Most people believe that success in life is directly correlated to IQ, their level of intelligence. Actually, this is not true and “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman is the book that proves this fact. Instead of relying only on our intellectual capacity, we should also get in power of our emotional life, because this is the one which can boost or impede us. And who can concentrate, be productive and have success without emotional stability? Beside managing our feelings (the personal part) there is also an interpersonal one which relies on emotions. Living as social beings makes us dependent of healthy relationships (at work, at home) and this is the second big reason why EQ has such a great impact in people’s life.
The definition of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions. In theory it might sound simple, but sometimes it might not be easy at all. This could lead to situations where our feelings lead us astray, where we could lose relationships or where we cannot manage our priorities. Before being rational, we, as human beings, are firstly emotional. Have you ever felt that you have a lot of work to do, but you are paralyzed because of your emotional state of being? Incontrollable feelings can be crucial for our life, and this is where Daniel Goleman’s book intervents. There are five factors he presents in his book which can increase our EQ.
The first and most powerful one, at least for me, is Self-Awareness. It is also called Metacognition and is the fundamental basis of emotional intelligence, because without knowing our emotions, we end up at their mercy. In order to be self-aware, we have to genuinely, actively, listen to ourselves. When an emotion occurs, we have to become aware of it and actually name it “right now I feel jealous of her having more success”. The only way to be in accordance with our true self is to listen carefully to our feelings and to make connections with the circumstances which started them. This is the way that I use to learn more about myself. Self-awareness is also about reaching your true self, not only your feelings.
The second thing to do in order to become emotionally intelligent is Managing Emotions (Self-Regulation). After recognizing them, the key is to know how to handle them. Sometimes our consciousness does not agree with what we are feeling. To give the same example, who wants to feel jealousy? It’s a feeling that perfect persons don’t have... Surprise! We are not perfect, we have good and bad parts, but the only way to grow is to find them and to work on them. This is why the worst thing to do is to suppress our emotion, to numb them. Pretending that unwanted emotions are not there is the ultimate way to self-destruction. Goleman suggests some practical things to do with them, and I will give more details about how I applied these later in the essay.
The next element of emotional intelligence works more in the professional part of our lifes, rather than in the personal one. It is called Self-Motivation and it refers to us being able to use our emotions in order to reach the desired goal. An important part of self-motivation lays in the power of perseverance, being able to work hard and face obstacles without giving up. The other important way to self-motivate consist in managing our emotions and our stress so that they can help us gain our goals. For example, harnessing our stress profile (the way you perform under pressure). In my case, I know I have to work for my tasks in time and never in the last moment, otherwise I get so stressed that I cannot perform at all. The first time I realized this was a week before the baccalaureate exam when I was not able to learn anymore.
Humans as social beings have a really deepened need, the one of interaction. And how can we interact without understanding the other person’s emotions? Here comes the fourth part of emotional intelligence: Empathy. For me it works like this: I always imagine myself in the other’s person’s place, taking into consideration what they value, their temperament, their personality. In this way I get mad on people in my life very rarely, because when you understand someone, their intentions, their feelings, you can’t be upset.
The other key to a healthy social life is Handling Relationships. The capacity to manage other people’s emotions is the core of this social skill. Here the author presents some rules to express our emotions: minimizing them, overdoing them or replacing them. Sometimes we have to show some other things than what we actually feel so that we will not upset people or get negative repercussions. These techniques might be useful in professional life, but I prefer being sincere and transparent in my personal life, expecting those close to me to have the same amount of empathy and to understand my feelings.
I have the book Emotional Intelligence for three years. The first time I saw it on the shelf of a library I felt that I should have it, and this is not because of the good reviews, but because I knew that I need it. My impulsivity, my difficulty in taking decisions, my lack of productivity when I had a bad mood were some of the proofs that this book was resourceful for me. Now after three years I am reading it again and extracting more and more relevant advices about how I can increase my EQ level. I managed to suppress these learnings in the last five paragraphs.
The most important thing to do when learning something is practicing it, implementing it. Each and every day of my life I am trying to be more and more aware of my feelings. When happiness, joy, anger, sadness, anxiety, or any other emotion occurs, I stop for a moment, and give myself the privilege of awareness. I am thinking about what I feel in that particular moment and then I make a connection with the event which started it. In this way, I learn more and more about myself and I begin to take decisions easier. For example, there were some times when I refused to spend time with my family because I considered I have too much work to do. Every time after these events I felt bad, and after a few of these moments I realized that for me, family is really important for me, it is one of my values. And this is how I reach self-knowledge through self-awareness, the first principle of EQ. Also, this is how I begin to act in accordance with my true self. Now I schedule my work so that I have time to spend with them too, and I feel far better.
Like all of us, I have some days when I am really not in a good mood. After trying to find the reason and implementing the Self-Awareness, the next step is to Manage my Emotions and here I am putting into practice some insights from the book. The first one with which I’m starting the day is “Mindfulness Meditation”. The simple exercise of breathing and resting my mind for a moment, with no pressure from the outside world, calms my thoughts and my feelings. Sometimes just being, existing, is enough to be happy for. Meditation is helping me to re-center and feel better, to reduce my stress level and to improve my self-awareness and my performance.
Another tip Daniel Goleman gives is “Architecting small wins”. This works as in Stephen Covey’s book which suggests accomplishing the goals we can have an influence upon. Achieving small tasks gives me a sense of accomplishment and confidence, making me ready to take on bigger and bigger challenges.
Sometimes the past is the one which puts me in a bad mood, thinking about something I regret or about something painful. For this Goleman suggests a technique which is called “Reframing”. It’s like making lemonade out of lemons. The most powerful experience I have gotten through with reframing happened this year when I found out that I might have some severe health problems. At first, I was devastated, I simply could not understand how something like that could ever happen to me. After a time, I started thinking about this experience as a challenge God gave me in order to make me aware of some parts of my life that need to be changed. At that moment I did not know that this is called “reframing”, but it worked very well, it made the mental healing after this experience much easier.
Regarding the social part of emotional intelligence there is one learning my mind stays on, which I found really useful. When someone’s words conflict with their gestures, their tonality, their body language, always trust the non-verbal’s, not the words.
These learnings will stay with me forever. Daniel Goleman’s book can be considered a gold mine of information, about how our emotional brain works, about self-awareness, self-management, about social skills and even about marriage and parenting. Each of these are keys to the development of emotional intelligence, but for me, the most relevant ones are those related to self-knowledge. I am implementing them each day of my life but I am sure I will come back again and again to this book, it’s like a bible from which you can always take new information.
In my opinion, even if lecture might be hard in some parts of the book, this is not enough to stop the reader persevere in the knowledge of emotional intelligence, therefore I would recommend it to anyone, especially to those who start understanding themselves and need some support for it. “In a very real sense, we have to minds, one that thinks and one that feels”. For me, emotional intelligence is the one which creates the connections between these two minds, so that I can live my life accordingly to both my feelings and my beliefs.