In order to improve your EQ, you have to adjust the way you think about emotions! This article is about the mindsets and perspectives that are necessary to create a mental foundation to start utilizing your emotions in a productive way. People with high emotional intelligence (EQ) think about themselves and others differently than those with low EQ. I think unproductive perspectives and lack of knowledge about emotions causes people more problems than actually knowing which emotion they are experiencing. Many people struggle with how to express and communicate emotions in their personal and professional relationships in a productive and appealing way! If you struggle with this, then I have some mindsets and perspectives to share with you that I’ve found very helpful to elevate my relationships while being honest with myself and others!
A friendly reminder.. emotions are biological functions.
You are born with the ability to feel and express your emotions and when you were a child it served you to get your needs met. Was there somewhere along the way where you became convinced the core message here- emotions serve us to get our needs met– that the truth of that changed? I’m here to say that it does not change as we mature. What changes is our responsibility to learn about them and address them in a productive way. Society, pop culture, corporate culture and other constructs force a lot of confusing messages about emotions at you and many of them are not healthy! In order to adapt to the world, most people have developed some or many unhealthy behaviors relating to their emotions. If you want to get more connected with your emotions and how to use them in a healthy way as a teen, young adult, or adult it’s helpful to remember this aspect of yourself is biological.
This isn’t something you need to learn, as much as behaviors you need to unlearn so you can reconnect with this important part of yourself and do it in a way that again, allows you to get your needs met.
What if no one taught you how to understand your emotions?
If your parents or adults in your life didn’t teach you how to use your emotions in a healthy way, you might have developed a negative outlook on them and created a habit of pushing them away or ignoring them. If you don’t have a conscious relationship with your inner world relating to your outer world, you may have begun to resent your emotions and it will probably be challenging at first to learn to trust them again. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a great relationship with their emotions, so the likelihood that you were brought up in an environment that promoted emotional health is not high. In fact, I learned recently that as of January 2022, 24% of Americans are taking psychiatric medication (source). Having strong emotional health decreases the need for medication and improves mental health. So, finding out that 1/4 of Americans are taking psychiatric medication is deeply concerning for many reasons, including as a reflection of the emotional health of our country. It’s not too late though, keep reading and I’ll share with you how to start improving your emotional intelligence today!
Getting your past out of the way- starting the process of exploring your inner world.
Depending how long you have ignored, pushed away, resented, discounted, etc., this biological aspect of yourself you might have a lot of buried emotions from the past. I know from experience! I used to carry a lot of resentment and pain from my past and have processed those old feelings in many ways where I now feel like I’m living in the moment most of the time. When I first decided to start working on my personal growth in 2008, I carried a heavy burden of unforgiveness and I was able to heal tremendously by completing a series of experiential leadership courses with Klemmer & Associates. I mention this because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that. That was about 10 years ago and I’ve done many things since then. As far as starting to connect your inside world with your outside world, it’s something that I did little by little but I feel very strongly- getting your past out of the way is essential! The goal is to resolve your past so you can live in the now and be present with what is before you at this very moment. If your mind and emotions are stuck in the past then you can’t pursue clarity in the communication you are having today. If you feel stuck in the past, I want to tell you that healing is possible. It seems scary at times, but the way out is through. You have to go into the pain, feel it and learn from it so you can come out on the other side with a transformation. If you don’t allow yourself to be affected by your emotions, you will be left trying to will things with your mind. Your mind has a very small magnetic field and is a poor motivator. In contrast, when your body experiences an energetic transformation through an emotional experience, you will find yourself behaving in new ways that you just couldn’t force yourself to muster with only the power of your mind.
Living in the moment and defining healthy and whole relationships
A lot of examples of relationships we see in pop culture are actually toxic. Someone who has good emotional health looks at themselves and others as whole and complete beings. Doing this gives you the mental and emotional foundation to interact with others in a more honest, less attached and independent way. A lot of this has to do with expectations and if you know anything about codependency, (review the characteristics of codependent relationships )and then watch TV shows and movies you’ll see many examples of those toxic patterns. This is concerning because many people do not have healthy role models for their relationships so they are looking to these sources and trying to model them while searching for the benefits of healthy relationships. It results a lot of disappointment and miscommunication because the types of passive aggressive, instant gratification, lack of self-respect, self-deprecating behaviors we see in media and entertainment are not the ingredients it takes to create healthy relationships in our daily lives. So, you have to become mindful of what kind of messages you are subjecting yourself to and if they look like people using each other, frequently insulting one another as a “joke”, being disrespectful or not being straight forward in communication- it’s time to start looking for some other content and real individuals that focus on clear communication, respect and love.
Implementing these perspectives and mindsets while engaging with others is a practice of shifting awareness.
