Emotional Intelligence is defined as our ability to recognize and be understanding of our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It is a set of skills that will be useful for you in almost every interaction you have in your life.
Our five-part series on Emotional Intelligence is designed with you in mind. We will help define the various components of Emotional Intelligence, along with providing you with exercises you can implement from home, so you can continue your journey of growth.
The first component of Emotional Intelligence is Self-Awareness. Self-Awareness is our capacity to be conscious of our own abilities, desires, thoughts, and feelings. It is the skill that allows us to comprehend the ins and outs of our character, and provides the groundwork for building upon with future personal development.
It can seem like a daunting task to be fully aware of ourselves, because this includes noticing the healthy and unhealthy habits or attributes that we may have. Do not let this discourage you, because the one thing we have in life is the ability to develop and grow ourselves, so this is the first step on becoming the best version of ourselves possible.
A person who is Self-Aware has the unique skill of being able to know who they are, what they believe in, and act in accordance with their personal beliefs at all times.
Exercise 1: Defining Our Values
What we value in our lives is extremely important, but not many of us have taken the time to truly think about what our values are. We all have values that we hold in high regards whether we are conscious of them or not. If we are not able to define them accurately, we will have difficulty in acting in accordance with our values, which can lead to behaviors that conflict with what matters most to us.
The first step is to start making a list of attributes that you believe are important. Online you can find lists of over 400 values to draw from which you can definitely use, but if that seems a little overwhelming you can try a different tactic.
Think about someone that you admire or love. This could be a family member, a friend, a mentor, it could be anyone that you hold in high esteem. What is it about them that makes you feel so strongly? Is it their unwavering loyalty to others? Is it their desire to be honest in their interactions? Begin to write down a list of these characteristics that you admire, and you will begin to see a list of values grow.
You can draw your values from various experiences as well. What was an event in your life that made you feel proud of your accomplishments? What were you doing? Maybe it was a volunteer event where you were providing guidance to others, so compassion or helping others could be the value to draw from that experience.
On the other hand, you can also look at negative experiences to find what you value.
Think about a time where you experienced something negative, and write down that event. Look at what the underlying concern was, and flip it around to provide your value. For example, maybe one of your events stemmed around your feelings being hurt because one of your closest friends was not honest with you. The act was dishonesty, so if we flip that around, you were hurt because you value truthfulness.
Once you have your list put together, pick your top 4-5 values and think about why they are so important to you. If they feel like a strong fit for your beliefs, you have defined your values. Now that you have a name to them, you can be conscious of aligning your actions and beliefs to your values, which will make you more confident and self-aware.
Exercise 2: Daily Reflection
In one of our previous posts, we talked about the power of journaling for your mental health. Journaling is also a powerful tool for developing your Self-Awareness.
At the end of each day, find a few minutes to write about how your day went. Include your emotions throughout the day, your thoughts, your actions, and the things you did well or not so well. Be open and honest with yourself. Being able to reflect upon your actions will help you farther in the long run.
After you finish writing, look back at your day. For the things that you did well, compliment yourself and give yourself credit for them. For example, if you were able to complete a project in a given timeframe and were happy with the work that you did, congratulations are in order!
Also look at the things that may not have gone according to plan, or were not representative of your values. Perhaps one of your values is Punctuality, and you ended up being late to a conference because you did not give yourself enough time to get across town. Think about a way that you could have acted or responded differently that would have had more optimal results, and set a goal based on that idea. Maybe next time you have a meeting across town, you will make sure to leave 15 minutes earlier to ensure you are maintaining your sense of Punctuality.
As you continue to reflect daily on your actions and emotions, you will begin the rewarding process of becoming more Self-Aware, which will make it easier for you to encourage healthy behavior and leave unhealthy behaviors in your past.
Exercise 3: Name Your Emotions
Emotions are such a powerful thing. We experience so many emotions in a single day, that sometimes we can be exhausted by dinner time. One of the ways we can use our emotions to our advantage and develop our Self-Awareness is through distinguishing and naming them.
There are several different emotions that we can experience as humans, however, if we are not consciously paying attention to the way that we feel, we may default to a handful of primary ones: happiness, fear, anger, joy, love, or sadness. The problem with defaulting our emotions to a few basic ones is that we may falsely label our feelings, which can keep us from truly understanding how we are feeling in a moment.
Being frustrated with something is not the same as being angry, sad, confused, or overwhelmed. If we label our frustration as us being angry, we may react differently than if we realize that we are just frustrated.
For this exercise, you are going to begin to name your emotions as you experience them throughout the course of a day. Find the easiest way for you to name them; whether that is simply declaring the emotion in your mind, verbalizing the emotion, or writing it down. It may seem like a lot of work due to how many emotions we tend to have over the course of a day, but you can actively develop your Self-Awareness by being more cognizant of exactly how you are feeling.
By naming your emotions, you will be able to have a definition of the way that you are feeling, which allows you the time to choose how you want to react to that emotion. This will also help you to correctly identify how you are feeling so you are able to act in accordance to what your emotion truly is, versus what it may seem like on the surface.
As you can tell, Self-Awareness is a useful and necessary piece of Emotional Intelligence, which helps us to grow, act in accordance to our personal values, and always be presenting our best self in interactions.