A good friend of mine recently asked my opinion about her new partner. She was so excited about her new relationship and couldn’t wait to hear my comments. However, the problem was that I didn’t like the guy at all. I wasn’t even sure why, but I simply disproved him.
I wanted to be honest with my friend, but I was afraid my comments would offend her.
So, I started questioning my feelings. I asked myself, “Why I disapprove this relationship? Do I fear that my friend won’t have time for me anymore? Am I jealous? Do I know something bad about her boyfriend? Do I think he doesn’t treat her well?”
I figured that I cannot find any real reason to dislike this person and decided to get to know him better before I make any comments. So, that’s exactly what I told my friend – that I would like to form some kind of a relationship with him before I give my opinion. She was happy with the answer. And, yes…he actually turned out to be a nice guy.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
An extensive research has proved that emotional intelligence profoundly affects every single aspect of our life. People with high emotional intelligence tend to develop more successful relationships, achieve better academic success, and have better job performance. In short, emotional intelligence may be your secret formula to thriving relationships and prosperous life.
If you look up the most common definition of this phenomenon, you will find a description of emotional intelligence (also known as EQ or EI) as our ability to identify, understand, and manage our own and other people’s emotions.
Personal qualities such as self-control and empathy help us build and keep-up healthy interpersonal relationships. If you have a high EQ, it is most likely that you are highly aware of your feelings as well as how those feelings affect other people. Furthermore, being smart about feelings includes the ability to understand and predict other people’s emotional reactions and respond to them appropriately.
In other words, people with high emotional intelligence know what they are feeling and why they are feeling a certain way. In addition, they understand how their feelings affect others – a perfect formula for success of your interpersonal relationships.
It is commonly believed that emotional intelligence comprises the following attributes:
o Empathy (social awareness)
o Social competence
Enhancing these skills may help you develop fulfilling relationships and be happier.
Highly developed self-awareness means that you have a good understanding of your emotions. Moreover, self-awareness refers to your knowledge of both your strengths and your weaknesses – you can recognize when you are right but also willing to acknowledge when you are not.
Also, your self-awareness allows you to understand how a certain situation makes you feel. Moreover, the high consciousness means that you can successfully recognize and acknowledge other people’s feelings and reactions.
Self-management (often referred to as self-regulation) describes your ability to successfully control your emotions. Advanced self-regulation means that you have an excellent emotional control. Additionally, it means that you can associate your feelings and then apply them to reach your goals. Highly developed self-management skill also defines you as a person who can successfully influence other people’s feelings.
What do you do when a person you’re having a dinner with has a piece of lettuce stuck between their teeth? If you point it out, you will save the person a public embarrassment. On the other hand, you might be making her more self-conscious or causing her embarrassment.
But you are high in EQ, which means that you are empathetic. Try to determine whether you would like someone to point this piece of lettuce if it were you. Then try to estimate how similar you are to this other person and decide whether she would appreciate your honesty or meet it with indignation and humiliation. If you do decide to broach the subject, do it in a gentle, yet clear manner.
Awareness and understanding of other people’s feelings allow you to accept others. Recognizing how your partner, a family member, a friend, or a coworker feels leads to emotional resonance – feeling what other person is feeling. Furthermore, being empathetic means that you are able to acknowledge their emotions and feel them without judgment.
Motivation component of your emotional intelligence represents the ability to link your emotions together to motivate yourself to work towards reaching your goals.
Highly developed social skills include the ability to understand your own and other people’s verbal and non-verbal communication. Individual social competence skills are usually highly developed in people who are perceived by others as outstanding leaders or exceptional negotiators.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Scientific research indicates an important correlation between our EQ and positive attitude on life. Studies suggest that high emotional intelligence can reduce our mood swings and lessen anxiety. Furthermore, as already mentioned, our ability to recognize and understand other people’s feelings can help constructively resolve conflicts and build positive interpersonal relationships.
EQ and Interpersonal Relationships
If you have a better understanding of your feelings as well as the ability to manage them, you’ll be able to express yourself in an assertive and constructive way. Correspondingly, the ability to ‘put ourselves in someone else’s shoes’ helps us better understand other people’s feelings, thoughts, needs, and motives. In short, self-awareness, self-management, and empathy are a sure road to thriving relationships.
