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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence Can Improve Resilience

A better understanding of emotional intelligence can help us be more resilient.

If you’ve ever had a stressful situation at work, an argument with a family member, or a break up with a partner, you may recall thinking “how could I have handled that differently?” Or perhaps you leave these kinds of stressful situations feeling overwhelmed, angry, or discouraged. The good news is that there are practical ways to reflect on our emotions and manage the way that we respond. The ability to effectively do this is known as emotional intelligence.

Dr. Daniel Goleman has been researching and writing about emotional intelligence for over two decades. Dr. Goleman has been educating people about how to integrate emotional intelligence into education, the workplace, and leadership roles. The premise of his work is that we can improve the quality of our relationships by understanding ourselves, understanding others, and knowing how to effectively communicate. Dr. Goleman’s research and writing have influenced how I see the connections between emotional intelligence and resilience.

Some of us are naturally more emotionally intelligent, though we must all pay attention to how we are interacting with others. Many people benefit from increasing their emotional intelligence, or at least certain aspects of the way they understand and engage with others. Because having emotional intelligence generally improves our relationships, as well as helps us respond well in a variety of situations, it can be linked to resilience.

A person who is self-aware, socially adaptable, and empathetic will be able to survive and thrive on the other side of a life crisis because they have the social and relational skills to be able to handle unexpected and unfortunate circumstances. They know how to advocate for themselves, to problem solve, and to seek support when they need it the most.

In addition, emotionally intelligent individuals know how to provide empathy to those around them who may also be affected by a crisis or dire situation. Being supportive and compassionate to others can have a positive impact on our emotional adjustment—when we feel needed and believe that we can help others, we also become stronger and more resilient.

While the development of social skills is an important piece of emotional intelligence, this is only one aspect of it. Other important components of emotional intelligence include:

  • an understanding of self—demonstrating awareness of our emotions but also how we affect others
  • a desire to know and understand others—demonstrating that we are interested in others and seek to engage with them meaningfully
  • the ability to empathize—understanding the experiences of others and being willing to accept those that differ from our own
  • the motivation to persist and overcome challenges—having the energy to reflect on our choices and to make changes
  • the ability to regulate and manage one's emotions—controlling intense emotions and coping with negative thoughts and feelings effectively

Resilience is important to living a healthy and happy life. By not allowing circumstances to get the best of us and keep us down, we can rise up above times of trial and believe that we can survive and even thrive because we have endured struggles. If we believe that we are not broken by circumstances, but rather that the big picture of our life is bigger than our specific circumstances at any given time, we can manage the intensity of our emotions and become more resilient.

I wonder what would happen if we started a revolution to promote emotional intelligence as the best way of building resilience? What would happen if we taught emotional intelligence as part of an educational curriculum, alongside of other core areas of knowledge? In the world today, where children are forced to grow up quickly, where they are exposed to tragedy and violence in every direction, and where we can never predict when someone will have to endure an unexpected loss or prolonged suffering—why isn't emotional intelligence widely known as the key to resilience?

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