Learn to manage your emotions so that you can use them to your benefit
Emotions are not only what define our relationships or extreme situations like a fight. They are an integral part of our decision-making process. In this book, you will learn what emotional intelligence (EI) means and how it can be developed.
But are emotions useful or do they hold us back? Would it be better to become unfeeling, and act only rationally and logically?
Emotions are important to define our memories
When our brain stores experiences, it associates these with emotions. That association tells us if the experience was desirable or better to be avoided. If we touched a hot stove, for example, we will remember the pain and thus not expose ourselves to the danger again.
Emotions predict actions
An angry person’s body language can help us predict what they will likely do next. Emotions, therefore, can help us predict the actions of other people and react accordingly.
Emotions drive us to take actions
Rarely take people actions if no emotions are involved. We often know what we should do, but unless there is pain or pleasure which presses us to take action, we often don’t act. In the previous century, many psychiatric patients were treated with a surgery called lobotomy. The surgery separated two regions of the brain that are vital for emotional processing. The result was that the patients became sedentary and lost their initiative to act.
When emotions are too intense, they can inhibit rational thinking
When we feel strong emotions, information which enters our brain tends to bypass the rational region of the brain — the neocortex — and go straight to the emotional brain. If the emotional brain perceives a threat, it can make us react suddenly, even if that information just was a harmless shadow from a tree.
The reason our brain can’t react very reasonable when it is flooded with extreme emotions is that like a juggler. It can handle only so much information at once. And when we are in a heightened state of emotion — for example fear — our mind is bombarded with alarming images.
Manage and leverage your emotions
EI consists of managing your emotions so that you can take advantage of them. Use your feelings instead of being controlled by them. To use your feelings you have first to become conscious of them. Studies have shown that people who aren’t able to recognize their feelings are more prone violent outbursts.
Once you recognize your emotions, you can become aware of what triggers them. For example, you may get irritated if someone says something specific to you. Instead of letting your anger boil up, stop and think for a moment if that person really wanted to say something which offends you or not. Perhaps the problem is your interpretation, or perhaps the person meant something different entirely. That way you will avoid feeling offended.
EI can also help you in the accomplishments of goals. If you need to complete a task or homework which would normally bore you, you could look at it from a different perspective and see that it can be really an interesting topic. Even students with average IQs tend to do well at school if they manage their workloads with EI.
EI helps in social interactions
People with good EI can deal with other people much more effectively. Insensible people often offend others or have a hard time getting to agreements. A manager of a company, for example, should have a good EI so that he can instruct people and point out their mistakes without upsetting them or making them defensive. Reading people’s emotions is another great ability. If you know what mood someone is in, you can adapt the way you deal with them right from the beginning.
EI consists of a balance between the feeling brain and the rational brain
The emotional brain and the thinking, rational brain are connected by neuronal pathways. And that connection is important because there needs to be a balance between the two brains, that process is called emotional self-regulation. The rational brain helps to regulate the emotional brain, and the emotional brain enables emotional self-awareness, something which a person with a damaged emotional brain lacks.
Take this example of emotional self-regulation. You hear a loud noise at night, and your emotional brain immediately feels danger. Then your rational brain analyzes the noise and checks if it wasn’t just the wind throwing something from your open window.
EI is more important for health and success than IQ
While there haven’t been found a convinceable correlation between success and high IQ, one study called “The Marshmallow Challenge” performed by Stanford University found that four-year-olds who were able to resist eating a treat were more likely to be successful academically as well as socially throughout their youth.
Stress can also be detrimental to our health. One study showed that people who already suffered from a heart attack were less likely to experience further attacks if they were coached to manage their anger.
Boost your EI through internal dialogs
Now that we know how important EI is, it is good to know that we can boost it. A good way to improve your EI is to ask to perform internal dialog. Whenever you feel uneasy or hurt ask yourself, why am I feeling this way? Now that you identified the cause you will often realize that it is completely irrational to feel bad about that situation.
Also, make yourself think about things which produce good feelings most of the time. Think constructively, chose inspiration instead of regret and problems. That will improve not only your happiness but also your performance and success in life. More on that in the book Drive.
EI will help you to live a happier life and be more successful in whatever endeavor you take. Learn to purposefully use the power of your emotions.
Also published on Medium.