If you had met me a couple of years ago, you would’ve thought I was an asshole. I was pretty challenging to work with and being my friend might’ve been a taxing experience for you. I blew up friendships or pushed people away regularly. I didn’t know it then, but I was really low in emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is one of the most critical abilities that we need to be successful in human interactions, relationships, leadership and everything else.
As someone who works in leadership development and is a life coach, I can tell you for certain that emotional intelligence spans across all aspects of our lives and is required to be successful and to achieve your goals.
So what is emotional intelligence (EI)?
According to the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book written by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, EI can be defined as:
“The ability to recognize, understand and manage our emotions as well as identify and influence the emotions of others.”
The purpose of this series is to help everyone (myself included) to increase their EI for way more effective relationships with people in their lives. The beautiful part about EI is that you can totally raise it and become a highly emotionally intelligent person.
EI can be broken down into four main skills:
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship Management
We are only going to focus on the self-awareness part of emotional intelligence in this post.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions in the moment and understand your typical reactions to specific events, challenges, and people. Oftentimes, if you ask people about their emotions, they’ll say things like “good” bad” “annoyed”. The problem with those terms is that they don’t actually capture the specific emotion that is occurring.
Let’s level-set on what an emotion is before we move on.
Emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. In simpler terms, an emotion is a response to something.
Emotions are also on a spectrum and vary in intensity.
You can think of emotions on two scales:
Emotions can land anywhere on the graph based on their intensity.
How to increase your self-awareness:
1. Expand your vocabulary around emotions. Try using more specific words to describe how you feel. Instead of saying “happy”, try “elated” if the emotion feels high/positive or “content” if the emotion is low/positive. Use this wheel to help diversify your vocabulary.
2. Determine the intensity of the emotion(s). This ties into the first tip a bit. Recognizing the intensity of the emotion helps you make it more specific. This will allow you to dig into the next step a lot easier.
3. Unpack the cause of the emotion. This is the hardest one for people because it forces them to lean into yourself and reflect on deep and personal things. People who are low in self-awareness tend to avoid facing their reality and hide in a place of ignorance.
Here’s the thing to remember about emotions. We all have emotions. Whether you deal with them or not, they still exist and you are still experiencing them. Keep in mind that just because someone isn’t aware of their emotions doesn’t mean that other people around them aren’t being impacted by this low self-awareness. That’s stressful for everyone involved.
Journaling your experiences also helps you start to identify specific emotions.
I created a worksheet to help you process your emotions by self-reflecting and writing them out.