“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them,” said author-playwright Oscar Wilde. The term Emotional Intelligence (EI) wouldn’t be coined until 90 years after his death, but Wilde certainly had the gist of what it meant to possess it. We know what an important tool EQ (Emotional Quotient) or EI is in the workplace, but applying it to your relationships can also ensure a fulfilling personal life.
A recent study conducted by the Korn Ferry Hay Group used data from 55,000 professionals in 90 countries. The findings? Women outperform men in almost every emotional intelligence competency (11 out of 12) except for emotional self-control, where no gender differences were observed. So how do we, as women, apply these heightened competencies to our personal lives, for better relationships with our partners, children, parents, siblings and even friends?
Delhi-based Lata S, Founder-Director - MEQ Academy, Emotional Intelligence Trainer & Assessor, EQ Educator and Life Coach says self-awareness is the key. “Most of the time we blame others for our unhappiness. This is because of our own expectations. Women never ask for help. They keep working doggedly for ages, and then they’re suddenly tired. They feel like no one loves or cares for them. If they practice self-awareness, they can first figure out what they want and need first. The idea is to give up complaining, and instead work on yourself first.”
An article in Forbes by Dr Shaw Andrews says that men and women have different EQ strengths. It goes on to state how we are bombarded with both direct and indirect messages our entire lives about how we should behave - through our parents, family members, friends, teachers, coaches, magazines, books, movies, television and even the toys we play with. The article says, “Boys are socialised very early on to be competitive, confident, assertive, decisive and even aggressive. Girls are socialised to be nurturing, care about others, show emotions, get along and be empathetic. Girls learn that the process is more important than winning and that relationships are key.”
As a result, women always prioritise themselves last and end up feeling short-changed. Change this – you’re not obliged to make anyone else happy at the cost of your own happiness.
Start a handwritten journal
“Aatmanirbhar bano,” says Aditi Surana, High performance coach and Founder of APT mental gym. “You heard me right. Most people depend on their relationships to deal with their own emotions. Set out 15 mins a day to use handwritten journaling to find emotional release and resolve. Address your small emotional issues. This simple mental workout will make your emotional baggage much lighter.”
Not only does journalling provide a safe space for you to direct your emotions, it allows you to reflect on your own strengths, weaknesses and limitations. It means you’re also taking responsibility for how you feel and express yourself, and how that in turn affects everyone around you. In addition to pouring out your emotions, also set aside some time to write about the roles you fulfil in your personal life, how you feel about them, what works for you and what doesn’t.
Be an active listener
Empathy is an important component of EI. It means trying to put yourself in someone’s shoes to understand how they may feel. And empathy begins with listening actively. Surana says, “If you’re worried, overwhelmed and preoccupied then you cannot listen to anyone. Deep listening is an art. Filmmaker, author and artist Paromita Vohra once told me that ‘most people suffer as they only listen to the words in conversations.’ Active listening is about deeply listening to the words as well as observing the gaps. You can’t do it without genuinely being interested in people.” Lata S agrees adding, “We always tend listen less and reply more - in fact we listen only to reply!”
Respond, don’t react
It is human nature to react immediately and instinctively to both positive and negative words and incidents. Don’t. Restrain yourself, no matter how hard it is and process the information first, along with what it means. You should ideally respond from a place of logic, instead of a place driven solely by emotion. “Taking a small pause for at least six seconds – because our emotions take this long to sink in – it really helps,” says Lata S. “Take a deep breath and count from 10 to 1. During this time, think about whether your reaction is justified or appropriate in this situation. Many times, situations actually don’t even need a reaction. Of course, developing this trait takes time - it doesn’t happen overnight or on day one. But take that first step towards it.”
Work out your EQ
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither can your control over your emotions. Developing your EQ is much like maintaining physical fitness. You first have to become optimally fit, and then maintain that. Says Surana, “EQ is a muscle. You need to build it. This one skill you cannot practise in isolation… I have created a small workout that you use in each and every conversation. Ask yourself three questions at the end of each interaction - Was I actively listening? Was I triggered? What else could I have said or done?” Answering these questions gives you clarity on what you can do differently to enhance your EQ.
Our first response is always to defend ourselves. That’s not necessarily wrong, but when we are trying to put relationships ahead of individuals, the point might be lost. Defence is fine, as long as it is backed by actual logic. “Let’s accept it – you can’t avoid conflicts,” says Surana. “It is an essential part of being in any relationship. Most people run away from the fights. Do you do that? Stop doing it. Avoiding conflicts festers them more. Dealing with them can be painful like dressing a wound, but if done correctly, with each dressing it starts healing. The quality of your relationship is dependent on how healthy your fight is.”
As another prolific writer Aldous Huxley so rightly said, “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” It’s the reason why different people in the same circumstances act distinctly from one another. If you’re after contentment, peace of mind and fulfilment in your personal life, EQ can truly help you get there.