Last week on the blog, we began a series on emotional intelligence. More and more people are becoming acquainted with this term, which you often hear tossed around at staff development seminars or human resource trainings.
But what is emotional intelligence? How does it serve us? How can we use it in day to day life? Why does better understanding emotional intelligence and using it to our advantage lead us to leave more productive and happier lives?
These are the questions we’re focusing on over the course of this new series, and as we address them, you’ll see how you can put emotional intelligence to work to help you learn and thrive from your experiences. To get an in-depth look at emotional intelligence, we’re examining the Mayer & Salovey model, which highlights four skills in particular when it comes to emotional intelligence. Those skills are:
- Identifying Emotions
- Using Emotions
- Understanding Emotions
- Managing Emotions
Let’s continue by examining the second skill in this model: using emotions.
Using emotions is the ability to understand the impact of emotions on thinking. Research has shown that our moods impact our tasks. Here are a few examples of how this plays out:
- A positive mood facilitates creative thinking or brainstorming. We generate new ideas and consider new possibilities
- Tasks that require attention to detail, on the other hand, are best performed whilst in a neutral or slightly negative mood. In these moods, we have a clearer focus and examine details more efficiently.
- Meanwhile, a shift in mood can lead to innovative solutions. Think about people who get their best ideas while exercising or in the shower.
Here are two reasons why this matters.
First of all, it’s important to be aware of your own emotions and mood if you want to accomplish a specific task.
Let’s say you have a big project to work though that requires some brainstorming. In other words, it’s time to get creative. However, perhaps you’re feeling flat and your emotions/mood are in a neutral zone. Recognising this and knowing that you can use your emotions to your benefit, you might decide to exercise first. Exercise will release endorphins, which will trigger a positive feeling in your body, thus elevating your mood. Now that you’re in a positive mood, you can brainstorm more effectively!
It’s also important to be aware of the emotions of others, so that you can strategise accordingly.
For instance, let’s say you’ve been practicing your pitch for a raise all week. Today’s the day that you’ll finally have a meeting with your manager. However, in a previous executive meeting that you attended with your manager, the CEO was highly critical of a paper she presented. After leaving the meeting, it’s clear that your manager is distracted…possibly even angry. Would now be the best time to ask for that raise? When you understand the impact of emotions on thinking, you’ll be able to know when to move forward and when to postpone with certain actions. In this case, postponing your request for another day would most likely be for the best.
So how can you develop your ability to use emotions?
- Firstly, work on recognising your emotions and those of others.
- Learn about how mood impacts task.
- Keep a journal of your emotions, the task and the outcome. Determine whether how you were feeling helped, hindered or had no effect.
- Practice switching moods. Find things that work for you. Music is a great mood creator as is colour.
- Develop your emotional imagination. Think about the emotion you would like to generate, then think of a time when you felt that emotion. Focus on how it felt, physically as well as emotionally.
- Words are powerful. Research shows that just saying “I am happy today” to yourself creates a subtle but effective shift in mood.
Learning how to better use your emotions and the emotions of others to your advantage is an incredible skill. It will help you become more productive with your tasks, and also allow you to strategize when interacting with others, positioning you to reap benefits more often than not.