Recognizing, controlling and sharing your emotions can help you build better relationships – and a better future.
Illustration: EDDIE THOMAS Star Tribune
Our success in life, teachers would have us believe, is determined largely by our academic achievements. Another critical factor, we are told, is our intelligence quotient (IQ), a measure of baseline intellect.
But here’s a secret truth: While good grades and a high IQ never hurt, they don’t guarantee prosperity or happiness. In fact, the consensus among psychologists is that IQ accounts for only about 10 to 25 percent of success.
Perhaps a better predictor of achievement in life — and in intimate relationships — is emotional intelligence (EI): the capacity to recognize, manage and communicate our emotions, and to respond appropriately to the emotions of other people.
According to Steve Bressert of Psych Central, emotional intelligence is defined by five core traits:
Self-awareness: How conscious you are of your emotions in the moment.
Self-regulation: How well you are able to manage your emotions under pressure.
Motivation: Your drive to transform negative thoughts or situations into positive ones.
Empathy: The capacity to recognize others’ emotions and respond to them sympathetically.
Social skills: The ability to interact well with others (good communication, teamwork, etc.).
Athena Staik, a Virginia therapist who deals in marriage and family therapy, notes the importance of emotional intelligence in healthy couple relationships: “This emotional mastery permits them to feel safe enough to remain present to their partner and the situation without setting off their own brain’s ‘fight or flee’ defenses, which also effectively lowers chances of triggering their partner’s defenses.”
Boosting your EI
When you are upset, allow yourself to cool off before interacting with others. A marriage/relationship education class can help you learn specific techniques to communicate more effectively.
Being conscious of your emotions is another important step in channeling them appropriately. Consider what sets you off and identify any recurring issues. Do you seethe if your partner forgets to say thank you? Are you unable to tolerate any form of criticism? Do you fly off the handle if your partner doesn’t constantly check in with you?
Once you’ve identified your emotional triggers, consider what is behind them. Is it insecurity, a fear of abandonment, a lack of control? A therapist or counselor can help you further understand where these feelings come from and how to respond to them.
At times, we all fail to respond in a way that demonstrates emotional competency. Still, we can enhance our emotional intelligence by breaking poor emotional response patterns. Your efforts usually will mean better relationships with your significant other, family, friends and co-workers.