How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
People don’t remember what you said to them. They won’t even remember what you do with them. However, they will always remember how you made them feel. We are emotional creatures that rely on the way we feel to navigate through life’s challenges.
Our emotional capacity is enormous, ranging across our internal cosmos. There are the basics of happy, sad and angry. These three are the originals that we learn to express as infants. As we grow, those emotions are augmented by others like love, surprise, fear and guilt. For many, those words comprise the extent of their emotional vocabulary. However, our emotions are not limited by seven common words. We experience the world through nuances and shadings. Like paint colors, our emotions swirl and combine creating varied permutations that are unique only to us.
Oftentimes people choose to describe what they are feeling, using a limited vocabulary that does not elucidate what is actually going on. A typical answer of “I’m fine” or “I’m happy” leaves the listener wondering what was actually meant by that answer. It is an unfortunate tendency for people to minimize or cover up their true internal state.
It has become ingrained into many adults that revealing emotions is a sign of weakness or not being in control. For some, it is the charged emotions that they refuse to show: adoration, elation and rage. Those people might show themselves being happy or resigned in some ways, but never more. This is an unfortunate affectation that we adults have adopted. Many do not realize that they experience an entire plethora of emotions. Much more than three, seven or even one-hundred variations. Every single one of us has that capacity innately embedded within. We just need to learn to express those emotions.
Every person goes through life relating their story to others. This might sound funny, but think about everyday interactions: they are all an outward expression of you. Accurate expression allows us to tell our story truthfully, without moderation. In the case of our emotions, we often tell our stories half-heartedly, without all the substance they deserve.
Masterful storytellers know that authentic emotions are a powerful force in communication. These emotions give their stories more depth and humanity, while keeping people interested. The opposite is also true: people lose interest and feel disconnected when they can tell that the person is displaying inauthentic emotions. Our story is our interaction with the world. It is more than just what we did today: it is every aspect of what we do. Everything we relate to others is based on our own experiences, and our understanding of those experiences. The interesting part is that as we relate a part of our story, say explaining how a hot air balloon stays afloat, we are writing the next part of our story as we do so. The past and the present are always held together, and our stories are how they are preserved.
Try this activity, called “Emotional Planets,” to expand your awareness of the possibilities. Take 5-10 pieces of square paper (colorful makes it all the more illuminating) and write a primary or base emotion word in the center. For instance, “love,” “fear,” “anger,” “happy,” or “sad.” Draw a circle around that emotion. Now spend a few minutes and brainstorm all the words that relate to that emotion. Anything that could describe shadings, or similarities is perfect. Then use a thesaurus, dictionary or Google to get more ideas. Challenge yourself to see how many you can get for each base emotion. Then write those emotions on the corresponding sheets of paper coming out from the center like rays of the sun. Fit in as many as you can, and make a second row if needed. Check out the pictures for examples of the end results.
Keep these Emotional Planet flashcards around and revisit them periodically. Use them to help determine what emotion you are actually experiencing. This may not lead to complete self-expression towards others, but at least you will learn to experience your authentic emotions within yourself. Above all, if you cannot be fully honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?
Bryan Aldeghi, CLSC, is a College Transition Coach with the Integrated Pathways Center for Personal Growth. The transition from high school into college and from college into the working world is a challenging time for students, parents and families. By working with the dynamic Integrated Pathways team, Bryan helps clients ease the journey, through enhanced communication, goal completion, and increased self-awareness. Other team members focus on managing stress through Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Massage, and Bodywork. A local beekeeper, Bryan is a graduate of Vassar College and is currently working on his Masters of Mental Health Counseling at Walden University. To learn more, contact Bryan directly at BAldeghi@IntegratedPathways.net or visit www.IntegratedPathways.net.