Self awareness is the first step of emotional intelligence. It teaches how to identify your emotions and be aware of them, their triggers and their impact.
Emotional intelligence is the skill to be aware of, control and ultimately express emotions. The latest studies suggest that EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) for succeeding in work, life and having a better health in general. By mastering it, you could be aware not only of your own emotions (and therefore drivers), but also of the emotions of the people around you (and therefore guide them and in general benefit from the extra information).
Self-awareness is the first step (out of four) in improving your emotional intelligence. This skill allows you to spot your emotions as they arise (and not after their devastating effect). It also helps you to anticipate the upcoming emotional reaction by defining and being aware of the things that drive you towards those emotions.
Even if you are sure that you are familiar with the term, I urge to go and check it out. Often people limit themselves with just a few high-level emotions and they cannot actually identify what exactly are they feeling.
You could improve the self-awareness part of your emotional intelligence by:
1. Get out of the comfort zone
Have you heard that the magic happens outside the comfort zone? The same is true about emotions. People have the tendency to avoid discomforting feelings. But this is not a long term solution. You should allow the feelings to surface and provide the information they carry.
Instead of shoving the emotion away, you should guide yourself to it and through it. Ignoring feelings would only allow them to appear when least expected. And last but not least, getting out of the comfort zone is not that bad. The great minds of our present have daily tasks to “do something unpleasant” in order to expand their frontiers. With practice you will soon discover that it is not that bad.
2. Identify your triggers
A trigger is a person, a situation or a condition that makes you emotional and prompts you to certain actions. It could be a show-off manager that feeds like a vampire from the energy of the others in the room. Or a very noisy work environment, particularly when your colleagues like talking over the phone and you cannot concentrate. It could also be, for example, a very technical manager who lacks communication or people management skills.
The typical response to these stimuli is a shut down. Especially if it happens at work, where emotional outbursts are considered taboo. But even if you enclose your emotions inside you, your body language will go screaming and a keen observer will notice it anyway.
3. Don’t make decisions in a bad mood
Everybody has those situations in life when just everything goes into the wrong direction. Call it “depression“, call it “feeling down” or just “being unlucky“. You feel that you cannot do anything right and a black veil comes down on all your thoughts.
The problem here is that, once a bad mood takes control of your brain, you lose the sight of the good part of your life. Suddenly you hate where your live, you hate where you work, you feel irritated by your colleagues. You could also be frustrated with your family, or just dissatisfied with yourself. Deep inside you know that most of what you think is not completely true, but you cannot help get rid of that thoughts.
Emotional intelligence through self-awareness teaches that you take notice of the situation and accept is it is. You should be OK that you probably can do little to change the current conditions and just let it pass.
4. Don’t make decisions in a good mood either
The same is true when you are on the other side of the equilibrium. When you are feeling really, really happy, ecstatic even, it is very easy to do something that you would regret.
The first thing that comes to mind is the methods used by skilled salesmen to sell you stuff that you do not want. They get you excited to the point that you lose control of your mind. And when they offer you the merchandise. You could overestimate its values and pay too much for it.
5. Get to the birds-eye view
Have your heard the description that someone is “above things“? Well this is also applicable in emotional intelligence. Imagine if you could let go of your personality and watch yourself from above. Like a bird who flies high above the ground and has the whole picture in sight. If you could let go of your narrow first-person vision and look at your life in general. How many more things would you be able to see and understand that way?
Even though you cannot actually “look yourself from above“, you can still develop an understanding of your own behavior. You should be aware of your emotions and thoughts as the situations comes to life. You should try to inject yourself between the trigger and the reaction in order to allow yourself to process the whole information and to look at things from above. The goal is to remind yourself of the actual feeling below all layers.
Most people go through their lives without paying attention to their emotions. Either completely ignoring them, or letting them control their lives. Emotions are a powerful force that can do miracles with your life, or completely ruin them. It is the job of your mind to learn to spot them and put itself between the emotion and the physical reaction. By learning that skill, you would finally be able to get the reins of your life in your own hands.
Check out my related post: How does reading increase your intelligence and empathy?