“Emotions – affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.” (dictionary.com)
Emotions are affective state of our conscious mind or a manifestation of the mind. No matter where they come from (as there are many theories around the origin of the emotions), one thing holds true: they affect us physically and psychologically, and they produce changes in our behaviors.
The ability to recognize yours or other’s emotions, act and react in a chosen way to the emotions identified, and managing to adapt them to environments and to achieve certain goals is what we all know as EQ (emotional intelligence). The higher this ability, the greater our EQ.
Emotional intelligence can be developed if you want to – by consciously choosing the type of challenges that are meant to help develop the EQ. Working or competing in a team, play team games, socialize – these are all activities that if done intentionally and frequently will help you increase your EQ. As opposed to IQ (skills) that are developed by doing more and more of the individual tasks that help develop a certain skill, EQ is all about human interaction, team work and games. If you want a higher EQ, put yourself in front of more and more activities as such.
How to identify emotions
One first step in developing emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions. Being able to tell what you or others feel, is a good way to decide what you should do next, how to react and what outcome to try and influence.
People express their emotions in different ways and sometimes it’s hard to tell how they feel. We are good at hiding some emotions – as a personal choice or even unconsciously – to adapt to the environment (“it’s not proper” to let some emotions free in some circumstances, situations or in regards to some people). Still, there are a few ways in which one can identify emotions, if you know where, and how to look.
Facial expressions – usually the easiest to read. Scientist have mapped the most common facial expressions associated with emotions and you might have already watched the famous series “Lie to Me”. Although people sometimes hide how they feel, there are still visible facial expressions that will betray them and show how they actually feel like. The more you get to know a person and the way each emotion is shown on a person’s face, the more you’ll be able to tell how they feel even if they’re trying to hide it.
Actions – another really visible way of showing how we feel. If we are angry, we are restless and shouting at the subject of our anger, or if we talk about passive anger, people tend to have irrational behaviors like skipping work, alienating friends and family or sabotaging themselves in any other way. All emotions have actions associated with them – even if, by education, we sometimes manage to hide them and act like everything’s normal. Usually though, actions are visible, even in a subtle way, or they show up with delays.
Emotions are also expressed through thoughts and words. Thoughts are only for us and unless expressed, we cannot know what is happening inside someone’s mind. But words (spoken or written) are a very good indicator of the emotions someone is experiencing. Try anyways and truly listen to what a person has to say – you can easily spot the emotions in their talk. Be it excitement for something happening in their lives, or fear, happiness, anger and so on. Same with ourselves – try listening more and more to the thoughts you are having – with the only purpose of observing them. Don’t try to control them, just observe how the thread of thinking goes and where it leads.
Each emotion generates a certain somatic activity in the brain that will be followed by a body reaction – increase in temperature, sweat, arousal and so on. This is another way of observing emotions in oneself or at other people.
The last way in which we people express their emotions are the internal, subjective feelings. Ever notices that besides giving arguments and reasons, a person still decides to do what “they feel like” doing? That is because their internal feelings are guided by an emotion they cannot control or overcome with logic.
Noticing these things at yourself or in another person is a sure way to understand emotions and become a more emotional intelligent person. People tend to express their emotions not just by one of these five means. They usually express them by two or three – either words and actions and facial expression, or subjective feelings and body reactions in case they want to suppress the emotion. If you want to become good at this, start noticing other people’s reactions, words, actions and while talking to them, pay attention to what they say and how they speak.
What’s stopping us from expressing our emotions
Besides recognising emotions, being an person with a high EQ means to be able to express feelings as well. There are many reasons why we don’t know how to express our emotions, and some of us might not even be aware how to overcome this.
One first reason why some of us can’t express their emotions is because all their life or in the recent past they have not been exposed to emotional stimuluses. A person working in accounting, or a software engineer spends all their day with tables and numbers, and code lines – not really a lot of human interaction nor occasions to express or understand feelings. If they want to become more emotionally intelligent, they need to consciously expose themselves to activities that force them to observe and express emotions. Such activities are (but they are not exclusive): going to the theater, playing team games, taking dance/arts/painting classes, watch debates. But they should do these regularly – as these are ways to learn to be more emotionally intelligent in an unconscious way.
