5 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
We, humans, tend to believe that we are rational creatures. We have realistic goals and plans on how to achieve them. But most of the time the evidence in our lives runs contrary to this. Most of our decisions lead to chaotic scenarios and have self-destructive tendencies. It seems that although we think we are rational but actually we are acting quite emotionally. If you also having the same feeling that mostly you are acting under the influence of your emotions, just stay with me. In the following lines, we’ll try to examine the problem and come up with some practical solutions that can help you become more emotionally intelligent.
Despite our obvious irrational tendencies, there are two things that are a source of hope. First and foremost, there have been people throughout history in all cultures who have lived up to the ideal of “High-grade emotional intelligence”. These people should serve as a source of inspiration for us, and later in the article, I’ll list the 5 strategies for bringing out the rational self in you, distilled from the experiences of these great masters.
The second one is that almost all of us have experienced moments of great emotional intelligence at some points in our lives. We experience these moments when we have an important deadline to meet, which has high stakes attached to it, for example, you have a fear of losing your job or may not pass that specific exam. At these moments, the only emotions we can afford are excitement and energy. It seems all other negative emotions have faded away for a moment. Under the pressure of producing results, we become exceptionally practical and focused on the task at hand. Just observe yourself next time you feel it, preparing for an exam, for example, a day or two before. Our minds are extremely focused and calm, the ego just vanishes. Even if somebody disturbs us, we resent it with full force. Such moments, no matter how short they are, reveal a great surprise, the surprise of our hidden potential for becoming extremely rational, provided we put in the proper effort.
Now we’ll discuss the five strategies to become more emotionally intelligent.
1. Accept people as facts
People are probably the most powerful factor in driving us crazy. A constant source of emotional suffering. Have you ever asked yourself “Why it is that way?” Why most of our social interactions are just a source of endless frustration for us. If you see objectively, you’ll find out that at the source of all this is an attempt on our part to change the people around us, and transform them into something else. Most often we want them to become like us. We want them to think like us, behave like us. It’s like we’re all control freaks deep down. Since it’s not possible and we find them quite stubborn, we are continually frustrated and upset, all the time trying to come up with a new scheme to change others. To get rid of this biggest hurdle in your way to becoming more emotionally smart, you need to bring a major shift in the way you see people.
You must, from now on, see others as a phenomenon of nature, as neutral as comets and planets. They just exist, and they are what they are. Just as you never complain a rose for its thorns, you just avoid the thorns and make use of the flower. Similarly, don’t complain about people and just try to accept them for who they are. They come in all varieties, ultimately making life richer and more interesting. See them as an uncharted territory and make exploring them, a fun game, a venture into the unknown. Once you make this shift in your perspective, you’ll get calmer and calmer, you’ll observe people more dispassionately, understanding them on a deeper level. It’s certainly difficult with some people, for example, deep narcissists, aggressors, and other inflamers.
But to help you with that and show you the way, let’s take the example of the Great Russian writer, Anton Chekov, who was probably one of the most emotionally intelligent individuals in history. His family was large and poor. His father, an alcoholic, would beat his children, including Chekov almost every day. Going through all this suffering and dealing with toxic people like his father, Chekov became obsessed with finding out what made the human-animal so irrational, ever anxious, and aggressive. He was a doctor by profession, but he took writing as a side career. He found it amazingly therapeutic to get inside his characters, understand and make sense of even the creepiest types. As he delved deeper into the human psyche, he found that he became more open and understanding. Now he could forgive anybody, even his barbaric father. His approach in these cases was that everybody, no matter how twisted, had a reason to become who they were, a logic that made sense to “them”. By becoming detached and understanding their story, he demystified the brutes and aggressors, he reduced them to an extremely human form. Now when he looked at them, it didn’t elicit hatred, instead pity. Therefore, you should also approach the toxic types with the curiosity of a writer, cherishing the diversity and complexity of his characters, all adding up spice to his story. This way, such types will not have any emotional effect over you, which is precisely the root of the problem.
