Emotional Intelligence

Feb 13, 2024
Emotional Intelligence

Your emotional wellness is hugely affected by your level of emotional intelligence. In this blog I will share with you my tips on how you can build your emotional intelligence to achieve your full potential in making better decisions, managing difficult emotions and finding emotional equanimity. This will give you the opportunity to create fulfilling relationships and build more ease and calm into your life.



What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence helps you to handle your emotions, connect with people, make good choices and stay calm when life gets a little chaotic. It helps you navigate complex social situations or work difficulties with ease, and helps you maintain calm and composure when under pressure.


Emotional intelligence is a skill you can continue to develop throughout your life. Scientists have taught us that the mind is plastic, that neural pathways can change and grow!!  This means you can learn tools to bring more emotional intelligence into your life. Happy days!


Life is all about emotions. The quality of your life is dependent on how you feel.  It’s important for you to understand what emotions are, how you can handle them, and how to truly understand them and what they might be saying to you. 


By being emotionally intelligent you are able to read and understand the different emotional data you are receiving and sending. You start to understand your own emotions, such as feeling happy one minute but sad the next.  You also start to understand and be more open to other people’s emotions and are able to treat people with more compassion. You are able to understand the nuances and subtleties around conflict and difficult conversations which can lead to deeper connection and understanding of one another.  Ultimately we all want to feel seen, heard and understood - emotional intelligence will help you with this.


By developing on your emotional intelligence you will - 

  • Understand the importance of processing emotions rather than trying to avoid them
  • The different tactics we use in order to avoid our emotions!
  • Understand how emotions impact every thought and behaviour
  • Figure out what emotions you are actually feeling on a deeper level
  • What these emotions are telling you
  • How to learn and grow from these emotions
  • Have an understanding of how certain behaviour patterns are due to deeper fears
  • Understand how to observe and make sense of your emotions - in effect how to control and process them with greater awareness
  • Find more self-compassion and compassion for others
  • Respond healthily to other people’s emotions



Emotional ups and downs…

Emotions are in constant flux.  They are constantly changing.  The key is that they need to be able to come and go.  You are not your emotions.  You are not your thoughts.

Instead of thinking of these difficult emotions as negative, see them simply as a part of life.  It's ok to feel angry, frustrated, sad, hurt, fearful, worried... It's totally normal!  When we choose to listen to these emotions we can start to process them much quicker and let them guide us towards a life that feels more joyous.  When we suppress emotions they will find a way to pop back up!  Often suppressed emotions can lead to burn-out and stress related health problems.

It's important to remember that the way you engage in the emotions creates suffering, not the emotions themselves.  For example, can you feel the sadness off loss without the stories of shame?  Without telling yourself that it’s your fault, or that you made a mistake or that everyone always leaves you?  If you can actually lean into the emotion, cry, feel it in the body… you will process and learn much quicker.  The emotion won’t become stuck in the body.


Inside Out Film

Disney’s movie Inside Out, follows the mind of young girl Riley, who has to adapt to her family’s relocation. As the audience, you watch her five animated emotions work through her thoughts and feelings.   This movie is a really fun way to look at how your emotions are working within you, understanding that your emotions matter, and accepting that it’s ok to not to be ok sometimes!


Journaling idea

Watch the movie and see what comes up. Ask yourself can you identify with these 5 emotions? (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust). Write each emotion down and see if you can understand what this emotion is telling you.


The Second Arrow 

Sometimes it feels impossible to break free from difficult emotions.  As you have experienced these emotions repeatedly, they have become an automatic subconscious response.  So, a way out of this, is to re-wire your brain.


My therapist used to talk about the second arrow as a way to navigate this.  Let’s say I snapped at my partner because I am tired.  That’s the first arrow.  Then after I snap, I go into a negative spiral thinking: I am a terrible partner, I can’t control myself, I am useless, he is going to leave me, I don’t deserve him… all these thoughts are the second arrow.  How can you start to become aware of the second arrow before it starts to spiral out of control?


If you simply look at the first arrow and choose to learn from it - asking questions such as: why am I snapping at my partner?  Am I really tired and I need to rest?  Have I been overdoing it at work?  Am I not setting boundaries?  Are we avoiding a conversation that really needs to happen?  Then you can actually move forwards and find a solution to your frustration.


With time and practice, instead of the second arrow causing you pain, your brain has now been re-wired to evaluate the situation and ask the right questions in order to learn and grow and be true to yourself and your needs.


Further Reading

A great book focused on how you can reframe your thoughts and begin to understand your emotions is: ‘How To Do You’ by Jacqueline Hurst. It is a practical guide that will help you understand and address the specifics of your own thinking, which is the key to realising how problems in life can become emotional blockages. You are able to find ways to step out of emotional childhood and into emotional adulthood. 


The four pillars of Emotional Intelligence 


The four pillars of Emotional Intelligence are a great place to help you get started on understanding what can help you in developing your emotional intelligence.

Image via: wellable.co


  1. Self-Awareness

    This involves understanding your emotions, getting to know yourself and understanding why you would react a certain way. By being self-aware you understand your moods and are able to respond appropriately, guiding you to make decisions with more clarity and ease. It might be helpful to work through this with a therapist or coach who can ask the right questions to help you understand your patterns. 
  2. Self-Regulation

    Self-Regulation is a key component in your overall mental wellbeing. It helps you to manage your emotions, rather than letting your emotions control you. This skill allows you to stay composed by learning how to soothe the nervous system.
  3. Empathy

    Empathy allows you to truly tune into someone else’s situation by being able to understand and connect with what they are going through. It is about listening attentively and offering comfort to others. You don’t have to understand logically why someone feels how they do, instead you are able to put your judgements aside and be there for someone with loving kindness.
  4. Social Skills

    By developing your social skills, you have the tools to build and maintain healthy relationships. Knowing how to communicate effectively, deal with conflicts and problem solving. By having good social skills you are able to navigate social situations, read the room and know when to step back if necessary. 



