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Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence

What would be different if we devoted as much time developing our emotional intelligence as we do our IQ?

A common but mistaken belief is that emotions belong at home, not at the workplace; that they are to be put down at the front door when you leave your house, and only be picked up again when you return. Mind and body are sufficient to accomplish our jobs, we think. And so displays of emotion at work are generally frowned upon.

The thing is, a man and his emotions, a woman and her emotions, are not so easily separated. Try as we may to suppress them, emotions have an uncanny way of rising to the surface at unexpected moments.

There’s nothing wrong with experiencing emotions, even those we consider negative, such as anger or frustration. There should be greater concern, perhaps, for people who find it difficult to express emotions.

Emotions are what make us human. And they follow and influence us wherever we go. Even to the workplace. Better, then, to acknowledge them and become more aware of them; and what better way to achieve self-control – an essential quality for success in all areas of life.

The choices we make, especially while we’re experiencing emotions, are what matters most.

Acting with emotional intelligence – the ability to perceive, comprehend, and regulate our emotions effectively – is a skill we can all learn and develop with some practice. For example, we can control our reaction, for instance when we feel angry, by just pausing.

Take 6 seconds before you act

In the words of Lawrence Peter, author of The Peter Principle, “Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

The solution? Six seconds.

Research shows that it takes about six seconds for the chemicals caused by an emotional reaction to be reabsorbed into our bodies. A six second pause is probably the best way to spend the moments after someone gets your blood boiling. You can apply this tip anywhere – at home, at work, and on the road as well.

Pausing is probably even more important before you hit the send button on an angry email – and regret it forever. Email mostly cannot be recalled. Even in cases where you have few seconds to recall it, the regret won’t come flooding till it’s too late. The embarrassment that you go through after calming down is unavoidable.

What can you do in six seconds?

Deep breathing is helpful. Take a deep breath, hold it, and breathe out. This takes just about the six seconds that you need to regulate your emotions and respond more appropriately.

If a deep breath doesn’t seem appropriate in the situation (maybe you don’t want to appear obviously exasperated) you can develop other ways to pause for six seconds – a poem or tongue twister perhaps; or a favorite song, hopefully one that has happy memories, or cheers you up. Hum it in your mind, not under your breath, lest you appear to have gone off the deep end, especially if your face is beginning to show signs of the anger you’re feeling deep down.

Once your emotions are settled, you can evaluate the situation more rationally. Is it worth losing your dignity for? Hurting a relationship? Ending a career?

With more practice, you’ll soon realize that it’s possible to control your responses, re-frame your thinking, handle accidental outbursts, and channel your emotions productively.

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