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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Our emotions are contributing to our lives, and they play a part in our professional and personal development, they are an essential part of who we are. However, a lot of people have little insight into the term emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is having the capability to comprehend your own emotional needs, along with an awareness of the emotional needs of individuals. The ability to express and control emotions is essential, but so is the ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.

Emotional intelligence has been defined as one of the critical foundations of effective leadership, as it is a “multi-factorial array of emotional and social competencies that determine how effectively we relate with ourselves and others and cope with daily demands and pressures”.

By being able to identify your own ‘red flags’ and ‘elastic bands’, (these being triggers/or situations that cause stress)provides self-awareness and gives you an insight into how to cope with stress along with preventing accumulative stress.

Being able to develop insight into both positive and negative emotions is also a step towards strengthening resilience. Different emotional intelligence models can be explored, but key levels of emotional abilities include:

  1. Perceiving emotions: the first step in understanding emotions is to perceive them accurately. In many cases, this might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions.

2. Assimilation of emotion: To facilitate thought, promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritise what we pay attention to and react to; we respond emotionally to things that garner our attention.

3. Understanding emotions: The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing angry emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of the person's anger and what it could mean. For example, if your boss is acting angry, it might mean that they are dissatisfied with your work, or it could be because they got a speeding ticket on their way to work that morning.

4. Managing and regulating emotion in self and others: The ability to manage emotions effectively is a crucial part of emotional intelligence and the highest level. Regulating emotions, responding appropriately as well as responding to the emotions of others are all crucial aspects of emotional management.

Emotional intelligence fundamentally is judging when to ‘park’ our emotions and when to deal with them.

The literature argues that emotional intelligence is separate from other intelligence, and is essential for professions such as nurses, teachers, counsellor's etc. who need compassionate and caring skills.

Emotional intelligence is paramount to confront and highlight the challenges within workplaces. Employers and employees need to explore their practice and reflect on where they could encourage emotional intelligence skills, through listening, empathizing, and reflection/self-assessment. Emotional intelligence is established through continuing support and education of students and professionals, which will improve interpersonal, social, and leadership skills.

Emotional intelligence is essential for good interpersonal communication. Some experts believe that this ability is more important in determining life success than IQ alone.

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