Emotional Intelligence: What Is It and How Do We Develop It? Part 2

emotional intelligence
Those damn emotions.
/ January 13, 2016

Continuing our discussion on Emotional Intelligence, let’s see how we can develop this important ability.

We will look into ways to develop each of the five dimensions of EI: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.

A. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is being aware of the self. It is your mental ability to know who and what you really are.

Meditate

One of the best and most recommended ways to re-connect with your true self is through meditation. Sitting in quiet clears your mind and makes you aware of your feelings and emotions. It helps you to develop a well-grounded understanding of yourself, while at the same time ridding you of stress and anxiety.

Your senses become clear and you are able to see, hear, think, and perceive better. It makes you aware of your strengths and weaknesses, which is important in developing authentic self-confidence.

Maintain a journal

A diary provides a venue for you to record your emotions and work through them. Make a note of your emotions and how they affected your actions. Review your journal periodically and notice any visible patterns.

B. Self-Regulation

A solid sense of self, developed through self-awareness, helps with self-regulation. You cannot regulate your emotions if you don’t know them.

Emotional self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions and to respond to the ongoing challenges of life with calm and courage.

Process model of Emotion Regulation

James Gross, a psychology professor at Stanford, studied how we influence which emotions we have, when we have them, and how we experience and express these emotions.

According to Gross, “Emotion regulation includes all of the conscious and non-conscious strategies we use to increase, maintain, or decrease one or more components of an emotional response.” The three components of emotional response are:

  • experiential (the subjective feeling of the emotion)
  • behavioral (behavioral response to emotion)
  • physiological (physiological responses like sweating and heart rate increase)

Gross suggests that we develop emotional response in a particular sequence:

1. Situation: we encounter a real or imagined emotional situation

2. Attention: we direct our towards the situation

3. Appraisal: we assign meaning to the emotional situation

4. Response: we develop a response to the emotional situation, which could be experiential, behavioral, and/or physiological.
emotioanal intelligence motivation

The trick to emotion regulation is to modify the meaning we give to an emotional situation, and then to modify the interpretation of the subsequent phases.

process model of emotion regulation

Given a situtation, you select from the available options. Once the situation is selected, you have the option to manage your emotion at each step of the way. You can modify the situation (2. situation modification), you can modify the nature of attention you give to the situation (3. attention deployment, or appraisal), and you can modify the meaning you give to the emotion (4. cognitive change.) You can then reappraise your response in step 5, reponse modulation.

Most of the emotion regulation happens in the first four stages, before the final emotional response. Gross calls the first four phases “antecedent-focused.” The fifth stage, response modulation, is “response-focused,” that occurrs after the initial emotional response.  In other words, you can still modulate your emotional response after your initial emotional response. For example, you may take a day off after a rough week at work. Some people, for example, indulge in heavy drinking to suppress their emotions, which is not an effective way to manage emotions.

Gross suggests both methods (antecedent and response-focused) are effective at reducing emotion expression, however, antecedent strategies (appraisal and interpretation) were better at reducing the experience of emotion, while response strategies (suppression) induced physiological changes.

C. Motivation

We all know the benefits of motivation. Motivated people have high self-esteem and confidence, and are more optimistic about their future.

There are two types of motivations — intrinsic motivation that comes from within yourself, and extrinsic motivation that comes from outside sources.

Intrinsic motivation: When you do something based on the expected or perceived satisfaction you will get. Intrinsic motivators include having fun, being interested and personal challenge.

Extrinsic motivation: When you do something in order to attain some sort of reward, including money, power and good marks or grades.

Different people are motivated by different things and at different times in their lives.  The same task may have more intrinsic motivators at certain times and more extrinsic motivators at others; most tasks have a combination of the two types of motivation. However, it is well-known that intrinsic motivation is more effective and reliable, because it comes from you.

Coleman suggests there are four essential components of motivation: personal drive, commitment, initiative, and optimism,  and they all focus on you — not external factors.

The first step in increasing your motivation is identifying what is it that you want. What wakes you up in the morning? What gets you going? Once you have identified your personal drive, the other factors will fall in place. That’s why they say, “Follow your dreams.” A mere namesake goal-setting is futile if the goal is not intrinsically motivating.

There are many books and strategies available on motivation, but a common thread among them all is:

  1. Identity what motivates you intrinsically and establish clear goals.
  2. Commit to your goals.
  3. Visualize yourself being successful. Believe in yourself and take every obstacle as an opportunity to improve.
  4.  Be your own best friend and speak affirmatively to yourself regarding your potential.
  5.  Persist and persevere. Most great achievements come from hard work.

D. Empathy

The simplest way to become more empathetic is to practice empathy.

Oxford dictionary defines empathy as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” To understand someone else, you have to get out of your head — that’s the whole point.

Get out of your head and practice shifting your attention on another person. Focus your attention on the person without any judgment. Be genuinely interested in the person and try to imagine what he or she might be feeling and thinking. Can you tell if the person is happy, sad, or frustrated? Can you help the person in any way?

Be really curious and treat them with care. Listen attentively when the other person is talking. Listen actively. Be open-minded and agreeable.

Watch this video on difference between empathy and sympathy.

E. Social Skills

The subject of social skills calls for its own chapter. Social skills is critical for you to develop good, effective relationships. Your work-life, social-life, and personal-life can be greatly improved if you have a solid foundation of social skills.

For details on how to acquire this competence, give this article on social skills a read.