Emotional Intelligence: Identifying Your Own And Others’ Feelings To Foster Connection

Emotions are messy, and that’s why the Vulcans of Star Trek fame eschewed them entirely in favor of logic. But I’ve always thought the Vulcans were missing out — emotions make life rich, after all. That’s why I embrace a hybrid approach where we use Vulcan logic to manage our human emotions. I didn’t come up with this concept on my own, however. It’s been around for a while, and it’s called emotional intelligence (EQ).

There are two parts to emotional intelligence: recognizing your own emotions and how they affect your behavior, and recognizing and responding to the emotions of others.

Identifying and Managing Your Own Emotions

The first step in developing emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Once you recognize the emotion that’s affecting you, you can decide what to do with it.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have misophonia, which simply means that eating noises make me crazed. Seeing someone chew gum puts me on edge, and if I can hear it, it takes everything in me to not run screaming from the room. Knowing that about myself lets me separate those feelings of anger and disgust from the real topic at hand: I’m furious simply because my coworker is chewing gum, not because she questioned one of my suggestions!

Recognizing the Emotions of Others

If you have kids, you’ve probably wondered why they always seem to ask for something when you have your arms full of groceries, are late for work, are exhausted after a bad day, and so on. Well, it’s because they haven’t developed emotional intelligence yet. They may be able to sense that you’re preoccupied or stressed, but they can’t make the logical connection that your emotional state isn’t conducive to getting what they want.

As adults, we can do better. We can learn to recognize when someone is feeling angry, fearful, or stressed and adapt our behavior (and our perceptions of that person) accordingly. Have you ever had a really bad first impression of someone only to discover later that they were facing a stressful problem? Recognizing the other person’s fear and anxiety at that first meeting could have helped you react with empathy and compassion rather than instant dislike.

Emotions aren’t bad. In fact, life would be pretty dull without them. But they’re definitely messy. The solution isn’t to avoid emotions; it’s to recognize them for what they are and make logical choices about what to do with them. In other words, take the best of both the human and Vulcan approaches and use them together to spread a little kindness in the world!

Image source: Flickr