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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Imposter Syndrome and What to Do About It

Yesterday’s post defined Imposter Syndrome; today’s post looks at ways that we can begin to challenge those pervasive thoughts.

Because Imposter Syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that tend to persist despite evidence of success, one of the ways we can begin to challenge the underlying fraudulent feelings is to focus on the evidence of success. We can begin by writing down our accomplishments both at home and at work as a way to objectively view our own proficiency. This challenges our core belief of inadequacy.

Another way to challenge these feelings is to begin to understand how they formed in the first place. What was your experience growing up in terms of achievement and success? What were both the spoken and unspoken rules in your family as to how success was measured and how did you fit into those rules?

When we can combine both an understanding of how imposter syndrome may have developed and the factual account of our success, we can begin to recognize that the beliefs of inadequacy we have held onto for so long are historical and no longer serving a purpose for us. From there, we can begin to consciously replace our automatic thoughts with more accurate affirmations; leading to a more realistic view of our accomplishments.

“I bring value to this organization.”

“I deserve the respect I have earned at work/home.”

“I am successful because I work hard.”

“I am accomplished.” 

Changing our core beliefs can be challenging at first, but with practice and persistence, we can get there – freeing ourselves from their perpetual cycle; one positive affirmation at a time 🙂

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What is Imposter Syndrome? Definition and Cause

We all have moments of self-doubt. Sometimes those thoughts come into play when we are feeling insecure about something, or our confidence is down. Imposter syndrome, however tends to be more pervasive. It is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that tend to persist despite evidence of success. In other words, if you often think “Eventually, someone is going to figure out the real me and see me for who I am,” you may have imposter syndrome. It is about the inability to internalize our own success. People who suffer with imposter syndrom tend to have chronic self-doubt and feel intellectually fraudulent.

Imposter syndrome tends to be linked to core beliefs that most likely started in childhood. Often linked to an association of ‘achievement = love,’ coupled with the message that “It was never good enough” can create lasting effect. Comparing children’s success in the home can also contribute. Imposter syndrome can develop in people who tend to have perfectionist traits, who believe they have to accomplish tasks on their own or believe that you must be an ‘expert’ in something to fully be successful. People with imposter syndrome often will work harder than anyone else in the room.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Tomorrow’s post will look at step to take if imposter syndrome is taking up too much space in your life 🙂

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Making Space for Grief

When it comes to our emotions, we are best served to feel them as they come; with no judgment or criticism. There are moments where we may feel rejected; there are moments where we may feel surprised. We may feel sad or joyful. Perhaps we feel irritated or angry. Our feelings are meant to be and we must simply scooch over and offer them a seat beside us.

When we are grieving, it is a feeling that envelops us. It will often come in waves; it can feel raw and untethered. It can feel comforting. Grief carries memories which can elicit both sadness and joy. Very often, we are tempted to try and ignore grief; to tuck it away, to hide from its persistent knocking.

Grief needs to be felt. The process of grief needs to be honoured. When we do so, we in turn honour those whom we are missing.

Making space for grief is an important part of the experience of loss. When we are open to the process of grief, we not only step aside so that it may stand alongside us, we turn to grief and open our arms.

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Before You Speak

There are times when we have to slow down our thought process enough to avoid saying something we end up regretting. Very often, an emotion gets in the way of acting rationally and we end up following the action urge instead of our logical brain (which shows up after the emotion has passed.) Sometimes our concerns for others can come out it ways that appear critical or harsh.

I came across this acronym which can help us to think about what we wish to say in any given situation.

Before you speak, think:

T – Is it true?

H – Is it helpful?

I – Is it inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

Just trying to access this acronym when we are upset or troubled by something will help us to slow down enough to begin processing our emotion, and moving into a mature way of communicating.

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Forgiveness is a Choice

We have all heard the phrase “Time heals all wounds.” And perhaps in some instances, it does. Perhaps the passing of time helps move us farther away from what brought us heartache or loss.

When it comes to forgiveness; however, time tends to just pass along. When someone has betrayed us, the hurt has the potential to sit weighted. The bitterness and anger that comes as a result of the betrayal has nowhere to go, so it rolls around inside us, settling down as stones in our heart.

The decision to forgive someone is a choice that we make. It doesn’t happen automatically – the emotions tied up to the act of betrayal will keep you in an angry place to protect you. The decision to forgive someone is a choice that once decided, works away at those stones until your heart feels less heavy, lighter, and free of bitterness. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse what happened. And if the betrayal was such that it ended the relationship, forgiveness doesn’t need to change that either. Forgiveness is a choice you make for yourself.

As Bernard Meltzer stated:

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer

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Emotion Regulation System; Post 3

In our last post based on the work of Dr. Paul Gilbert, we look at the Drive System.

The Drive System, also known as the Incentive and Resource-Seeking System, is built to help us achieve goals. Its primary function is to motivate us, to provide the incentive for us to accomplish tasks and to seek resources that are going to allow us to survive.

Think about our drive to get out of our cozy bed in the morning, the effort we undertake to go for a walk after working all day, the motivation we muster to finish that last assignment in course work or the effort it takes to prepare our family’s dinner.

The brain chemical that is produced when the drive system is engaged is dopamine, our reward hormone. This is why we tend to always feel better after doing something that we had to convince ourselves to do in the first place!

When the drive system is engaged, we feel motivated and excited. Our emotions illicit pursuing and consuming behaviours as a way to keep us on track to achieving our goals.

The three systems of emotional regulation – the soothing system, threat system, and drive system – best serve us when working together. When we can recognize that one of our systems is out of alignment, we can work to create balance again. That might mean pushing the drive system, taming down the threat system, or making sure our soothing system isn’t left behind. 🙂

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