or action that you later questioned. Lack of emotional self-awareness can lead to anger management issues, acting defensively when constructively criticized, the feeling of ‘shutting down,’ feeling constantly overwhelmed by emotion, and/or a lack of trust in your own emotions.

How do we begin to build emotional self-awareness? Here are some good places to start:

  • Simply observe. This is probably one of the simplest ways to begin to recognize our emotions. It is the voice that helps us to begin to understand what we are feeling in any given situation. “This makes me feel sad.” “I am feeling so good inside right now.” “I can feel my anger beginning to rise.” “I have this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.” Simply observing what is happening by way of emotion allows us to not place a judgement or action on them. They simply are.
  • Ask others.When you really want to know how you react to situations, ask your loved ones. Sometimes the perspective of others can help to either confirm what we suspected, or give us a greater understanding of how we react to anger, sadness, guilt and so forth.
  • Build mindfulness skills. Through guided meditation, deep breathing or mindfulness exercises, we begin to appreciate the ‘here and now’ of the present moment. This can often help in the self-reflection of our emotions as well.
  • Journal. Jot down how certain situations in your day made you feel; not with intention to figure out direction but simply how you felt at the beginning, middle and end of the interchange and any emotional reaction you may still be having at end of day. This can become a great tool in recognizing our emotions.

Goleman notes that self-awareness of our emotions is foundational to the rest of the components of EI. Self-awareness allows us to become more insightful, creating the path for Self-Regulation: the second component of EI and topic for tomorrow’s post.

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Some Hopeful News Ahead about Youth and Mental Health

In a recent article entitled “Lanark first in Canada to adopt Icelandic model for reducing teen social harm” by Elizabeth Payne and featured in the Ottawa Citizen, we read about a group in Lanark called Planet Youth Lanark who have signed a five year agreement with the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis. The article features some interesting facts about Iceland’s program to reduce substance abuse among their youth:

  • after the induction of the program in the 90’s, Iceland’s substance abuse among youth fell from 48% to 5%.
  • Iceland’s program is a primary prevention program that is based on data from the student’s themselves.
  • Surveys given to youth include alcohol and cannabis use as well as issues such as vaping, screen time, body image and mental well-being.
  • Iceland’s program includes proactive measures designed to create environments that promote healthy growth and development and include such things as increased parental involvement, curfews, and the introduction of numerous activities, including sports and music.

Data from the surveys conducted in Lanark and Smith Falls, will then be studied by Icelandic officials with subsequent reports that will highlight how the communities can develop proactive strategies.

What an encouraging news story! As we continue to worry about the rising rates of anxiety and depression in our youth population, this program has the potential to grow in numbers across our province and nation.

To read the full article: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/a-good-news-story-lanark-becomes-first-in-canada-to-adopt-icelandic-model-for-reducing-teen-social-harm

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A Little Poem About Growth

I came across this quote that reminded me that sometimes, this is exactly the place that growth will bring us:

“And then it happens… One day you wake up and you’re in this place.

You’re in this place where everything feels right.

Your heart is calm. Your soul is lit. Your thoughts are positive.

Your vision is clear.

You’re at peace. At peace with where you’ve been,

at peace with what you’ve been through and

at peace with where you’re headed.”

– Anonymous

And that is a lovely feeling. We sometimes need to remind ourselves to have faith that we will get there. That the stepping stones we take to achieve our goals will get us to a better place. Small steps work too 🙂

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Giving Up or Acceptance – What’s the Difference?

In yesterday’s post we looked at the danger of complacency in relationships; today’s post features the question about the difference between giving up and acceptance.

When we are faced with an issue in our lives, I like to say that our choices are one of three – change it, accept it or leave it. Most people will attempt to change it first, and if that doesn’t occur, the process begins of exploring whether to accept it or to leave it. When this comes to the issue of complacency in relationships, there tends to be a lot of gray in that decision. Is complacency enough to leave a relationship? Some might say a definitive yes; others will look at the variables that need to be considered with such a decision such as whether or not there are children involved, the age of the kids, financial considerations, the strength of an external support system and so forth.

When we decide to stay but we have “given up,” it tends to be with resignation and underlying resentment. Feeling forever unsatisfied with our partner’s indifference, we can end up feeling trapped, lonely and pervasively sad about the relationship (hence further contributing to the complacency).

When we decide to stay but our decision is one of acceptance, it is with a different focus. There is some grief to go through, as the sense of loss to a full, healthy relationship is felt. There is a shift to self-care as the understanding grows that what you can’t get from your partner, you must give to yourself – planned outings with friends, an increase in hobbies or interests, continued quality time with the kids. There is the decision that despite the complacency, you will not shut off completely from the relationship; this may seem counterproductive, however we can lean into our own sense of values to continue to be kind.

When we decide to stay and give up, we are choosing self-defeat. When we decide to stay and accept, we are choosing self-growth. There is a big difference 🙂

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The Danger of Complacency in Relationship

Sometimes we can become complacent in our relationships; without realizing it, we can end up underappreciating our loved ones or taking our partner for granted. The honeymoon phase may be over, but rather than the relationship falling into an easy exchange of healthy bids and affection towards each other, the relationship begins to feel empty or stuck.

Knowing what causes complacency is a good place to start in trying to address it:

  1. Indifference. This one is a silent killer of relationships. Sometimes it comes from having an Avoidant Attachment Style, sometimes it comes from lacking true appreciation for the power of a healthy support system – it can also come from the tendency to lean into narcissistic traits. When one person is indifferent to the relationship, there is often very little the person on the receiving end of that indifference can do. The indifferent person must undertake some much-needed soul searching to get to the deeper layers of why they are using indifference as a way to protect themselves.
  2. Being too comfortable.  Being comfortable in a relationship is a good thing – it means we feel settled and secure. Being too comfortable means we are not giving enough thought into keeping that relationship in good working order. In order to keep complacency at bay, we need to keep reciprocity at the forefront of our minds, making sure that we continue to feed the health of the relationship by initiating time spent together, affection, words of endearment, and acts of kindness.
  3. Giving up. Sometimes when we give up in a relationship it is due to the change we wish to see but never do. It is a way of acceptance that the other person is not going to change, and that ‘giving up’ is the only thing left to do. This doesn’t always mean that the relationship ends, but rather elements of the partnership shift; sometimes the act of giving up will inadvertently feed complacency.
  4. Anger. If we use anger as a  go-to emotion, we run the risk of using it instead of trying to deal with more vulnerable emotions such as sadness, guilt or fear. Anger prevents us from truly understanding our loved one’s feelings; over time, the anger reinforces denial and defensiveness which feeds complacency.

When we understand complacency, we can begin to also see the danger it carries along with it. The goal of investment helps us to keep our relationships in a healthy place; ones in which our security and safety is being supported by a deeper, more satisfying love.

Tomorrow’s post will explore a bit more in depth the difference between giving up and acceptance in a relationship we choose to stay in.

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The Wisdom of Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, a British actress and humanitarian, worked tirelessly to help children in need. Here are three favourite quotes from this iconic actress:

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” – Audrey Hepburn

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