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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