Many parents and teachers that I work with find it difficult to understand the difference between intellectual ability and emotional intelligence. However, they are two completely different abilities. Someone can be incredibly intelligent, be able to solve mathematical problems but that doesn't mean they can problem solve what to do when someone's feelings are hurt.
Research has shown that a person's emotional intelligence is a greater indicator of success than intellectual intelligence. So in other words, we should be more concerned about how our kids perform in the playground than in the classroom.
So what is emotional intelligence? Put simply it is the ability to recognise emotions in yourself and others. Also the ability to regulate your own emotions and know how you can help someone else with what they feel. There are 4 key areas of emotional intelligence.
1. Self awareness
The ability to recognise how we are feeling in a situation is an important part of emotional intelligence. If we can't recognise our emotions we become a slave to our reactive behaviour. If we can recognise our emotions we can also start to understand our triggers and the impact these emotions have. The ability to know what your emotions are will direct your behaviour. For example, if a child hears someone has been talking about them behind their back. Recognising that they feel hurt and sad, not just a wave of emotion clothed in anger, changes the reaction significantly.
Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses is also part of self awareness. Understanding our limitations is important so we know when we need to ask for help. Similarly when we know our strengths we know what we are capable of and how we can help others. Understanding this is a key to positive self-esteem which is extremely important for how we value ourselves and how we let people treat us.
2. Manage your own emotions
If we understand our emotions, we also understand the physical cues of the emotions and when to stop. Emotional awareness gives us insight into what we are feeling and what will happen if we allow it to escalate. Understanding that we have choices when it comes to our emotions is emotional maturity. This is a difficult skill to master and one that adults often struggle with. This is why we should be actively teaching our kids these skills before they are grown and habits have formed.
Another area of managing emotions is the insight that being trustworthy and conscientious are more important than the emotion we have in the moment. It is understanding that telling a lie might help you avoid something uncomfortable in the short-term but having people trust you is far more rewarding.
3. Empathy and social awareness
Empathy is more than just recognising what another person is feeling. Empathy is understanding someone else's perspective and actively taking an interest in their problem.
Well developed empathy helps to build a sense of security and stronger relationships with other children and the adults around them. It encourages tolerance and acceptance of others which enhances friendships and good mental health.
4. Social skills and positive relationships
Being able to take turns, loose in a game, listen in a conversation, use manners and manage conflict effectively are important social skills. It is only with these skills that positive relationships are built.
When you understand what emotional intelligence is, you can see why it is so important for future success.