Amy Kay Cole, PhD
6 Mental Habits of People Who Manage Their Emotions Remarkably Well
The research is clear: emotional intelligence improves just about every aspect of our lives. Daniel Goleman, a well-known psychologist, has published extensively on the ways in which emotional intelligence improves our personal and professional lives. There are countless books on how to raise emotionally intelligent children for good reason. Increasing emotional intelligence helps people develop stronger friendships, succeed academically, and lead more productive lives. It’s hard to find an area in which people are not helped by strengthening their emotional intelligence.
Essentially, there are five key elements psychologists have found that make up emotionally intelligence. First, being able to identify your own emotions is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Americans tend to label emotions into two broad categories – good and bad. They often view happiness as the good emotion and anger as the bad emotion. We are surprisingly comfortable with anger. It makes us feel more powerful and less vulnerable than the feelings of fear, embarrassment, and inadequacy. The problem, of course, is that when we respond with anger when we are really experiencing the more vulnerable emotions, we fail to honestly express ourselves and often say things we regret. There is no shame in those more vulnerable emotions. They are a fundamental part of human experience and universally experienced. The better able we are to label our emotions, the better able we are to connect with others.
Second, emotionally intelligent people know how to manage their emotions. They can feel intense anger and still communicate without spewing ugly words and hurting the person in front of them. Psychologists frequently help clients recognize their emotions and deal with them without being hijacked by them. Most of us know what it feels like to say words in anger and deeply regret them. That happens far less often once a person has developed emotional intelligence.
The third aspect of emotional intelligence is using emotions to motivate oneself. If a person or situation makes you happy, that should motivate you to arrange more contact with that person or recreate that experience. Likewise, if a person or situation makes you angry, that’s useful information that should motivate you to change the interactions or avoid them in the future. Anger is actually a very healthy emotion. It gives us feedback about our world. As a psychologist, I don’t want my clients to suppress their anger. Instead, I want them to recognize their anger and view it as a legitimate, honest response to a situation. It should motivate them to change the situation to diminish that feeling in the future.
In addressing the fourth aspect of emotional intelligence, psychologists help clients recognize the emotions of others. Human emotions have verbal and nonverbal characteristics associated with them. We need to recognize those characteristics in our partners, children, friends, and coworkers. We need to know when the person in front of us is angry, hurt, or elated so that we can modify our behaviors and comments to accommodate their emotion. Why? Because the fifth and final aspect of emotional intelligence is managing interactions. Once we recognize our own emotions and recognize the emotions of others, we are finally able to communicate effectively. If your child is overwhelmed with anger, is not the time to teach them a lesson. Instead, we need to help them self sooth until their emotions are under control. That is when they truly learn. In a similar vein, when we are intensely angry, it’s not the time to scold our children, approach our boss, or discuss a grievance with our partners. The attached article identifies six mental habits of people who manage their emotions remarkably well. Read them over and see which habits you have and which ones you might want to cultivate. Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash