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Emotional Intelligence (EI): Managing it under pressure

Updated: Nov 24, 2017

First published - April 2016

"Emotional Intelligence is the cornerstone of superior collaboration. In many ways, mastery of Emotional Intelligence determines the success of a team." ~ Len April ~

Wow! What a month I've had...!

So many things have happened... good, bad and downright devastating. In all of these situations, I have to thank The Almighty for the lessons that come out of these situations and how I can apply the learning experience to my everyday life and, also share it with the people I come into contact with too.

When Your Life is Literally out of Your Control

If I asked your whether you have your life under your control... what would you say? You'd probably say... Jacqueline, I control what I do, when I do it and how I do it! You would be totally well within your rights to say so.

But... what if you had no control over your life what, when, how you do it taken from you or impinged in one way or another, how would you feel then?

Well... that's what happened to me and my family and, all the other families living on our street here in London recently! You see… there was a 'serious' incident that had taken place late one evening which took precedence over everything that we do in our everyday lives. When I say takes precedence, I mean it impacted your comings and goings from your abode, police consistently questioning, verifying and collaborating. It was only for a couple of days but… trust me… one felt that they were virtually prisoners in their own home and street! I must say… it actually discouraged me from leaving the house until I had no choice but to go out!

Not only were our comings and goings monitored, the simplest of things like, using the car to get somewhere was no longer an option. Everything was on total 'lockdown'! It was starting to irritate me that I couldn't go about my daily life and do what I had planned to do that week. Not only that... to find out that the family car was actually part of the crime scene... well that took me into a totally different realm and mindset!

I had my little 3-year-old niece staying with us over the Easter break and when it was time for her to be taken home. I went to the family car to retrieve her car seat for her journey and comfort home; only to be told by the policemen on duty that the car was part of the crime scene and could not be touched or accessed by me! So, I was informed that I wasn't able to get her car seat because of this and I basically could do nothing about it... or so it seemed!

Well... that kind of situation would test anyone's EI to the max!

I was feeling somewhat stressed over the situation as this was a 'BIG' thing happening on our road, which invariably impacted everything and everyone. The situation was resolved and the car seat retrieved. I even got an apology from the policeman for not being informed that the family car was in fact part of the crime scene... I totally understood things from their perspective as they were doing their jobs. Others, were not so understanding and low in their Empathy to the situation at hand. This manifested in long lengthy arguments with some of my neighbours and the London Constabulary!

This situation got me really thinking about how individuals control their emotions under pressure and, how they can alleviate it with more understanding and tapping into their Emotional Intelligence.

When you’re under pressure what happens? Do you get irritated with anything and everything or snap at people around you? It happens!

How do you control your emotions how do you tap into your emotional intelligence and see things from a different perspective to the current state you are in?

There are many people around unaware of how they can tap into their emotional intelligence or how them not being emotionally intelligent can affect others around them.

Character is who you are under pressure, not who you are when everything is fine." ~ Anon ~

So… What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. This ability also allows us to recognise and understand what others are experiencing emotionally. This recognition and understanding is, for the most part, a nonverbal process that informs thinking and influences how well you connect with others.

Emotional intelligence differs from how we think of intellectual ability, in that emotional intelligence is a learned - not acquired. This learning can take place at any time in life so the social and emotional skill set, known as emotional intelligence, is something we can all have.

It is important to remember that there is a difference, however, between learning about emotional intelligence and applying that knowledge to your life. Just because you know you should do something doesn’t mean you will - especially when you become overwhelmed by stress, which can override your best intentions. In order to permanently change behaviour in ways that stand up under pressure, you need to learn how to overcome stress in the moment, and in your relationships in order to remain emotionally aware.

7 Practical Ways of Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

(1) Practice Observing How You Feel - In the process of rushing from one commitment to the next, meeting deadlines, and responding to external demands, many of us lose touch with our emotions.

When we do this, we’re far more likely to act unconsciously, and we miss out on the valuable information that our emotions contain.

Whenever we have an emotional reaction to something, we’re receiving information about a particular situation, person or event. The reaction we experience might be due to the current situation, or it could be that the current situation is reminding us of a painful, unprocessed memory.

When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become far more adept at managing them. If you’re feeling out of practice, try the following exercise:

Set a timer for various points during the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what the sensation feels like. The more you can practice this, the more it will become second nature.

(2) Pay Attention to How You Behave - As I mentioned above, a key part of improving our EI is learning to manage our emotions, which is something we can only do if we’re consciously aware of them.

While you’re practising your emotional awareness, pay attention to your behaviour too. Notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life. Does it impact your communication with others, your productivity, or your overall sense of well-being?

Once we become more conscious of how we’re reacting to our emotions, it’s easy to slip into judgement mode and start attaching labels to our behaviour. Try to refrain from doing that right now, as you’ll be far more likely to be honest with yourself if you’re not judging yourself at the same time.

(3) Take Responsibility for Your Feelings and Behavior - This is probably the most challenging step, and it’s also the most helpful.

Your emotions and behaviour come from you - they don’t come from anyone else - therefore, you’re the one who’s responsible for them.

If you feel hurt in response to something someone says or does, and you lash out at them, you’re responsible for that. They didn’t “make” you lash out (they’re not controlling you with puppet strings, after all!), your reaction is your responsibility.

Equally, your feelings can provide you with valuable information about your experience of the other person, as well as your own needs and preferences, but your feelings aren’t another person’s responsibility.

Once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and how you behave, this will have a positive impact on all areas of your life.

(4) Practice Responding, Rather than Reacting - There’s a subtle but important difference between responding and reacting.

Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion (for example, feeling irritated and snapping at the person who has just interrupted you).

Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave (for example, feeling irritated, explaining to the person how you feel, why this isn’t a good time to be interrupting you, and when would be better).

(5) Practice Empathising with Yourself and Others - Empathy is about understanding why someone feels or behaves in a certain way and being able to communicate that understanding to them.

It applies to ourselves and other people, and practicing this ability will improve your EI.

Start by practising with yourself. When you notice yourself feeling or behaving in a certain way, ask “Why do I think I’m feeling like this/doing this?” At first, your response might be “I don’t know,” but keep paying attention to your feelings and behaviour, and you’ll start to notice different answers coming through.

(6) Create A Positive Environment - As well as practising the skills I’ve mentioned so far (self-awareness, self-responsibility, and empathy), make time to notice what is going well and where you feel grateful in your life.

Creating a positive environment not only improves your quality of life, but it can be contagious to people around you too.

(7) Remember EI is a Lifetime Process - EI isn’t something you develop once then drop. It’s a lifetime practice, and it is possible to keep improving. Even when you feel like you’ve mastered these steps, remember to keep practising, and you’ll reap the benefits of EI for the rest of your life.

We all probably know people, at work or in our personal lives, who are great at listening and helping us feel more hopeful and optimistic.



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