Emotional intelligence. Image: Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

How To Practice Emotional Intelligence

Intelligence is not about what you know but how you know. For instance, you know that no other word rhymes with orange – not because I just told you, but because you’re actively trying to find a word that does. You are applying knowledge to a conundrum and finding the truth.

This is also true for emotional intelligence.

To be emotionally intelligent, you need to understand why you think and feel a certain way, so you can easily learn and grow. It’s feeling sad and knowing why your feeling sad. This then allows you to accept it and possibly deal with it. 

Sometimes you feel sad because a loved one has passed away, and that’s normal. You are human. We all are. This type of sadness is just something you need to accept and let happen.

Other times you feel sad because someone hurt you, and it’s important to understand and learn from this so you don’t let them hurt you again.

But sadness is the tip of the emotional iceberg. There are thousands of feelings to be felt, and each comes with its own unique territory. Which makes emotional intelligence an important tool for dealing with them.

That being said, here’s how to be emotionally intelligent:

Know that your mind can get things wrong

Emotional Intelligence. Image: Tachina Lee on Unsplash
Emotional Intelligence. Image: Tachina Lee on Unsplash

Your mind is not an all-knowing God, which means you can’t expect it to get everything right. Because all the thoughts you conjure up come from personal experiences. They don’t come from fact.

Sometimes you’ll feel angry, and you think you know the answer, but is it really so? It’s important to reconsider sometimes because solidifying your suspicions does not always lead to good results. Being wrong about why your angry could lead to a falling out with a friend or an unnecessary argument.

And don’t forget that it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. It’s the same with intellect; you may not know the answer to all your everyday conundrums. You’re not expected to know everything. And at least knowing that you don’t know won’t lead to anything disastrous. It just means you need time to ponder.

You never know, that feeling could simply be from a crappy stomach or poor sleep.

Accept every thought, however awful

You’re gonna have thoughts that you don’t like. I get them all the time. The thought of wanting to punch someone in the face or perhaps the thought of doing something sordid. Everyone gets naughty thoughts. But as I said before, it’s important to remember that the thoughts you have are not always factual. They are simply reactions to the world around you.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should push them away. In any case, it’s impossible to stop a thought from happening.

If I was to tell you to stop thinking about a pink elephant, chances are the thought will grow. Seriously, try it now. Close your eyes and imagine a pink elephant. Then tell yourself to stop thinking about it.

See? The more you tell yourself to stop, the more you keep thinking about pink elephants.

Don’t eliminate, substitute instead! 

The trick is to substitute your thoughts. Look at the world around you and see the beauty. Or simply think about something else. A song you like or the person you love.

But most importantly, accept your thoughts before you leave them be. Especially the ones that are more prominent than others.

Accepting doesn’t mean you have to act on them. It just means you acknowledge they are there.

Let your emotions be, too

Don't care, whatever. Image: Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash
Don’t care, whatever. Image: Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash

You can’t force yourself to be happy when you’re sad. That’s an impossibility. Just like you can’t force yourself to feel motivated when you’re feeling lazy. You can obviously move about anyway, or crack a smile, but you’re still gonna feel that deflated feeling.

So let them be. Allow your emotions to flow and be cathartic if you must. Cry, punch your pillows or scream; be at one with your emotion. And once you’ve given them enough time, move on to what you were doing.

The thing is, changing your emotions is not a quick fix. In fact, it’s not something you can directly change, nor should you. Emotions are simply messages sent on a no-reply basis. Take the memo, but don’t fixate on it. And then let it be while getting on with your day.

And don’t forget to seek help when you need it. Even from your friends.

Be emotionally vulnerable

Be vulnerable when you can – especially with negative emotions – as it releases the grip you have on them. Because letting them swim around your head will lead to plenty of ruminating, even without your help.

Of course, finding the right person is not an easy decision to make. Especially if you’re friends list is overloaded with acquaintances. You fear rejection, and that’s expected. But even hiding your emotions could lead to rejection.

Your friends are not stupid, they know when something’s not right. They know when you’re not feeling your best. And if you’re shunning them while saying your fine, they’re going to wonder why you don’t trust them. Which is why you should be emotionally vulnerable.

According to licensed clinical psychologist Dianne Grande, “Emotional courage is sharing our feelings with those who are important to us and accepting their feelings as valid and important. Being vulnerable allows us to create new ideas and to see fresh possibilities that were previously blocked from our minds.”

Indeed, your friends may not be able to offer the secret to dealing with your emotions, but if they offer you empathy, that’s the next best thing. Not to mention the fact that being emotionally vulnerable is a strength in itself. The person who is willing to spill their personal feelings is taking a risk. They are confiding their personal problems and hoping to avoid embarrassment.

My advice? Who cares what people think of you! Shower your emotions without fear and you’ll attract the right people. And you may actually get some return on investment. Because being emotionally vulnerable is the key to understanding those emotions and thoughts that you’re not sure about. And let’s face it, even the smartest people get their emotions wrong.

But remember, you don’t need to have all the answers. Because true intelligence is not just knowing what you know, but also knowing what you don’t know.

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