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Gary GillesGary Gilles, LCPC
Empowering and practical insights to grow your most important relationships

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Gary Gilles, LCPC Updated: Sep 26th 2014

Most people are familiar with the term emotional intelligence but not many are able to explain what it actually means. Because I think emotional intelligence is extremely important, I frequently ask students in my classes and workshops to define it. I usually get very vague and uncertain responses.

happy couple talkingPerhaps you might also struggle to give an accurate but succinct explanation of emotional intelligence. So, let's start there.

What is emotional intelligence?

To be an emotionally intelligent person you need to exhibit two qualities on a consistent basis.

  • First, you need to be able to make sense of your own feelings and be able to express those feelings to another person in a clear and understandable way.
  • Second, you need to be able to accurately read the emotional cues that others covey (both verbal and non-verbal) and then be able to respond appropriately to those feelings.

Sounds easy, but it's not.

Emotional intelligence in action

So, let's put emotional intelligence into motion with an example. Let's suppose that you and your partner are having a discussion but you don't feel like talking much. Your responses are brief and you show little interest in ongoing dialogue. Your partner frowns at you then says, "What's going on with you? You seem very quiet."

Here's where an emotionally intelligent person rises to the task. You sense the confusion in your partner by both their words (verbal) and the frown (non-verbal). You can see that they are trying to connect with you but are feeling frustrated by your lack of response.

The easy way out, which doesn't convey much emotional intelligence, would be to say, "I'm just tired and don't feel like talking." And there are times when that response is accurate and appropriate. But a person who understands the importance of an emotional connection in relationships will go further and try to put their feelings into words. This helps both you and your partner.

So, you respond with an awareness of those verbal and non-verbal cues from your partner and say, "I'm sorry for being distant. I'm preoccupied with a situation that happened earlier today. I was given some negative feedback on a project I'm heading up at work and don't know what to do about it. I feel discouraged right now."

Though in one sense you haven't said much, in another you've opened the way for an emotional connection to occur between the two of you.

This emotional disclosure does two very important and healthy things for the relationship:

1. First, it helps your partner better understand what you are feeling and what it might be about. This eliminates guessing that could lead to wrong assumptions and inevitable conflict.

2. It also invites your partner into the conversation instead of shutting them out. In order to feel close to another person you must have the exchange of emotion to some degree. By sharing your feelings you increase the possibility for support, empathy and care; all of which would help soothe the discouragement you feel in this situation.

Other applications of emotional intelligence

Virtually any relationship can benefit from practicing the skills that describe what we call emotional intelligence. It is an especially powerful skill to practice with children because they instinctively start doing what you model for them. This teaches them at an early age to become more aware of their own feelings, to be tuned in to the feelings of others and begin to practice putting their feelings into words.

 

Gary Gilles, LCPC

Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in private practice for over 20 years. He is passionate about helping people live empowered, healthy lives. He works from the idea that we feel most contented and in control of our lives when we take action on what we value most. This typically involves choices around relationships and personal habits. He uses his expertise as a change agent in his counseling practice, his blog and his books to help people get their lives back on track. Gary's hundreds of published articles have appeared in a wide range of print and online publications. He currently publishes a popular blog entitled Relationship Matters at http://garygilles.com. His books are available at http://www.lifetransformingbooks.com. You can contact Gary at: gary@garygilles.com.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Emotionally unintelligent &. ignorance - AncileeKaye - Sep 30th 2014

    Sometimes I see that so many people these days are either very ignorant to the way they behave or they are just emotionally unintelligent. I've had to teach myself to stay calm when dealing with members of my own family or just not at all due to these problems. Growing up in a very emotional challenged home w/ a dysfunctional, mean and unfair mother didn't help. I use to be very emotionally challenged and let anger rule my thoughts and words. Now I just really think before I speak to anyone. I try to put forethought into play before I react with just feelings.

    Our words and our behavior are vital to a healthy conversation with anybody. I've had to teach myself how to slow down, be compassionate , understanding and intelligent. I'm now 49 yrs old and I see people who are older than I am still very challenged in areas of common sense. It's sad and I feel so many people just don't care about others feelings. Many people don't take the time in their relationships and mankind is suffering greatly. 

    Children are also suffering because their parents are clueless when it comes to communicating and acknowledging their needs of the mind let alone the feelings of the heart and soul. 

    It's a very sad time in this world lately. So many stresses and problems have taken a toll & falls onto the children.Emotional Intelligent thinking has not been accessed or addressed enough in the mental health field. Pills have become priority and it's a disgrace to mankind. 

    I went though enough emotional trauma in my life to realize one day that I wanted far more from myself and my life. I began to listen to my thoughts in an intelligent way.Therefore I have become a better listener and human being overall. If people could just hear themselves and really try harder to be more caring then it could change the world into a much more productive and intelligent place. We've gotten far to uncaring and burned out. It's more about selfishness and  instant gratification overall it seems to me. 

    I find it to be a very sad state of affairs.And with all the functions that our brains are capable of, we just squander it away because of fatigue and stress,  mostly.

    I'm very saddened that people just don't talk much. Having an intelligent conversation is just not an everyday occurance for most of us anymore. Sports, technology and materialism is the force of the present day. What a waste of the human mind and the heart..Yes, the heart!!! The soul is left feeling unfulfilled and lashing out in ignorant ways or just oblivious and burned out to the suffering of mankind.

    Whatever happened to the family dynamic? We are shrivelling up out here as a whole and the family is paying the high price for unintelligent emotional thinking. It takes time ...it takes thinking ..it takes actions not just words to keep emotional intelligent thinking a mindset. It takes patience and common sense to be an emotional intelligent human being. 

    Ancilee Kaye Schiffer

     

     Nebraska USA

     

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