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Resolving to Raise Your EI in 2008
We all know someone who stands out in their ability to get along and relate well to others. Perhaps it's your neighbor down the street who everyone feels comfortable with, and who always seems to know what to say or do, regardless of the situation confronting her. Maybe it's your co-worker or supervisor, who can relate well to even the most difficult clients or customers, yet never leaves you feeling badly because you can't. Then there's your sister, who navigates her way through stressful family gatherings, always managing to keep a smile on her face as she maintains a good relationship with siblings and parents who are often at odds with one another. What about that one date that you went on that you will never forget? He was so easy to talk to and even though you were in a crowded restaurant, he helped you to feel like you were the only other person in the room.
What is it that these people possess, and is it something that everyone can learn? It's called Emotional Intelligence (EI) and yes- everyone can raise theirs by learning to tune into their own feelings and energy while at the same time "reading" the energy changes in those around them through their verbal and non-verbal expressions. The essence of this ability is good self-awareness which leads to an enhancement of our perceptions and how we both express and manage them- and in turn, manage the feelings and expressions of those around us.
The concept of emotional intelligence first surfaced in 1943 when David Weschler (father of the IQ test) wrote that, "I have tried to show that in addition to intellective there are also definite non-intellective factors that determine intelligent behavior. If the foregoing observations are correct, it follows that we cannot expect to measure total intelligence until our tests also include some measures of the non-intellective factors. Then in 1983 Howard Gardner, PhD developed the theory of "multiple intelligence," which has had a huge impact on our educational system in this country. According to Gardner "intrapersonal" and "interpersonal" intelligences are as critical as the cognitive kind of intelligence that is measured by the standard IQ test. Following this in 1985, Wayne Payne wrote a doctoral thesis titled, "A study of emotion: Developing emotional intelligence, and he is usually credited with coining the term. Then in 1990, J.D. Mayer & P. Salovey, developed their own EI model, based on the prior work of Weschler and Gardner.
However, it wasn't until 1995 that the term emotional intelligence became widely recognized with the publication of DanielGoleman's best seller, "Emotional Intelligence. According to Goleman, "..."...in navigating our lives, it is our fears and envies, our rages and depressions, our worries and anxieties that steer us day to day. Even the most academically brilliant among us are vulnerable to being undone by unruly emotions.
So, how do you translate this theory and knowledge of EI into a workable model for you to use in your everyday life and relationships? I suggest you begin with a simple emotional intelligence quiz to help you determine your EI strengths and weaknesses- and from there you will have a good starting place for working on increasing your EI. When you are ready to get started, answer True or False to each of the following questions.
Emotional Intelligence Quiz
1. When someone is speaking to me, I offer good eye contact and give them my full attention.
2. I am comfortable with others expressing their anger, frustration and hurt, without getting defensive.
3. I read the feelings of others even before they share them verbally.
4. I don't feel compelled to always share my feelings or give input in response to what someone else is sharing.
5. I can tune in to my own emotions and manage them, even when I am receiving criticism from others.
6. I am open when asked to participate in a difficult discussion, even when it involves unpleasantness and disagreement.
7. I can share feelings of hurt, anger or upset with others.
8. I am perceived as having a sense of humor, and people know I can laugh at myself.
9. I am aware of my own feelings when I am in group settings - both socially and at work.
10. I manage to maintain most of my friendships, even when geography and lifestyle changes come into play.
11. I have a good social support network, and enjoy sharing time with others.
12. I let go of my anger, rather than holding onto it for long periods.
13. I am good at tuning into the body language of others and adapting my own behavior in response to theirs.
14. My relationship with my co-workers, family members and friends are usually positive and mutually supportive.
Give yourself a point for every answer you marked as "true"; A score of 14 would give you a "wow"; rating, but most of you will probably fall somewhere in-between 1 and 14. After you review your score, go back to any questions you answered "no" to. Re-read them and sort them into two groups- difficulty managing your own emotions, and difficulty managing the emotions and behavior of others. This will help you to immediately determine where your focus should be as you begin working to raise your EI.
Applying EI in Your Daily Life
Now that you know where to begin, the next step is to work on strengthening your social skills by practicing them in the areas you have decided you need the most help with. In order to assist you with this, I am offering examples of ways to improve your EI in your work, family, social and intimate relationships. Remember that the skills used in each can be adapted to work in any setting, and it is fine to take these and expand on them and be creative- pushing yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. This is how we develop greater self confidence and grow.
Lisa likes almost everything about her job but the people. Her boss is difficult to approach and when Lisa does go to her with something, she feels she is seen as less than capable or as a whiner. Her co-workers are close to each other and Lisa often feels outside of the office clique- which affects her ability to work effectively with them. Lisa does her best to keep a low profile, rarely speaks to them unless the work demands it, eats lunch alone, avoids office get-togethers and tries to avoid all conflicts and bad feelings by doing her job and keeping to herself.
In this scenario, Lisa is demonstrating a low EI. She fears conflict and has grouped everyone in the office together- deciding that they don't want to know her and that interacting with them would be a mistake. Essentially, she is not open to trying to understand and get to know them as individuals and how they may really feel about her, and she has shut down her ability to tune into her own feelings and behavior. Therefore, she is sending a negative message to them and has allowed no options for improving the situation and building potentially positive and constructive relationships.
