By: Alan Nahle

Adulthood sometimes feels like a never-ending series of decisions we struggle to sometimes make and hope for the best after making them. How exactly do we make decisions, though? Is there a way to make decisions only based on rationale and efficiency? Is there a way to somehow always make the “right” decisions in life? 

Well, the answer most of the time is no, but the reason we cannot make “perfect” decisions in itself is something of a strength and some even call it a superpower. What I am referring to is emotional intelligence (EI). As human beings, we cannot make decisions, or do anything for that matter, without emotion. Understanding and making efforts to improve EI can be hugely impactful and beneficial to all facets of your life.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions while also considering how your emotions are connected to other people and their emotions using empathy. On the surface, it might not sound all that impressive. However, when we look at the earlier statement that all human beings make decisions and behave with their emotions, it starts becoming easier to understand how this is important. 

As human beings, we are naturally very social and large parts of our lives are interconnected with the lives of other people such as; our significant others, other family members, co-workers, community members, neighbors, etc. Oftentimes, our quality of life is directly connected to the quality of relationships we have with others. That is where EI really takes the spotlight. Someone with a strong EI is going to be far more likely to manage and regulate their own emotions while engaging with the emotions of other people, which is going to, in most cases, make for much better results when interacting with others. 

You might be wondering what exactly that looks like. An example would be a work meeting where the team is discussing policy changes. Understanding how each member of the team is feeling and where their feelings are coming from will help you come up with something that everyone feels comfortable with.

Another example can look like a day where you might be having a difficult time remembering to check in with yourself. If you’re not feeling great, the quality of the rest of the day likely isn’t going to be great either. By recognizing this and doing something that might improve your mood, you can improve the chances that the rest of the day will be much more enjoyable than if you did not recognize it and try to change it.

As a final example, consider any disagreement with a significant other. With a high EI, someone will be able to use empathy to understand the feelings of their significant other because if you can positively influence how they feel about the situation instead of the situation itself, chances are you are going to be able to come to a joint decision that you both feel makes for a good compromise. 

People with high EI tend to make others feel more comfortable and secure around them because they know their feelings are being considered and acknowledged. People with high EI help other people feel better about themselves because they understand if people feel good, they are going to be more motivated and are going to do better. 

We highlighted why EI is important and earlier in this post, I mentioned that EI is a skill that can be developed and improved with time. If you’re wondering about some ways to improve your own EI, here are some things you can try. Just remember, it takes patience and time because this is a life-long skill. Rest assured, it is worth it!

  • Self-reflection: Reflection should be about your feelings throughout the day, how you are currently feeling, processing negative feelings you had earlier, and considering different perspectives of the situation. 
  • Listen: Make a more intentional and focused effort to truly listen not only to what others say to you but the feelings behind what they are saying. Do they seem happy? Do they seem frustrated? How they feel matters and is important to consider when talking to someone. 
  • Observe: Watch and reflect on how others behave and make decisions, as well as what emotions drove them to make those decisions. Doing so helps open your mind to the perspectives of others, which will help you understand them better. 
  • Empathy: Put yourself in the role or position of others and try to experience what they are feeling as if you really were in their position. This is also extremely important in helping you understand and connect with others. 

Again, this requires patience and time, but most of life’s greatest achievements often do. The most important part is to start somewhere and practice as you go. The easiest way to start is to check in with yourself throughout the day or you can schedule daily check-ins with yourself with the aid of reminders or alarms. Some things in life are never going to be easy, but keeping track of how we feel during those times can make all the difference in the world. 

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