Emotional Intelligence: The Basics
Michael G. Rayel, MD
There’s so much talk about emotional intelligence and how it can promote personal and business success. What is it really? What are its basic tenets?
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotions and that of others. This “intelligent” concept focuses on the role of emotion in our daily lives and how it affects our perception, reasoning, and behavior.
Emotions are pervasive in our daily existence. From the time we wake up to the time we retire to bed, we experience emotions. We can get excited by the news of economic recovery, or we feel upset when our favorite team loses a championship game.
Moreover, we can get lonely when our friend of many years decides to look for greener pastures and we can feel anxious when our child does not go home on time after class.
So really, emotions happen everywhere and anytime. There is no day that passes by without emotions being involved. We experience emotions when we - win or lose, receive phone calls from long lost friends, greet our children good morning, say hello to our neighbors, prepare meals for our spouses, or ride the subway train.
Emotions are just as normal as the rising of the sun.
However, there are times when our emotions can become overwhelming and can negatively affect our functioning. For instance, anger is normal. However, the inappropriate display of uncontrolled anger can be destructive.
Let me clarify this point with a hypothetical situation. Richard, a relatively nice guy who works as a salesman, is married for 5 years with Cynthia. For the past few years, his sales have plummeted due to some unknown reasons. He used to be mild-mannered but lately he hasn’t been the same.
When he gets angry, he just can’t control himself. He yells, bangs the door, throws fits, and punches the wall. In addition, he calls his wife names and puts her down. Eventually, he has physically harmed Cynthia. Due to his uncontrollable anger and physically abusive behavior, Cynthia has decided to file a divorce.
In this example, Richard has failed to recognize his ongoing anger and its associated behavioral consequences. Because of his inability to recognize his anger and consequent behavior, he has failed miserably to contain his anger despite signs that his wife doesn’t want to put up with it. In addition, he has failed miserably to recognize and understand the feelings of Cynthia. How could he? He can’t even recognize his own.
Emotional intelligence can therefore become an important tool at home and at work. By learning its basic tenets of self awareness (knowing one’s emotions), self management (controlling one’s emotions), social awareness (recognizing the emotions of others), and relationship management (social skills), people can make use of the emotion to advance the positive cause of our families and communities.