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Emotional intelligence sounds like one of those buzz words used in the corporate world, but it is actually an important part of the way we interact with the world. Once you know what it is, it is not hard to understand the importance of emotional intelligence. People who are more emotionally intelligent are typically more successful in both their personal and professional lives. So what is emotional intelligence? What is the importance of emotional intelligence? Most importantly, if it is so important, how do you foster it in your child?
What is Emotional Intelligence?
A person’s emotional intelligence is different from a person’s intelligence or IQ. Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to be aware of, control, and express their emotions. It is also a person’s ability to understand how someone else is feeling, so their ability to be empathetic.
Emotional intelligence can be broken down into four core skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. The first two skills – self-awareness and self-management – mean that an emotionally intelligent person is conscious of their own emotional state, whether it be positive (happiness, excitement) or negative (frustration, sadness), and can identify and manage their emotions. The latter two, social awareness and relationship management, mean that an emotionally intelligent person can pick up on other people’s emotions and understand them, and they can manage interactions with other people based on this awareness.
These two halves to emotional intelligence go hand in hand. When someone is in tune with their own emotions, it makes it easier for them to pick up on and tune in to other people’s emotions. When you understand how you feel, you can better understand how others are feeling. This allows you to build stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life, as well as overcome challenges and defuse conflicts.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Once you start to break it down, the importance of emotional intelligence is easy to see. Emotional intelligence informs every interaction a person has in the course of a day. Someone who is sensitive to emotional signals – both their own and others’ – makes a better friend, partner, parent, coworker, and on and on. This is because when you understand your emotions and how to control them, you are a better communicator. You can better express how you feel and how to talk to someone about how they are feeling.
It also helps you just plain talk to other people, regardless of whether or not you are talking about how anyone feels. If someone is not in a particularly good mood, an emotionally intelligent person is going to pick up on that and interact with them differently than if they are happy or sad or stressed. Emotional intelligence equals social intelligence. Part of the importance of emotional intelligence is that it connects you to other people and the world around you.
Another major factor in the importance of emotional intelligence is that it affects your mental health. Having a hard time identifying and managing your emotions puts a strain on your mental health and makes you more likely to have problems with anxiety and depression. People who are unable to understand or manage their emotions also struggle to form strong relationships, which can lead them to feel lonely and isolated, neither of which is good for someone’s mental health. A more emotionally intelligent person is a more mentally healthy person. So part of the importance of emotional intelligence is that it helps you manage stress and change your mood when you are feeling particularly self-defeating.
It might not seem obvious, but emotional intelligence can also have an effect on a person’s physical health. When you are not mentally healthy, it is harder to be physically healthy. Someone who is unable to manage their emotions is probably not having an easy time managing their stress, which can lead to serious health problems like higher blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, among other problems.
Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Your Child
Some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others. They are those people you meet who seem to be especially good listeners. They are charming and compassionate and you cannot help but want to talk to them. In contrast, it is probably obvious when someone lacks emotional intelligence. Those are the people who talk over you. They never seem to listen or care about how anyone else is feeling.
The good news is that emotional intelligence is not a set of skills you have to be born with. You can learn to be a more emotionally intelligent person and you can teach your kids to be emotionally intelligent too.
Parents can foster emotional intelligence through the way they respond to their child’s emotions. Children whose parents value negative emotions, are patient with their child’s expression of their emotions, and who use emotions as an opportunity to offer guidance through labeling emotions and problem-solving have stronger emotional intelligence than children whose parents respond to emotions in other ways.
There are a few specific things parents can do to help their child become more emotionally aware and foster the importance of emotional intelligence:
- Be aware of your own emotions and of your child’s emotions, whether they are subtle or over the top. See your child’s emotions as an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through feelings that may be challenging.
- Listen and validate your child’s feelings through active listening. Give your child your full attention while they talk about what they are feeling. Once they have explained their feelings, reflect back what you heard, which will tell them that you understand what they are feeling. This practice both validates how they are feeling and helps show them empathy.
- Help your child label their emotions. This will help them gain that core self-awareness skill of emotional intelligence.
- Help your child cope with their emotions appropriately through problem-solving. The importance of emotional intelligence at this age is teaching how to recognize and label emotions, all emotions are valid (whether they are positive or negative), and that there are appropriate ways to deal with those emotions.
These skills can take time to learn. Your child will not become a master of emotional intelligence overnight. If emotions are high and the problem is a big one – say, your child is experiencing anxiety over something – these steps may not happen all in one interaction. Even if they do, the emotions and the problem are unlikely to be resolved in that one interaction.
Emotional intelligence does not mean that someone is never emotional or never feels negative emotions. It means that someone can realize those emotions and work to resolve them appropriately – either on their own or with the help of someone else. Being emotionally intelligent also means that you are empathetic to other people’s emotions and react to them accordingly. It is clear to see the importance of emotional intelligence and fostering it in children at a young age. A child who understands and validates their own emotions will grow up to be an adult who can do the same thing, and who can understand and help validate other people’s emotions. Now that is the definition of success.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on How to Radiate Positivity.
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