Laura Bridges, LCSW, MPH, behavioral health officer
Emotional Intelligence: What is it and why is it important?
This month’s theme of emotional well-being is a perfectly timed topic given these ongoing, turbulent times we are all experiencing amidst COVID. Many of us have felt like we are on a roller coaster of emotions – ups and downs and even going backwards and in circles sometimes!
Today, I want to talk about the topic of emotional intelligence. This term refers to our ability to recognize and manage our emotions and having the ability to handle relationships with others effectively and empathetically. Given all that we are each facing right now, I know I for one am recognizing the need to grow and practice my own emotional intelligence skills and thought I’d share some tips I find helpful.
Emotional intelligence is NOT about being happy all the time. It’s about recognizing and being aware of the emotions we experience and then deciding how to effectively respond in light of (or in spite of) what we are feeling. It’s helpful to remember there are no good or bad emotions; rather, emotions are really signals telling us to attend to something. Try these ideas to build your self-awareness:
- Pause, breathe, and name the emotion you are feeling. Consider doing this a few times throughout your day.
- Consider a daily practice of mindfulness. You can access free mindfulness audios on our website or join one of our free mindfulness classes we offer each week. There are also great apps for mindfulness. Two great apps for kids are Smiling Mind and Stop, Breathe, and Think. Other apps include Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer.
- Write in a journal. At some point in the day, spend a few minutes writing and reflecting on your interactions with others. Think about what went well and how you navigated that, or what didn’t go well and how you might want to try to do something differently next time.
- Practice self-compassion. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes – these are emotionally challenging times and we are all doing the best we can.
Building Awareness of Emotions in Others
Emotional intelligence is also about being able to understand the emotions of others around you. Being socially connected and developing healthy relationships with others is key to our overall health. During this time of physical distancing to stay safe, we are seeing how important it is to still remain socially connected to those around us. We know that social isolation and loneliness impact our physical and mental health. In order to build connection and maintain your relationships, it’s important to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of others. Some tips I’ve found helpful include:
- Really listen when someone is talking so you can hear what they are saying. So often we stop listening and start to focus on how we want to respond. Instead, stay present, listen to what’s being said, and reflect on what you think you heard before deciding how you want to respond.
- Be vulnerable. Share honestly about yourself, including how you are feeling and what you are struggling with.
- Empathize with others. Try to put yourself in their shoes to imagine what they are thinking and feeling, examine biases you have, be curious, and ask questions about their feelings and thoughts.
Tip: Remember, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Part of what helps us navigate difficult times is getting clear on how we are feeling, identifying actions we may want to take in light of (or in spite of) how we are feeling, and staying connected with those we love