Another reason why we are not emotionally ready is because we are too much results oriented. We tend to focus only on results and we ignore the processes and the people involved in reaching those results – we therefore take everything for granted and will always expect same result or even better, ignoring the people that generated those results and their feelings. This way, we will eventually produce a lot of frustrations with the people involved. This can happen not just at work – we might focus on results with our family members and dear ones. Facts and end goals are the only things you think of in the relationship with dear ones.
The way to change this is to so a shortlist of 5 up to 10 people. With these people, do a conscious exercise to focus on the emotional side of the relationship and not on results. Observe how they feel, speak to them with meaning, find out their thoughts and views and how they feel about things. Do the same on your side – express how you feel, talk more about the emotional side of what is happening around you and the world and how does that make you feel. Trust the process more than the result with these close group of people.
Our low emotional intelligence is also a sign of being too much centered on the current technologies and social media. We care about the number of likes on Facebook, Instagram, or the Twitter followers. We post and we expect people to appreciate the cool life we have or the amazing experiences we go through. These things only help our ego become bigger and bigger, and pay more attention than ever to our individual self. We disconnect emotionally with the others as we don’t pay attention to them anymore and we care less and less about the relationships with the others, being focused on growing our ego through “social” online environments.
The way out is to limit our activity on social media and change our approach to it. Instead of having a goal that only satisfies your ego, the goal should be to just share something that is interesting for you. Besides sharing something useful for the others, the purpose can also be to get to know other people with similar interests that will like and comment on your post.
Lastly, the loud existential noise stops us from seeing what is truly important to us. We are constantly bombarded with email messages, notifications from different apps, chats on both computers and phones and so on – and at the end of the day, we don’t know anymore who we really are and what exactly is what we did that was truly important to us, the job we’re doing, or to someone else.
This is why it’s very important that from time to time we take a few days off our noisy life and go ALONE in a city break or somewhere outside of our known environment. No Internet allowed, no technologies, no books – nothing that can work as a “hiding” place for our mind. Go completely alone, the purpose is to find yourself and what’s important to you and you can only do that alone. Go for walks and think – let your mind wander. Initially, the mind will tell you what is your to-do for the upcoming period, what you should be doing and so on. But after a while, you will start to reflect on your life, the mind will truly speak and you’ll figure out what is important to you and what you really want.
How to express our emotions
There are just a few things that you should further do if you want (besides understanding) to also learn how to express your emotions and let them go.
Firstly, try and add an emotional side to whatever message you are passing on. Add a smile when you are talking, speak about how something made you feel, gesticulate and emphasize some key parts of a report you’re delivering and so on. Besides being a good practice for your own emotional intelligence development, it will make a huge difference with the people involved. You’ll show you’re open and eager to discover more, and they will follow your behavior.
Express your emotions in everything related to the design and display of your life. Put some emotions into the way you arrange your desk, how you decorate your home, in choosing your computer’s wallpaper or how you dress daily. Just pay attention to all these details and do more about them involving your feelings.
And lastly, another way to learn to show your emotions is to choose some hobbies that allow you to freely express what you are feeling. Good examples can be singing, painting, crafting, dancing, theater classes and so on. They allow you to let your feelings go, helping you reset them. Be it something negative like stress and anger, or positive, being able to letting them go through such activities is beneficial both for your mind and body, as well as for the people around you.
Knowing what you feel and being able to articulate and express those feelings will not just help you be crystal clear about your life purposes but will also help you interact better with the people around you. Knowing what you want and being able to interact in the right way with the ones that can help you achieve that will only get you there faster and much more enjoyable.
In the end, it’s true what they say – people with a high EQ (emotional intelligence) are generally more successful than the ones with a lower EQ, and I hope this article shed some lights into why this can actually be true. So, I challenge you know to start doing the necessary things to increase your EQ and learn about your emotions and the way to connect with other people on a different level.