EI and Professional Performance
A well-known EI expert, Dr. Travis Bradberry believes that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58 percent of our job success. According to Dr. Bradberry, around 90 percent of top performers have a high degree of emotional intelligence.
How you relate to others may be essential for your professional career. Studies suggest that high EQ is one of the main characteristics of outstanding leaders – a high degree of self-awareness, self-regulation, along with developed empathy, motivation, and social competence are essential in a highly competitive workplace nowadays.
For instance, if you are a manager with a high degree of emotional intelligence, it is most likely that you will delve into the reasons behind the decline in one of your employee’s performance as opposed to a manager with a lower degree of EQ who would probably assume that the employee is simply not hardworking enough.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor, emotional intelligence is vital in the candidate job selection process – through a hiring process, employers are searching for candidates who have a high ability to work in teams, who are good listeners, have solid leadership potential and who are adaptable and flexible.
How Emotional Intelligence Affects Your Relationships?
Imagine that you are supposed to meet your friend at a specific time at the train station and he is late. After almost half an hour of waiting and a good chance to miss the train you’re both supposed do board, you are starting to feel very upset. You call him a couple of times but your call goes straight to his voicemail. You are not sure should you catch the train and leave without your friend or wait and hope that he’ll be there in time for another train.
The high-EI approach in this situation would mean that you are able to recognize and control your feelings of impatience, anxiety, and anger. Instead of bursting out in anger once your friend finally arrives, think of potentially good reason for his delay. Or simply wait for the explanation before you react.
Satisfying, ongoing relationships (whether we talk about relationships with our family members, friends, or romantic partners) require a certain amount of emotional intelligence. Actually, relationship experts believe that a relationship success may be determined largely by the compatibility of two persons’ levels of emotional intelligence.
Thus, being emotionally intelligent can help your relationships flourish. Studies show that our interpersonal relationships benefit from our ability to self-regulate. Emotional regulation means the ability to act towards achieving your long-term interests and deepest needs. Moreover, it represents your ability to calm yourself down when you are upset.
When it comes to romantic relationships, your relationship management skills will help you bond with your partner and develop a long-lasting relationship. Relationship management skills include your ability to understand both your and your partner’s verbal, and, more importantly, non-verbal communication signals – gestures and body language.
After a short argument your partner says that he is not upset with you. However, you notice that he keeps his arms firmly crossed across his chests while refusing to look at you – his body language sends a completely different message.
This understanding can help you communicate openly, listen actively, inspire your partner’s personal growth, and manage conflicts successfully.
Understanding your emotions and how to control them enables you to understand how other people feel too. This gives you the opportunity to improve your communication and nurture stronger, significant relationships.
Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Bids
Sustained and healthy relationships do not just happen on their own. Positive relationships with your emotional partner, family members, or close friends need to be continuously nurtured.
According to Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist and relationship researcher, one of the best ways to nurture your relationships is to be aware of your partner’s bids for emotional connection. Dr. Gottman believes that if you learn how to recognize other people’s emotional bids and respond to them properly, you have better chances to create and maintain positive, long-lasting relationships.
What is an Emotional Bid for Connection?
The concept of bids for emotional connection resulted from more than forty years of relationships research by Dr. Gottman and his team.
An emotional bid is everything you say or do to signal that you want some sort of a positive connection with another person. For example, when telling your partner a joke or giving him a hug, you are making a bid for connection.
Dr. Gottman firmly believes that bids for connection are central to every relationship. We use them as a way to express our needs for attention, affection, and affirmation. Partners in a relationship constantly make emotional bids towards each other to build, maintain, and re-establish a deeper bond.
When you playfully throw a pillow at your partner, you’re actually saying, “I would love us to have fun together”. Or if you ask him to make you a cup of tea “I need your care and attention”.
Each time you turn towards your partner’s emotional bids, you are contributing to your ‘Emotional Bank Account’. Dr. Gottman believes that every positive interaction with your partner increases a value in your emotional bank account and that the savings in your emotional bank account are key in stressful situations – they remind you of a mutual support and feelings thus making you more resilient to stress.
