Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed like any other, and doing so is the key to effective communication and success in relationships.
Our ability to develop and sustain positive relationships is the single most important determinant in achieving success in our work and social lives. While we are born with an instinct to be in a relationship with others, the abilities to develop and build great relationships are not innate skills, they are learnt.
Emotional Intelligence development in childhood
For each of us, the foundation of our emotional intelligence is formed in childhood. Relationship Wellness Expert, Paula Quinsee, points out: “It is here that we learn to express ourselves and to manage our emotions. Our abilities to deal with conflict and diversity, our development of flexibility and adaptability, resilience, personal boundaries and communication skills are all rooted in childhood. And so much of that learning was not conscious, because as children we modelled ourselves on our primary caregivers and mimicked their behaviour. The environment we were exposed to in our childhood also determined the coping mechanisms and adaptations we have taken on-board to survive in the world. All of this shaped the adult we became, and impacts on whether we forge healthy or toxic relationships with others.”
Emotional Intelligence development throughout life
But that doesn’t mean that your emotional intelligence is set in stone. Far from it, these are skills that can be learnt at any age, and if your key relationships, at work or at home, are not as great as they should be, then it is worth investing the time and effort in learning and mastering this vital skill-set.
The key to this, Paula says, is developing the self-awareness and awareness of others that underpin emotional intelligence. “When we are able to identify our own emotional state in the moment; know that we are coming from a positive or a negative mindset and know what we are experiencing in our bodies; then we are able to self-manage our emotional state and our reactions.
We can identify how we are impacting others and how we are allowing others to impact us,” she says, “In every situation there is always one common denominator, and that is you. We are constantly getting both verbal and non-verbal feedback from everyone around us. It’s up to us to pick up and accurately interpret the cues to best manage or best perform in the situation and environment we find ourselves in.”
Emotional Intelligence and effective communication
It is that level of awareness, of self and others, that also builds our abilities to communicate effectively and constructively. “Ninety percent of problems experienced in relationships is due to the lack of communication,” Paula asserts, “This is either what is not being said for fear of reaction or it’s about what’s not being heard. We usually listen to respond instead of to really hear where the other person is coming from. Communication creates connection and when we feel connected to someone, there is also an experience of trust and collaboration.”
Understanding how your upbringing has shaped you and created your ‘blueprint’ for relationships, becoming aware of your conflict management style and your triggers, all empowers you to change your reactive behaviour and ultimately, experience the more mature, conscious adult relationships that you need to succeed in the world.
The ways in which our formative years influence our development is one of many areas of interest that fall within the field of psychology. If you’re interested in learning more, and perhaps pursuing a career in psychology, SACAP offers a range of courses that may be of interest to you. One of the benefits of studying at SACAP is that you have the option to pursue these courses on a part-time basis. If you’re interested in learning more, enquire now.