What EI skills could Lisa use to open up and improve these relationships and build her EI? Small simple changes could be very effective. Greeting everyone with a "hello"; and a smile when she comes in every morning would be a great start. How about suggesting she make the run for take-out at lunch? Maybe she could bring doughnuts and a smile to the next staff meeting. Perhaps she could ask her boss for some help with a project, letting her know that her input is appreciated. Little acts of thoughtfulness sprinkled throughout the day, showing interest in her co-workers and supervisor's lives out side of work or just taking the time to offer help or a sincere thank-you could bring about a quick change in Lisa's work environment. The first step would be the hardest- but over time, her co-workers would begin to react much more positively to Lisa and accept her as one of the group.
Henry has always felt like a step-child in his own family of origin. He thought this would change when he became an adult, but his parents and siblings continue to share a relationship that he has never had with any of them. Over the years Henry decided that it was their problem and that he would eventually become independent and have minimal contact with them. He managed this ok, but found that the holidays, family birthdays (especially his own) and special family events were like walking the gauntlet. After get-togethers, he often felt angry, drained and determined not to see them again for a long time- because he used so much energy shutting out their behavior and defending himself from hurt feelings.
Can you see where Henry falls short on his EI? He has closed himself off- imagine the message that sends to his family. He maintains minimal contact and approaches get-togethers with his defenses up. Instead of using his energy to tune into his feelings and connect with the feelings the others, he works hard just to get through it, with blinders on.
Imagine what could happen if Henry approached the next family event with a new openness- willing to take a chance that he could be accepted by relating differently. What might happen if he arrived with a smile and hug for everyone in the room, and perhaps brought along something special for mom (or a sister?) like flowers, a bottle of wine or something small he knows she would like? If his usual way of interacting is with little eye contact and brief, cropped responses in conversation; imagine the responses if he were to maintain good eye contact, offer a sincere compliment or two, show interest through questions and attuned body language, pitch in to help with the activity and suggest at the end that they should do this again soon. After the initial shock wore off, his family would take a whole new look at Henry, and perhaps feel a connection they had never felt before. At the very least, his experience would be a lot more fun, he would leave feeling relaxed instead of miserable and angry- and he may even walk away with some new insights about himself and one or two family members.
Jane is a single woman who works long hours and is often too tired to do much outside of work during the week. By the time Friday night arrives, she is usually feeling sorry for herself because she has nothing planned for the weekend and no one has called to suggest anything. She finds it hard to meet people where she lives and a number of her friends have gotten married and taken on other responsibilities and lifestyles that are very different from hers. Her co-workers are ok, but the single ones seem to have their friends and are not looking for anymore. Jane feels frustrated and down on the whole friendship thing in general. It seems like you can't count on anyone anymore.
How would you rate Jane's EI? Can you relate at all? Too often people see it as the other person's responsibility to make the first move and/or plan something social. This is usually because of tunnel vision which can cause you to block out the feelings and needs of others and just focus on your own negative ones. This can easily occur when the environment is conducive to isolation and there is an imbalance in someone's life- like working 50-70 hours a week, which leaves little time or thought for anything else.
Jane could make the first move and address her empty weekend situation by calling one or two friends or acquaintances early in the week, asking them if they have plans for the weekend, and if not- asking them if they would like to do something together with her and maybe one or two others. Jane could also make an extra effort to connect with other single people at work by asking them more about themselves, suggesting eating lunch together, offering to bring them back a cup of coffee when she gets hers, etc. Once she gets to know them a little more she may find that they steered clear of her because they thought she was not interested in knowing them. Jane could also check into social groups, organized sports leagues or volunteer opportunities in her town. There are often many things available on weekends and these are all good ways to meet new friends- not just potential dates.
Chuck is a single guy with a very demanding career and little time for dating. He has been trying online dating, but has had disappointing results. It seems that when he does "meet' someone online who he finds attractive, interesting and compatible- he is often disappointed on the first date. The planning seems to go ok and he is often looking forward to it- then she just seems to loose interest. He is courteous and open to sharing about himself. He always takes the lead on conversation, letting her know what he is looking for, how busy he is and how important his time is- and filling her in on all the great stuff he is doing and how successful he is. At times, they are interrupted by his blackberry, but he quickly finishes each call so as not to leave her waiting. She seems interested and asks a lot of questions, but often becomes quiet as the date wears on and non-committal about another one when they say good-night. What gives?
Have you ever been on a date like this? You were excited and looking forward to it- then you met the person and felt invisible or worse. He or she talked a lot about himself or herself, their phone provided a number of interruptions and you felt as though they were letting you know how lucky you were to be chosen for this occasion. No wonder you said your calendar was booked for months after this date.
Chuck could change his pattern of bad first dates by focusing on his date and not himself. He could start the conversation by asking her more about herself and maintaining eye contact throughout their conversation. He could shut his phone off at the beginning of the evening and let it take messages until he is free to handle them. He could tell her how nice she looks and how pleased he is that they connected online. If he made these changes, he would help his date to feel appreciated, interesting, and comfortable- and all of this would help lead to a love connection (given the right chemistry) and a second date. If you are out there, Chuck- take note.
Whatever your relationship stumbling blocks are; remember that armed with a new openness, a little extra effort and a willingness to take risks- you too can have a more positive impact on the people around you and (perhaps?) become that person that everyone would like to be.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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