To this day, I still can’t understand why we had to learn meteorological terms in school. I had no intention of becoming a weather girl. Besides, weather forecasting is about as accurate as astrology.
I remember my teacher pointing at me and asking for the definition of “air pressure.” Despite being one of the smartest students in the class, I had no idea what it meant and was clueless as to how it would benefit my life. As the color rose in my cheeks, the student next to me, who was repeating the sixth grade, leaned over and whispered the answer. I stuttered out my response and was praised by the teacher. Crisis averted.
What I wish we had learned were social skills. I made friends easily, but wasn’t good at conversation or regulating my feelings. I had been taught at an early age that children should be silent and that crying was inappropriate. So I trudged through my teenage years, awkwardly and sometimes tactlessly expressing my thoughts, and carrying a heavy burden of emotions that I didn’t know how to express. I became a socially anxious emotional eater who struggled with self-esteem issues.
The manner in which we socialize children is lacking, at least in my opinion. This is particularly true for those who have grown up in an environment where problems are swept under the rug, where the only form of emotional expression is extreme (e.g. rage), or where they are told that their emotions are improper (e.g. crying for boys, anger for girls). We then toss them into a social environment and wonder why they have outbursts, behavioral problems, or can’t make friends. When children are unable to express their emotions in a healthy manner they will do so in other ways, whether it’s through bullying, eating disorders, self-harm or a multitude of other psychological or behavioral issues.
Here’s why I think emotional intelligence training needs to be part of our academic curriculum. Data from our Emotional Intelligence Test on Queendom reveals that:
- Emotionally intelligent people have good control over their emotions.
This doesn’t mean they bottle up their anger or pretend that an issue doesn’t bother them – they are simply able to express their feelings tactfully. People with high EI are in touch with their feelings, no matter how unpleasant, and recognize that their emotions are a signal that is offering an important message.
When trying to explain to people the concept of how our feelings are a message, I always use the same example: A wife gets upset at her husband because he keeps leaving his dirty clothes on the floor. But her anger isn’t just about the smelly socks. She feels frustrated because he didn’t heed her wishes the first time she brought it up. She feels disrespected and taken advantage of, because she’s always the one who ends up picking up after him. You see, emotions are rarely, if ever, one-dimensional or random – and people who are emotionally intelligent recognize this. They won’t let their emotions flow through them unchallenged – they dig and analyze: “Why am I feeling this way? What is it about this person or what he/she has done that causes this reaction in me? What does this say about me?”
- Emotionally intelligent people don’t need other people’s approval to be happy.
Not only do they recognize their self-worth, they also won’t allow others to dictate how they feel about themselves. They have a strong sense of self-respect. How do you know if you have solid self-esteem? You won’t allow others to treat you poorly. You won’t spiral into negativity if someone insults you. You won’t feel the need to have everyone like you, and you won’t change who you are in order to please someone.
- Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated.
They don’t rely on other people to push them into action or to keep them going. They also embrace failure as a lesson learned and take pride in their accomplishments. While some people only feel good about themselves if they receive praise from others, emotionally intelligent people are their own coach and cheerleader.
- Emotionally intelligent people are social chameleons.
They can easily converse with different types of people and in a variety of social situations. Their empathy and social flexibility allows them to understand other people’s point of view, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it.
- Emotionally intelligent people can let go of the little things.
They won’t allow petty fights (or petty people) to get a rise out of them. When a situation doesn’t work out the way they wanted it to, they learn from the experience and move on. Rather than pining over what could have been, people with high EI prefer to focus on paving a better future.
So here’s what I wish I had been taught in school:
- Emotions and logic are not enemies. Many people believe that emotions have no place in the decision-making process, but the truth is, your emotions (or intuition, gut instinct, etc.) and your logic can provide useful information when making a decision. The bottom line is that emotions and logic are two sides of the same coin: Emotions are the message, logic is the means with which we interpret that message.
- Emotions need to be let out. A study on life satisfaction and negative life events revealed that people who wrote out what was bothering them or who talked things out with someone showed an improvement in mental health and life satisfaction. So when something is bothering you, don’t keep it locked up inside. A problem can often feel less intense when we can share that burden, so to speak. Release all your negative feelings and thoughts in a journal. Talk to a trusted friend, a spiritual leader, a therapist, or join an online community that focuses on helping others get through personal and emotional difficulties. There is always help out there.
- Don’t fall victim to “The Fundamental Attribution Error”. As humans, we are forever trying to figure out the causes of other people’s actions. All too often, we attribute hostile behavior on the part of others to dispositional rather than situational factors, like writing someone off as a jerk for snapping at you instead of looking for other causes (an illness, family tragedy, issues at work). As a result, we are less forgiving than many situations call for. Try to understand that others are under just as much pressure and stress as you are and as a result, their behavior may not always represent who they really are.
- Setbacks are short-lived. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed and find yourself plunging into negativity, remind yourself that things can get better. If you’re having a hard time at work or dealing with relationship problems, look at it as temporary. Whatever the situation, you can take proactive steps to deal with the underlying issues. Even if you are faced with something that you will have to deal with for a lifetime (like a health problem), there is always some way to improve the situation. You will grow stronger, heal, or find better ways to cope.
- Positive affirmations have power. This isn’t just a philosophy – it has a scientific basis. The success of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy lies in the reprogramming of the brain. Write 3 self-affirming statements (e.g. “I am healthy, wealthy, and wise”) and repeat them to yourself every day for several times a day. Don’t just say them three times and then spend the rest of the day criticizing yourself or complaining. Say your affirmations as often as you can, whether you’re on the way to work, cooking, or shopping. When a negative thought pops into your mind, replace it with something positive – and say that positive statement three times. Continue to practice your affirmations for as long as it takes for them to sink in. It will feel silly at first, even fake and untrue, but that doubt comes from years of negative programming. It can be done, if you make it a habit.