Emotional Intelligence in Action
Emotional Intelligence consists of a dynamic and interdependent relationship between Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. It can be developed. But its true effectiveness is tested in present moment application.
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize our own feelings and those of others, motivating ourselves, managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.
A couple years ago, a dinner table exchange between my 14-year-old daughter, myself, and my 16-year-old son provides an example of the EI Model in action.
We sat down to a lovely, post-vacation dinner; I’d made a special effort to get everyone something they really enjoyed either as an appetizer or as part of the main course. Not three minutes into our dinner my daughter began to have a bit of a meltdown regarding an upcoming morning cross country practice. This not only ruined my mood but it also somehow pushed a button of mine (Self-Awareness) and I reacted quickly, strongly, and negatively to her breakdown. My son quickly intervened, saying, “Dad, I think you may be overreacting. Please give her a chance to finish explaining what is really bothering her.” While I must admit that I wasn’t crazy about him pointing out this lapse of behavior publicly, it did help me take pause and begin to see a blind spot that was surfacing. Collecting myself (Self Management), I began to acknowledge and validate my daughter’s concerns, and with a few questions we got to the underlying issue. This intervention shifted both the mood and the focus of our subsequent dialogue which was now, thanks to my son, more constructive in nature.
A little later that evening, my son approached me, perhaps because he noticed my non-verbal reaction to his intervention (Social Awareness), apologizing for possibly overstepping his bounds at the dinner table (Relationship Management). And to my pleasant surprise, I told him that he did not. I explained that I was triggered for some reason by his sister’s behavior and in that moment needed someone with enough emotional intelligence and courage to point it out to me. I was actually proud that my wife and I are creating a culture where these conversations can take place regardless of one’s role in the family.
So while EI can be developed, the effective application of it is challenging and requires consistent practice and support. It is not about suppressing your emotions, or being soft. It involves recognizing how you are feeling moment to moment and finding ways to express and channel these emotions in constructive ways.