The Research behind Emotional Bids
To determine the importance of emotional bids, Dr. Gottman and Dr. Janice L. Driver studied 49 newlywed couples in what they called ‘an apartment laboratory’. The researchers observed and videotaped the behavior of these couples during a 10-minute dinner session and 15-minute conflict discussion.
They compared the video from the experiment with the real outcome of the couples’ relationships ten years later. The results revealed that the couples who stayed together longer turned toward each other’s bids 86% of the time. In contrast, couples who divorced within a decade turned towards bids only 33% of the time. Additionally, couples who turned towards bids more often shared more mutual humor and affection and had less negative emotions during a conflict discussion.
What Do We Bid For?
Based on years-long research, Gottman and Driver have identified different ways in which partners make bids for emotional connection. Some of these include bids for affection, bids for connection, bids for emotional support, and bids for humor.
How Do We React to Emotional Bids?
There are basically three ways you can respond to other people’s bids for emotional connection: turning toward, turning away from, and turning against an emotional bid.
Turning toward bids for emotional connection means that you are employing your EQ to recognize and respond to all those small positive interactions that you and your partner normally share. Turning towards your partner’s bids for connection send a series of messages, such as: “I hear you. I understand you or would like to understand you. I would like to be with you and to help you. I accept you”.
Turning away from your partner’s emotional bids happens when you miss their bid for emotional connection. Turning away can have a harmful effect to your relationship, as repeatedly missing your partner’s bids for connection will most likely reduce them over time or even push your partner to make those bids somewhere else.
Turning against your partner’s emotional bids means that you are rejecting them. And this is, according to Dr. Gottman, the main relationship killer. Turning against may be expressed through disrespectful responses or intentional insults.
For example, you and your partner are standing in a line waiting to board you flight. You say to him, “I hate these line-ups! It’s such a waste of time!”
Turning away response: your partner is ignoring you –he is not responding at all. Or he completely changes the subject. He may, for example say something like, “I forgot to charge my phone”.
Turning against: your partner is displaying an irritable, negative or even hostile response to your emotional bid. For instance, he might say something like, “I can’t believe it! Do you always have to complain about everything?!”
Turning toward: your partner responds saying something like, “Yes, I know, I hate waiting too. I really hope we’ll have a good flight!” He acknowledges your request for connection and intimacy.
It is important to recognize your partner’s bids and learn how to turn towards them most of the time. Turning towards each other’s emotional bids can bring you and your partner closer together and help you build a stronger bond.
Having a high degree of emotional intelligence means that you’ll be able to catch your partner’s bids for emotional connection on time and turn towards them. And according to Gottman’s Institute research, turning towards bids is a base of lasting and thriving relationships.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence and Master your Emotional Bidding?
Our emotional intelligence skills are something that we can practice and master. Here are a few guidelines to help you boost your EI and catch other people’s emotional bids on time.
Following Your Intuition
If you stop and listen to your gut, you’ll see that your intuition can often help you find new and creative solutions. It can also help you see things differently. Going with your gut will increase your ability to accept own and other people’s feelings. Moreover, listening to your body and its sensations can help you better understand the underlying emotions and their effect on your reactions.
Mindfulness exercise can help you become more self-aware and enhance your social competence. Deliberately focusing your attention on the present moment without any judgment can help shift attention from your thoughts toward a gratitude for the moment. Mindfulness helps you stay present at the moment, relax, and focus on your feelings.
The Awareness of Unconscious Feelings
Paying attention to what your subconscious is telling you can help you become more aware of your subconscious feelings and motives behind your reactions. To boost your self-awareness, try free associations. Explore your emotions and try to connect them with your thoughts and behaviors.
Nonverbal Communication Perception
Nonverbal communication signals such as eye contact, gestures, body posture, and facial expressions unconsciously send an important message about your thoughts and feelings. Nonverbal communication helps express yourself wordlessly but it also helps you read other people’s emotional reactions. Recognizing and understanding nonverbal signals can play a huge part in your relationship’s success.
Understanding your own and other people’s feelings without judging them is a starting point in the success of your interpersonal relationships. Emotional intelligence represents both your ability to look inside and be present in the outside world, especially in your relationships with others. Develop and nurture your emotional intelligence. It will reward you with long-lasting relationships and successful life.