Emotional Intelligence: understanding and managing our emotions

Isn’t it fascinating to see how differently we’ve all dealt with living in a pandemic? I know many people who still choose to avoid meeting anyone indoors, and then there are others who are happily dining out and attending a variety of events. 

The real challenge in this is managing not to judge others who feel and act differently from ourselves. Emotions have been running higher than ever and I know I’ve had to work hard at not letting them run wild – from anxiety at watching regular news updates to lethargy from trying to get my brain in gear when it feels overloaded. 

Over the years I have had many ups and downs with my mental health, and I have learned to become more aware of the situations and people who may trigger this. In short, I’ve developed my emotional intelligence, but what does that actually mean? 

In simple terms, it’s about understanding and managing your emotions. It’s also about recognising emotions in others and being able to respond to these in a supportive, empathic, productive way. Self-awareness is the start of the emotional intelligence journey and for me that has been about learning to respond rather than react to emotional triggers.  

I had my first panic attack at the age of 16 and had no idea what was happening to me. Hyperventilating, trembling and a feeling of being totally overwhelmed, without any idea why, was pretty terrifying. These continued regularly and, with support, I did a lot of work to understand the complexity of the emotions I was feeling. 

Learning about myself and how to manage these emotions became a key part of my role in Learning & Development where my work with people across different organisations highlighted the importance of understanding what makes us all tick and how this impacts us both personally and professionally. A leader who is unable to recognise and manage their emotions can have a hugely detrimental impact on their team. A team who are aware of each other’s emotions and support and trust each other when times are tough, will ultimately be stronger and performance will be higher than a team who is not as emotionally intelligent. 

We are going through change like we’ve never experienced before and feeling emotions that are new and/or heightened. This can be demonstrated through unusual behaviours; so, before we judge others for panic buying either toilet roll or petrol, we should stop and think about what emotions may have been triggered in them to cause these reactions.  

When I run sessions on emotional intelligence with Digital Bricks, I ask people how self-aware they think they are.  At the start of the session the score is often quite high. By the end of the session, this is usually lower as they realise what it really means to be emotionally intelligent. 

So, in this complex new world where skills requirements are constantly changing, why not learn more about yourself and what you can do to develop your emotional intelligence in order to improve the relationships in all aspects of your life. 

Kathleen Harkins – Digital Bricks Trainer

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