2. Use the gift of Consciousness
The reptilian brain, source of most of our stupidity and emotionality thrives on ignorance. It’s just like a rat in a dark room teasing you. Once you turn on the light, you know exactly where it is and now it’s easy to get rid of it. The light, in this case, would be the light of consciousness. The cognitive part of the brain, the brain that makes us human and is responsible for deep thinking and long term planning. The greatest gift that humans have is that we can observe our own minds and what’s going on in it. It’s like looking yourself in the mirror, seeing clearly all your faults and shortcomings. Therefore, the more you become aware of your emotional tendencies and how they operate, they will lose their hold on you and can be tamed. In fact, the real difference between being emotionally intelligent and stupid is that of the degree of awareness. It is probably the most effective strategy in becoming more emotionally intelligent, and once you start practicing it you’ll see how magical its results can be.
That’s the reason great masters have advocated for “mindfulness”, which is nothing but a high degree of awareness about your fluctuating emotional states. So, for starters, turn inwards. You want to catch your emotional self in action. The best time to do it would be when you are emotionally charged. Observe how you react under stress. What specific weaknesses come out in such moments, the desire to please, to bully, control, deep levels of mistrust? Look at your decisions, especially that had disastrous results, can you see a pattern? An underlying insecurity? What negative emotion made you do all those things? As you go further deep, you are bringing the nasty rat to light and once you start seeing it, it’s just a matter of time before you tame it.
To read more about Mindfulness, check out this absolutely wonderful article by Everything abode.
3. Confront your emotions
It’s never quite easy for us to exactly pinpoint the root of a particular emotion we are feeling. If you are experiencing anger, there might be envy behind it. So the next time you experience a powerful emotion, let’s say anger, control yourself and let the feeling settle from within. Now start analyzing it. Was it triggered by something obviously petty or trivial? If yes, then it’s a clear sign that there’s something else going on behind it. Most probably there is an uncomfortable emotion lying buried. You need to look it square in the eye. Dig deeper and look for any trigger points to see where it started. It might be useful to use a journal, where you record your findings.
The biggest danger here would be your ego and how it colors your perception about almost everything. For example, if you are feeling intense hostility towards somebody, it might be that you are jealous of him/her because of something they have. Your ego will rationalize it by saying whatever they have, it’s just because they got lucky or employed unscrupulous means to get there. Such explanations might comfort you in the moment but in the long run, it’ll make you defensive, rigid, and unable to adapt. Find a neutral position from where you can observe your actions, with a bit of detachment and humor.
4. The Rider and the Horse
If you’re getting the impression from the above lines that emotions are inherently evil and must be gotten rid of, you’ve completely misunderstood the point. Emotions evolved overtime to give us the impetus and energy to act. The reptilian brain, the source of our emotions, is a part of our overall brain and we cannot separate it completely from our thinking process. The two are intertwined. The thing is, you need to find the optimal balance between the two, the one that results in the most efficient action.
Let’s understand this concept by an analogy that many ancient cultures used. The rider and the horse. The horse is our emotions, filled with energy, constantly pushing us to move forward and act. But without a rider, its energy cannot be put to use. It’s wild and destructive, subject to predators. The rider is the cognitive brain, who knows the path. By training and practice, it tames and then guides the horse, harnessing the animal energy into something productive. Either one is useless without the other. Therefore both must work in harmony and cohesion. That is, you put as much brain as you can into a situation, but one you have made a decision, you let the reins loose and enter action with a bold and adventurous spirit.
5. Enjoy the process
It’s extremely important that you should not see the path to emotional intelligence as something difficult and full of pain. Instead, you should focus on the powers it will bring to you that are immensely satisfying and pleasurable, much deeper than the more manic pleasures the world has to offer. Being able to tame the emotional self brings clarity and calmness. You will be less consumed by petty conflicts and considerations. Your actions are more effective which cause less chaos and turmoil than usual. You have great satisfaction and a feeling of achievement that you have mastered your emotional self. You are more in control. Knowing these facts, it will be much easier to motivate yourself in developing this emotional intelligence.
You might also like this amazing article on loving yourself unconditionally.