When my oldest son was in elementary school, he started having some behavioral issues that I had never seen in him before. Like many young children he hadn’t yet learned how to manage his emotions and anger was his downfall. After some trial and error, what I found worked best for him was space. Together with his teacher we taught him that whenever he felt angry and out of control, to step out into the hallway away from everyone else and count until he calmed down and felt more in control of his emotions. It worked. His behavioral issues ceased and to this day he practices this self-management technique.
What his teacher and I didn’t do was discount his feelings. How often have you ever had an emotional reaction or felt a certain way about something and then felt guilty for feeling that way? What we taught him without him realizing it was how to practice mindfulness. Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.” Mindfulness requires space. Space to be alone with your emotions, space to explore those emotions, and space to accept those emotions. Mindfulness is key to mastering the first two skills of emotional intelligence – self-awareness and self-management.
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. This includes being aware of and managing your own emotions, which is what my son’s teacher and I helped him learn. And it also includes being aware of how your emotions impact others and being able to read the emotions of others.
Next week I’ll be joining many other HR professionals at Perdido Beach Resort for the annual Alabama SHRM State Conference & Expo, where I’ll be speaking about the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. I hope you’ll join me there to learn more about the four skills of emotional intelligence and ways to improve your emotional intelligence, as well as a quick test to see how emotionally intelligent you are!