Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five: Key Skills for Raising Your Emotional Intelligence

According to Helpguide's Emotional Intelligence information sheet, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is "the ability to identify, use, understand and manage your emotions in positive and constructive ways. It's about recognizing your own emotional state and the emotional states of others. Emotional intelligence is also about engaging with others in ways that draw people to you."

Helpguide recommends working on five key skills to raise your emotional intelligence:

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 1: The ability to quickly reduce stress.

The first key skill of emotional intelligence is the ability to quickly calm yourself down when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being able to manage stress in the moment is the key to resilience. This emotional intelligence skill helps you stay balanced, focused and in control–no matter what challenges you face.

Develop your stress busting skills by working through the following three steps:

* Realize when you’re stressed – The first step to reducing stress is recognizing what stress feels like. Many of us spend so much time in an unbalanced state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be calm and relaxed.
* Identify your stress response – Everyone reacts differently to stress. Do you tend to space out and get depressed? Become angry and agitated? Freeze with anxiety? The best way to quickly calm yourself depends on your specific stress response.
* Discover the stress busting techniques that work for you – The best way to reduce stress quickly is through the senses: through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. But each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing to you.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 2: The ability to recognize and manage your emotions.

The second key skill of emotional intelligence is having a moment-to-moment awareness of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and actions. Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others.

What kind of a relationship do you have with your emotions?

* Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
* Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
* Do you experience discreet feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
* Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your attention and that of others?
* Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be turned down or turned off. In order to be emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent, you must reconnect to your core emotions, accept them, and become comfortable with them.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 3: The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal communication is the third skill of emotional intelligence. This wordless form of communication is emotionally driven. It asks the questions: “Are you listening?” and “Do you understand and care?” Answers to these questions are expressed in the way we listen, look, move and react. Our nonverbal messages will produce a sense of interest, trust, excitement and desire for connection–or they will generate fear, confusion, distrust and disinterest.
Part of improving nonverbal communication involves paying attention to:

* Eye contact
* Facial expression
* Tone of voice
* Posture and gesture
* Touch
* Timing and pace

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 4: The ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges.

The ability to deal with challenges using humor and play is the fourth skill of emotional intelligence. Playful communication broadens our emotional intelligence and helps us:

* Take hardships in stride. By allowing us to view our frustrations and disappointments from new perspectives, laughter and play enable us to survive annoyances, hard times and setbacks.
* Smooth over differences. Using gentle humor often helps us say things that might be otherwise difficult to express without creating a flap.
* Simultaneously relax and energize ourselves. Playful communication relieves fatigue and relaxes our bodies, which allows us to recharge and accomplish more.
* Become more creative. When we loosen up, we free ourselves of rigid ways of thinking and being, allowing us to get creative and see things in new ways.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 5: The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence.

The ability to manage conflicts in a positive, trust-building way is the fifth key skill of emotional intelligence. Successfully resolving differences is supported by the previous four skills of emotional intelligence. Once you know how to manage stress, stay emotionally present and aware, communicate nonverbally and use humor and play, you’ll be better equipped to handle emotionally-charged situations and catch and defuse many issues before they escalate.

Tips for resolving conflict in a trust-building way:

* Stay focused in the present. When we are not holding on to old hurts and resentments, we can recognize the reality of a current situation and view it as a new opportunity for resolving old feelings about conflicts.
* Choose your arguments. Arguments take time and energy, especially if you want to resolve them in a positive way. Consider what is worth arguing about and what is not.
* Forgive. If you continue to be hurt or mistreated, protect yourself. But someone else’s hurtful behavior is in the past, remember that conflict resolution involves giving up the urge to punish.
* End conflicts that can't be resolved. It takes two people to keep an argument going. You can choose to disengage from a conflict, even if you still disagree.

(This week's Friday Five information was taken from Helpguide's Emotional Intelligence information sheet. For more information about emotional and psychological health, visit the NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania website.)

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