Relationship skills

Emotional Intelligence

Hey!!!!! I’d love to start with a story. It’s a little naughty of me because I was sorta eavesdropping (don’t judge me!). After church, I was walking to the bus stop alongside some church members. An older lady (aunty) was talking to a younger lady; asking where her car was. We came upon a car and aunty said “I hope this isn’t your car because …” something not very nice. I was shooketh! I kept thinking “she did not!” but she really did and did not appear remorseful!

I wonder whether you’re familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence … It seems like such a fluffy, fancy term but I don’t think it’s that new, we’re just more vocal about recognising it.

“Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you.”

Personally, I’ll say a big part of emotional intelligence is having tact. You could be upset about something, be aware of how displeased you are and express your displeasure never minding who else is affected; that is not emotional intelligence. Expressing your displeasure (which you are entitled to), after you’ve got a handle on it, in a way that is not damaging to the other person, now that is emotional intelligence.

As a Nigerian girl, raised in Nigeria, I have experienced countless situations where people say things that are deeply upsetting but because of ‘respect’ or the fact that we’ve just accepted these things as normal, no one says a word. Allow me to set the scene for you. I’m at my beloved aunty’s one-year memorial service (I could not make it to her funeral, so this meant a lot), and a very close family friend who I hadn’t seen for many years, beckoned me to her car. I thought she just wanted a quick catch-up.

Imagine my shock when she tells me to watch my weight because I’m getting fat. I was quite literally dumbfounded. I just said okay ma and excused myself. Time, place, content – everything was wrong! Now she is not a bad person. She probably thought she was looking out for me because I was not cognizant of my weight “problem”. Thus, she would advise me because after all I am like a daughter to her. What she failed to consider was how her manner of approaching me would affect me in the moment or in the days to come. She did not consider whether I had been thinking about my weight and perhaps struggling with it. She just laid it bare, spoke her mind, was frank, an excuse many people cite for bad behaviour.

Both of my examples have been negative, perhaps because the negative experiences we have can sometimes be more memorable. However, emotional intelligence is not only to do with managing negative emotions. It is to do with all emotions – good emotions included. You might be on top of the world but everything around you is destruction and brimstone, how you express that joy in a way that is not damaging to others is equally as important.

There are 5 components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation; empathy and social skills.

Self-awareness is being able to recognise and correctly identify your emotions. Another important aspect is understanding why you feel that way. Total honesty with oneself is required; being honest about those things you don’t want to admit to even yourself. You can only improve things you are aware of. Own it! Work to improve yourself if that’s required.

Ask yourself – what am I feeling, why do I feel that way and what does it mean?

Self-regulation – once you’re aware of your feelings, they need to be managed appropriately. You might not have control over what others do to you or situations in life, but you always have control over how you react. This might sound fluffy but that does not make it untrue. This does not mean pretending, it means being flexible, being intentional about your behaviour.

Ask yourself – how do I want to deal with this? Is the best way to deal with this? When is the best time to deal with this?

Social skills require good verbal and non-verbal communication skills. These improve with more interactions with people in different settings. Many people tell us who they are and how they are doing if we’ll just look closely enough.

Ask yourself – how do I interact with people? Am I a good listener? How do different people express their emotions?

Empathy relates to being able to recognise other people’s emotions and how you would feel in their situation. This helps you respond in an appropriate manner. It is not the same as sympathy which just feels sorry for them.

Ask yourself – how do they feel? How would I feel if it were me? How can I help?

Motivation is what drives you. You might be driven by external rewards e.g., fame, wealth; or internal rewards e.g. sense of accomplishment.

Ask yourself – what are my goals? Why are they important? What do I stand to gain if I achieve them?

I hope this has helped you reflect on your emotions, how you manage them and how that informs your interactions with other people! Grow and Shine this week!

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