What does it mean to have Emotional Intelligence? As humans, we all have and experience emotions. At times we may even feel “emotional” when one or more emotions are affecting us strongly in a moment. To have Emotional Intelligence means that we can accurately identify and respond to emotions, both in ourselves and in others.
When others ask, “How are you?” we often respond with words like “good” or “okay”, but these are not emotions. Robert Plutchik identified what he called the 8 Basic Emotions: anger, fear, anticipation, surprise, joy, sadness, trust, and disgust. There are, of course, other emotions words that are like these but indicate a different intensity in the emotion (i.e. rage, terror, ecstasy, etc.). Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (which you can see at the link above) and The Junto Emotion Wheel (my personal favorite) are awesome tools for improving your emotional intelligence. Have you ever felt something but had difficulty putting a finger on exactly what you were feeling? Challenging yourself to use words that accurately describe your emotion (as opposed to just saying that you feel “good” or “bad”) helps you become more attuned to yourself and to have more depth emotionally. With practice, it becomes easier to identify both your own emotions and the emotions of others.
This is the other benefit of emotional intelligence. When I can more accurately identify what emotions others are experiencing, I can better empathize with and respond to them. This allows me to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with others because I can show empathy for their experiences and respond with appropriate emotion.
Many people find it difficult to express emotions freely. Maybe you grew up in a household where you never saw your parents showing emotions. Our society also places a lot of pressure on who can show emotions and how. For example, men are often expected to show when they feel angry or confident but are discouraged from showing when they feel sad, frightened, or affectionate. Women, on the other hand, are the opposite. Women are expected to show love, fear, and sadness, but are discouraged from showing anger or pride. Maybe you are fearful of “losing control” of your emotions, so you avoid expressing them at all. The truth is that we are all human, and therefore we ALL have the full spectrum of emotions within us. Emotions are neither “good” nor “bad”; they are NORMAL. Some are just more pleasant or unpleasant to experience than others.
If you want to improve your emotional intelligence, challenge yourself to use the emotion wheels discussed above. Or, if you are a more visual person, use the feeling chart below and just look for your current facial expression. 😊 A great way to both identify and express your emotions is by journaling. Challenge yourself to write a paragraph or two a couple times a week and start each sentence with “I feel…” followed by an emotion word. When you do this, you release the emotions rather than bottling them up and carrying them around inside you. You also get your thoughts a little more organized, which helps you better communicate them to others.