How in tune are you with your emotions? As lives get more hectic being able to be firstly aware of what is going on for us emotionally and then being able to manage the emotions we experience is a total skill.
So why build on our skills of emotional management?
How does it help you as a person, your team at work, your relationships with others?
No one likes to feel out of control right? If we keep reacting to situations or people in a way that feels like our emotions are out of control we are going to lose confidence in our abilities, we are going to have trouble getting on with others and we are not going to achieve our potential.
Knowing your emotions, being able to manage them effectively and understand what is going on with others is now recognised as an important part of our working and private life.
So to start with let's explore what emotional intelligence means, then we can enhance our skills in being able to tune in!
The term 'emotional intelligence' came into being in the 60's and then being perhaps more well known in '95 with Daniel Goleman's work. The concept was really interesting that 'emotional intelligence' is an ability, a skill that can be developed and learned like other skills.
Goleman describes a range of skills that make up emotional intelligence:
Self awareness - the ability to understand ourselves, knowing what we are feeling and why we are feeling it.
Self management - being able to handle difficult emotions in an effective way so it does not prevent us from functioning. Goleman also describes the importance of aligning our passions with our value base and being able to manage positive emotions so we can be enthused in life.
Empathy - knowing what others are feeling.
Skilled relationships - being able to be skilled in the above areas in order to have effective social relationships.
You can probably recognise times when you are not as self aware as you could be, self management goes out the window and rather than considering what is going on for the other person you are wrapped up in a strong emotional response. We get into patterns of behaviour and react to emotions in ways we have always done and learned to do so. The good news is that we can get better at recognising and managing our emotions and we can learn how to do things differently. We can give ourselves time to put thinking in place to reduce our initial impulsive emotional reaction. This effects our ability to manage in the workplace, to run an effective team, to build our business with less stress and to get on better in our personal lives.
Have a think back to a time when you felt that your emotions were getting out of control.
Were you aware of how you were feeling?
Did you consider how it was impacting on what you were thinking, the way you were viewing the world and your actions?
Were you aware of how it was impacting on others around you?
It is easier to recognise what we are thinking than what what we are experiencing emotionally. In coaching when I ask people to give me a thought and a feeling when the coaching session is coming to an end I tend to get told thoughts rather than feelings. Once we are better at recognising our emotions we can then tune it to how it is effecting us physically and start to make changes.
As we are all different, we will experience emotions differently in our body, we will have different triggers that set us off with positive and negative emotions.
The same situation for two different people will be experienced differently. If I am about to go on a ride at thorpe park I will think terrified thoughts, my whole body will respond like I am about to be savaged by a rabid dog and experience terror. However my partner will think how exciting it all is, he will be laughing and experiencing pure happiness. I totally don't mind if I don't win at bowling for example and will experience a relaxed state but if my partner is losing it will bring up different emotions as he will believe that he could have done better - linked maybe to perfectionism. I will have to be on the receiving end of my daughter rolling her eyes and saying 'whatever', which links to my belief that I am being disrespected - parent entitlement! - to get a similar emotional response.
If, like me, you are old enough to remember the traditional thermometer (not the one that goes in your ears and makes a beep noise) which has a liquid that rises and falls as you become hotter or cooler, then this is a good way to visualise your emotional arousal level.
As our lives get more hectic and we are busy we often don't tune into our emotions. So if we imagine that our emotions are like a thermometer it can be a helpful visual. We can link this to a colour too. We might be calm - blue - at the bottom of the thermometer, frustrated - orange - half way up and raging - red- at the top.
If we recognise that our emotional arousal on the thermometer is increasing then before we get to the top we can do something about it. We are at an advantage if we have this increased awareness as we can stop ourselves getting to the area where we are losing it in the 'red' or 'raging' area.
We can be more resilient and reduce the stress in our lives just by starting to tune in to our emotional thermometer.
It is also worth recognising that being too much in control can mean that we have emotional build up, and like a pressure cooker or bottle of fizzy pop if we keep pushing down our emotions rather than letting them out then we can run the risk of exploding!
Recognising where we are on the emotional thermometer is super helpful. Also being honest about how we are experiencing emotions rather than hiding them and bottling them up is important too.
How do we get better at this?
Here are my 4 tips to tune into our emotions and be more emotionally intelligent:
1) We can choose to take time away from the trigger situation and tune into our bodies - go for a walk, take a deep breath, go and make a cup of tea, focus on relaxing our muscles.
2) We can work on expressing how we feel - we need to check we are out of the 'red zone' here. We might not be able to change the situation but by saying how we feel can be really helpful as feeling unheard or not understood/listened to can really trigger strong emotions.
3) We can think differently - consider how worrying about a situation does not really help as you become more and more agitated and can feel yourself moving up the thermometer. Those people who seem to take things in their stride are skilled at recognising that anxiety is kicking in and work on their thinking. If we think about the consequences such as 'it's not worth it, why get worked up? it's not going to help the situation or my health in the long term' then we are more likely to reduce intense emotions and be able to effectively problem solve the worry.
4) We can recognise when we are using unhelpful 'cover ups' for our emotions for short term gain but resulting in long term pain such as increasing use of drugs/alcohol/caffeine/cigarettes/sugar. It's worth considering if we are using substances as a coping mechanism to escape or suppress them and longer term it can lead to them building up and we can be left with negative emotions.
I spend a great deal of time with coachees helping others to get good at emotional awareness and working through a programme that is tailored to their own particular needs. If you feel that you could do with more emotional awareness to address stress, for example if you are driving yourself too hard, or to manage relationships at home or in your business life then please get in touch.
We don't have to be ruled by our emotions!
My aim by the end of this article is to help you, the reader, to have built on your understanding of how being more emotionally intelligent can help you in your day to day life.