Defining Emotional Intelligence and how it can affect Mental Health

If we were to define ‘emotional intelligence’ exactly what would it be?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is essentially an individual’s ability to connect their personal experiences with those of others.

The term gained popularity in the 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence”, written by author and science journalist Daniel Goleman, and it’s gone on to become an integral part of the vocabulary of those who focus on workplace success. Yet in this blog we want to look at why EI can support mental health in general.

What makes up Emotional Intelligence?

In Goleman’s book, he defined five key areas which make up Emotional Intelligence. Each area is described in clear detail and gives us a good outline:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values
    and goals and recognise their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  • Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses
    and adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Social skill – managing relationships to get along with other.
  • Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
  • Motivation – being aware of what motivates them.

Why do we need to consider Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

There are wide ranging reasons why we should improve our overall levels of EI. Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater career prospects, job performance, and leadership skills.

Yet most importantly high EI can lead to better mental health.

How we react to good and bad situations can be key to supporting better mental health.  Our emotions and ability to read situations, both personal and work related, can also overwhelm us and affect the way we behave.

People who lack emotional intelligence are more likely to just react, without giving themselves the time to weigh up the pros and cons of a situation and really thinking things through. The consequences of this down the track can affect our mental health.

What are the key characteristics of strong Emotional Intelligence?

Responding not reacting
High EI gives you the ability to process the situation you are faced with – it stops those initial defensive walls we can sometimes build up. The skill of being able to listen, gain perspective, reduce judgement and withhold strong emotions can truly support reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Ability to withstand difficult situations

The term ‘firm yet fair’ rings true with those with high EI. It allows you to have difficult conversations without spiralling into petty disagreements and conflict. With EI you have the ability to set healthy boundaries in a calm and positive way because you have summed up the situation and are coming from a place of balance.

Understanding your own emotions
EI gives you the ability to regulate and self-control your own emotions which helps you responding appropriately. Goleman says this about people with self-control- “Reasonable people–the ones who maintain control over their emotions–are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments.”

Another article describes that ‘while average levels of anxiety can improve cognitive performance – probably by increasing focus and motivation – too much anxiety can block cognitive achievement.

So, knowing how to find the sweet spot, between too much and too little anxiety, can be a useful tool.’

Emotional intelligence is an area each of us can improve on and we should be taking time to consider our own ability to judge and react to difficult situations. We can avoid building stress and anxiety with the ability to monitor how we react.

If you feel like you struggle to regulate your emotions or want to improve how you consider difficult situations and setting boundaries the team at The Crawley Clinic are here to support you. Click here to book an appointment.

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