Take a look at these Four Pillars - how can you implement them into your life? Can you practice with your family or friends, or within your working environment? Can you see where you might be lacking in some areas and begin to take notice and make changes in order to grow?


What are the benefits of Emotional Intelligence?


  • Have more meaningful and close relationships

    When you improve your emotional intelligence, you will create deeper connections, you will make friends more easily, you will be more of a team player and you will be able to navigate tricky relationships with more understanding and ease.
  • You are better at handling everyday stress

    Life can throw curveballs at you, but by staying strong and emotionally intelligent, you can build resilience and get better at dealing with difficult situations.You adapt to handle stressful moments and bounce back from setbacks.
  • Effective communication

    You are better equipped to know how to express your feelings and understand what others are really saying on an emotional level. This makes you more socially competent and allows for tough conversations to flow more easily.  It allows for honesty and boundaries, and it allows us to be less codependent!
  • Make smarter decisions

    With emotional intelligence you can pause, reflect and choose the best route to take, instead of flying off the handle!  We become less defensive, less critical of ourselves and others, less judgemental, we engage in less gossip and we stop our emotions ruling our lives.


Ways to develop your emotional intelligence


1. Be more self-aware

Self-awareness is key to so much of your emotional development, as the more self aware you become to your emotions and the emotions of others around you, you will greatly improve your emotional intelligence and your day to day responses to life. Knowing when you’re feeling for example anxious or angry can help you process and communicate those feelings for healthy results. 



Write down key thoughts and feelings that are coming up during the week. Begin to see them visually on paper to see if any patterns occur and look at what they might be telling you.


2. Recognize other people's feelings

Developing your emotional intelligence begins with a lot of self-reflection, but it is important to become aware of other people around you.  Knowing how to adjust your response to others is an important part of emotional intelligence. Try not to interrupt, listen with care and don’t feel like you have to fix things for others.  Just being there with an open heart is much better than thinking of the next thing to say in order to be helpful. Sometimes what you think might be helpful is not what actually helps.

To begin with you can always ask people how they are feeling to get a better understanding and show them you are prioritising them. You can also ask them what they need: “Do you need me to help you problem solve or would you just like me to listen?”


3. Practice your listening skills

To expand on the above - take time to really listen when people talk. Active listening is about truly hearing what people are saying without necessarily totally understanding where they are coming from. This indicates a level of respect, which is a key foundation for healthy relationships. When actively listening to someone, try asking them questions when they have finished what they are saying, or repeating back key points, reflecting your understanding.  “It sounds like you feel hurt.”


4. Take Accountability

Learn to be responsible for the actions that you take, for what you do and how you feel. If you make a mistake, admit it. If you’re feeling sad, then acknowledge it and sit with this feeling, rather than trying to push it away. Acknowledging feelings and behaviours can help you with processing and understanding them better.

Meditation will greatly help you with this. I speak about the benefits of meditation here

5. Be open to feedback

Being open to feedback means you are taking responsibility for your actions and are willing to improve on your communication skills. It is important to be the kind of person who can hear feedback, whether positive or negative, as it will develop your overall life skills. Use it as a chance to learn and grow, rather than be defensive. Constructive feedback isn’t always negative and doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. If hearing negative feedback makes you anxious or uncomfortable, acknowledge this and try to understand that the feedback could be pushing you forward, helping you to develop your emotional skills, not hinder them. 


6. Reflect on your responses

After a challenging situation, think about how you reacted. Was your reaction helpful? Could you do something differently next time?  For moments when it becomes too stressful take time to come back to the breath in order to ground yourself in the present moment. Slow down your breath by counting your in breath and out breath.  This is about building resilience.  I talk more about emotional resilience here.


7. Overcome the negative

Emotionally intelligent people understand the power of a positive word and a kind gesture. When you are able to stay positive in a stressful situation, you can help others around you remain calm. You can become solution focused rather than problem focused. 


7. Supportive relationships

Surround yourself with people that lift you up and who you connect with on a deeper emotional level. Having relationships that are emotionally intelligent will in turn develop your level of intelligence. It is said that you are the sum of the people around you.  So choose your friendships wisely, choose people who are your cheerleaders, who inspire you, who challenge you to grow, who are honest and who you feel safe with.


In summary

Emotional intelligence is important in all kinds of situations. Whether socialising with friends or family, working alongside colleagues, romantic relationships. Trying to understand your feelings will support you in life. It's like a key to unlock better relationships and a happier version of you!! 

A lack of emotional intelligence leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings and lonely moments. Without it, you can find making friends harder and working with others may be a struggle. 

By deepening your emotional intelligence, you will learn to manage your life in a better way and improve your mental health and wellbeing. Being in tune with your emotions can make your life and the lives of those around you brighter, more connected and successful.


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Written By Sophie Dear


In 2015 I was signed off work due to insomnia and anxiety. I was incredibly stressed both physically & mentally and as a result I suffered from numerous health problems. I trained as a yoga teacher & began to heal myself through meditation & movement. However I soon burnt out for a second time 2 years into my teaching journey. Becoming a yoga teacher hadn’t magically transformed me - I realised I needed to do the deeper work!

Want to listen to my full story? Check out some of the podcast episodes I've been featured on.

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