Often times young people find themselves in a position of emotional turmoil with little direction and few people to whom they can turn for advice or guidance. Thus, it becomes imperative for every individual to continue to actively develop an acute sense of “emotional intelligence.” Over time, it allows an individual to see the many different aspects of life through a much clearer and more focused lens. Since 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading researchers on emotional intelligence. In their influential article “Emotional Intelligence,” they defined emotional intelligence as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990). Let’s take a minute and integrate that definition into our daily lives with some examples a little creative juxtaposition.
Through our painful experiences in life, the Good Lord has allowed many of us the opportunity to interact with a subset of people who require us to use our hearts and our minds conjunctively. For example, when assessing the usefulness or depth of a friendship, one might search for qualities in the other that mirror those that one expects in return. Along those same lines, in the context of a romantic relationship, one might subconsciously be looking for a mate that falls into a particular category of compatibility or need. Common categories for females include but are not limited to; the hot guy, the knight in shining armor, the rich dude, the cutie pie, the softie, the rebel, the fixer upper, the caretaker, the father duplicate, the churchy guy, the best friend, among others. Guys might look for; the hot chick, the girl I know my parents will love/hate, the mother duplicate, the smart/witty girl, the intellectual, the girls who’s one of the guys, the prize model, the rich girl, the arm candy, the spiritual girl, the best friend, etc. Recognizing who you are and what you want is only half the battle, though. It’s realizing what you may have found in someone else that requires you to, in a state of almost complete vulnerability, utilize your emotional intelligence and accept what actually exists without the haze of what you really want to see. In every case, developing your emotional intelligence is a process that necessitates active selflessness in thought and cautious humility in actions.
The process we go unconsciously through fairly quickly when we are cognizant of our emotional intelligence is perceiving, reasoning with, understanding, and then managing emotions.
- Perceiving Emotions: The first step in dealing with emotions is to accurately perceive them. In many cases, this might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language, facial expressions, and personal idiosyncrasies. Perception is an educated guess, but it is the foundation of your assessment.
- Using/Reasoning With Emotions: The next step involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally (negatively or positively) to things that garner our attention in some fashion.
- Understanding Emotions: This is CRUCIAL. The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing certain emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of this emotion and what it might mean. That interpretation cannot be the fault of the observer because, after all, nobody’s perfect and people can’t read minds. The expression of your understanding of the emotion of another is the part that leaves you most vulnerable. A true, loving friend/mate will help bring you closer to a real understanding of what’s going on as opposed to pushing you away or blaming you for potentially being insensitive.
- Managing Emotions: The ability to manage emotions effectively, regulating emotions, responding appropriately and responding to the emotions of others are all important aspect of emotional management. Don’t be the doormat, but don’t be the shoe either. Find a balance. As the final part of your emotionally intelligent assessment, managing emotions will take the longest time and most getting used to.
It does not seem very difficult or tedious; however, people who do not constantly utilize a healthy dose of emotional intelligence become very impulsive, indecisive, childish, petty, and may operate with an unrealistic set of expectations for those close to them and/or those wanting to get close to them. In a modern world where everything is about “the here and now” and with the proliferation of social media, it has become much easier to tuck away your emotional intelligence shoot straight for what you believe you see happening right in front of your eyes. You may find yourself jumping to conclusions based upon a photo you saw on Facebook, a “like” you saw on Instagram, a particular “follow” you got wind of on Twitter, and all the while your disconnect from reality is growing and can later be embarrassingly broadcast to those around you. Be wise, and know when you can confidently order the proverbial baby to be cut in half to arrive at true reality. Emotional intelligence is all about trying to stay one step ahead and cultivating a high level of happiness in all sorts of relationships. There is absolutely no room for rampant comparatives, blatant disrespect, retrospective thinking, uneducated assumptions, blind narrow-mindedness, childish banter, haughty derision, or direct/indirect reductiveness. Emotional intelligence is predicated on mental maturity.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” ~ James 3:13
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” ~ Aristotle