My description of the dance of consciousness to approach relationships with high emotional intelligence is- The process of staying present as a complete person in your relationships takes inner strength and personal responsibility. Instead of believing another person owes you something or that you are just trying to keep your relationship going to a certain outcome like I describe in the next section… you place your focus on the integrity of each interaction you have and you trust yourself to be the captain of your own life. You adjust your mindset to honor the fact that everyone always has a choice and that you are always willing to walk away. You are always working on increasing your clarity about your individual values and you move those to a level of your awareness that helps you make decisions and stay true to those values. Then you work on creating this beautiful balance between surrounding yourself with people that you care for so much that you can lose yourself in the moment and at the same time, staying aware of your boundaries so that when something is too much for you, you can communicate the discomfort while learn more about yourself and the other person/people. If the components of the relationship are something like respect, love, value and appreciation- it’s a great environment to engage in the ongoing practice of sort through discomforts and return to living joyously in the moment with a better understanding of yourself and those you choose to spend your time wit.
So, as you practice these mindsets and improve your ability to observation of your internal state while your interacting with others, you’ll be able to consciously shift your awareness and observing several aspects of the experience you are are as co-creating while it’s happening. You will need the ability to give and receive honest feedback with the understanding it’s for the purpose of growth and clarity. I suggest moving your awareness between your inner self, your outer self, the collective energy you are creating between yourself and who you are with, your perception of your communication partner(s), questioning your communication partner(s) about their experience while being willing to be honest, calm and curious.
This approach involves looking at relationships as opportunities for mutual growth and is about honestly helping one another explore your individual and collective experiences. The more you become comfortable doing this, you will find that your communication skills improve dramatically and you become more comfortable openly and honestly discussing any topic. You will probably see that your priorities shift to honoring and respecting the other persons and your own right to choose. I always want people to choose me from a place of integrity and wholeness instead of scarcity and lack- so I aim to be straightforward and honest because I seek respect, and I love feeling that the people in my life know they can count on me to be honest.
Living in the present moment vs. being outcome oriented.
In unhealthy relationships, sometimes people get more focused on an end goal and ignore red flags that come up in the meantime while they become increasingly focused on some planned benefit in the future. This kind of approach is why people sometimes get used in relationships, a few examples of being outcome oriented is participating in relationships for status, material gain, to appear a certain way to others, to fill a void in yourself, etc. Some of these things can be okay depending on the circumstance, but if you are repeatedly ignoring red flags and not honoring your values in order to achieve an outcome, then you are not being present in the moment or being totally honest with yourself and others.
When we are conditioned to be outcome oriented, the tendency is to lose our appreciation for the moment and seek fulfillment from above average stimuli, this leads to feelings of things not being good enough or never being satisfied. It is really difficult for people with emotional intelligence to have healthy, long term relationships with people who are acting this way. In heathy relationships, we become interested in, and make a priority of preserving and protecting the integrity of our individual and collective experiences.
Learning to stay present and not lose control
If you don’t already look at things this way- knowing that your emotions are not your identity and they change constantly is very important to give you the courage to be open and honest about them. Having this mutual understanding about other people’s emotions as well, and having the confidence and curiosity to explore when and why certain emotional responses occur will help you achieve more growth in your relationships and communication skills. This perspective is necessary to stay in control while allowing emotions to move through you. Emotions can feel intense and we push them away for many reasons. It’s probably a helpful exercise to reflect on why it is you push certain emotions away… Stop and consider it for a moment. I think one of the beliefs that has stopped me the most is that I feared I would go into a place where they was so much pain that I would get lost and wouldn’t be able to find my way back. Your healing is waiting for you on the other side of your fears. If you don’t let yourself feel something, the emotion gets stuck and then it becomes an influence on your life until you let it do it’s thing. This can go on for years if you let it and it becomes a mess with other layers of old emotions, resulting in confusion as to what you are feeling in the present moment. It’s really important to let your emotions move through you, deal with communicating them if your boundaries were crossed and then truly letting go and moving on.
Communicating your emotions productively
Part of keeping your relationships in tact while experiencing intense emotions is that you speak in a way that doesn’t blame or insult the other person. And sometimes not responding in that exact moment is perfectly acceptable. Going within and trying to make a specific connection about what action caused your emotion is really helpful in helping the other person understand where you’re coming. You won’t always know “why” a specific action caused an emotional response for you, but you don’t really need to. You can just ask your friend if there is a different way they can go about what they were doing because the way they were doing it doesn’t feel good to you and it makes you upset. Maybe they will be able to easily make an adjustment for you, and you also want to go about communicating in a way where you can learn more about their point of view. If you don’t ask, they might never do it differently and it may not be a problem at all!
In order to improve your EQ, you have to adjust the way you think about emotions! This article has been about the mindsets and perspectives that are necessary to create a mental foundation to start utilizing your emotions in a productive way. Emotions are manageable and the more we seek to identify how we feel in our bodies and connecting those energetic sensations to specific emotions- the better we know ourselves and show up in our personal and professional relationships with greater clarity, respect, appreciation and productivity!