If we were unfeeling and purely logical, our lives would be much worse. We would lose many advantages that emotions provide.
Emotions help us learn from our memories. For example, a boy reprimanded for breaking a vase will learn to not do it again because he'll remember the sadness and guilt from his actions.
Emotions enable us to understand the feelings and predict actions of others. For example, when we recognize someone's angry body language we can predict he's more likely to be violent.
Emotions drive us to act. For example, feeling frightened compels us to avoid dangerous situations.
Despite being important tools for understanding and interacting with our environment, emotions can sometimes impede our judgment or make us act irrationally.
Our brain can only process a finite number of data, when we are bombarded with emotions, we leave no room for rational thought.
When information enters our brain, parts of it bypasses the neocortex, the logical part of our brain, and directly enters the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain.
We often experience emotional hijackings, which are brief bursts of intense emotions, such as extreme anger or happiness, that occur before the neocortex has an opportunity to process the situation.
Obsolete emotional responses can affect our reactions to situations in the present. For example, someone who was bullied in school can have his fear of being bullied linger, even as a successful adult.
Your emotional intelligence (EI) includes your ability to recognize and control feelings. Exercise your EI by:
Acknowledging and labeling your emotions
Understanding the cause of your emotions and thinking rationally about a situation
Changing your thinking to have a positive perspective
Imagine you pass by a friend and she ignores you. You are initially charged with negative feelings, but then you should acknowledge that you feel disappointed. Next, try to understand why you're disappointed, maybe because you value her friendship and it seems like it's not reciprocated. Finally, change your thinking to be more positive, maybe she was focused on something else and just didn't see you.
Students with good EI tend to excel even with average IQs.
A large part of our happiness depends on our social interactions with others. EI is fundamental to maintaining positive relationships.
EI develops social aptitudes such as teaching, conflict resolution, and team management.
By putting oneself in other people's shoes and analyzing nonverbal cues, one can empathize with others and behave in ways that evoke favorable reactions.
Mirroring another person's body language can improve empathy, as body language not only expresses feelings but also causes them. For example, we laugh because we are happy, but laughing also makes us happy.
Sometimes when someone complains, they are not asking for advice, they simply want to be heard and understood.
EI relies on the collaboration between the rational thinking brain and the emotional feeling brain. The two are interconnected by strong neural pathways and damage to these pathways can lead to emotional intelligence deficits.
Patients who underwent a lobotomy lost their emotions and drive to act because the surgery separated the emotional region of the brain from the thinking region.
Emotional self-regulation requires the thinking brain to regulate the feeling brain's response to stimuli. This prevents us from constantly overreacting to our environment. For example, when we hear a loud sneeze it triggers our emotional brain to react, but then our thinking brain assesses that it's not a threat and calms us down.
Studies suggest EI is just as important as high IQ, if not more, in achieving success and leading a fulfilling life.
The famous Stanford “Marshmallow Challenge” showed that four-year-olds with better impulse control were more successful socially and academically years later.
One study showed that students with high levels of empathy receive significantly better grades compared to students with similar IQ scores but lower levels of empathy.
EI helps us lead healthier lifestyles by mitigating the harmful effects of stress (e.g., high blood pressure, weak immune system, cardiovascular diseases).
Genetics play a part in EI and even our general outlooks in life, but our brain is remarkably malleable so we're not limited to what we're born with.
We naturally have the ability to empathize. Babies mimic other people's emotions -- they will cry if they see others cry, and they will laugh if they see others laugh.
To avoid making someone feel undervalued or confused when providing criticism, it's important to be specific, include praise, and suggest a solution. By selecting a particular situation and clearly outlining what could have been improved and what was done well, you can effectively communicate your feedback.
The absence of emotional intelligence can make us vulnerable to "flooding," a situation in which an emotional reaction like anger triggers even more anger.
Men are generally more prone to "flooding" than women, as men often cope with flooding through withdrawal or stonewalling, rather than the emotional expression stereotypically associated with women.
Have a positive inner-dialogue to improve self-motivation. It is important to attribute setbacks to things that can be changed, rather than a personal deficit.
Positive thinking and optimism are crucial aspects of emotional intelligence as they enable individuals to handle challenges with minimal depression and distress.
Immense emotions can cause us to act in regrettable ways. Monitor your feelings and take a break to calm down when feeling overwhelmed.
The EI of children plays a vital part in shaping the future of society. Studies show that EI deficits can lead to delinquency and increased crime rates.
Studies found violent criminals and sex offenders have low self-control and difficulty in recognizing facial expressions.
People who are more prone to addiction may be using substances as a means of self-medication to manage their emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety, or anger).
Children with emotionally intelligent parents are better at regulating their own emotions, have lower stress levels, and are better liked by their peers. Children with emotional intelligence deficits are at risk of developing mental health problems and tend to have more problems at school.
Emotionally inept parents typically respond to children's feelings by ignoring them, suppressing them, or showing no respect for them.
Despite the importance of emotional intelligence, there is little emphasis on emotional skills in the typical school curriculum.