Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment.
Let reason be your guide.
Take a step back and assess the situation objectively.
More than likely you’ve heard these sayings and others like them. Their message: Logic trumps emotions.
It’s best not to act solely off feelings. Still, emotions are not reprehensible evils that should be avoided at all costs. Emotions stem from the heart and are an essential part of our being.
They’re not the problem; how we use them is.
The trick is being able to spot them in ourselves and others, manage them well, and understand their influence on our lives.
Enter emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient. EQ enables you to control your feelings, retain a positive attitude, interact well with others, and build trusting relationships.
People with higher EQ are more adept at such skills. They also perform better academically and in professional environments, according to the International Journal of Managerial Studies and Research.
Harvard University professor Margaret Andrews explained, “People with strong self-regulation can pause and take a deep breath in tense and stressful situations, which helps them remain calm and think before they speak or act.
“On the flip side, those that cannot contain their negative emotions and impulses often set off a chain reaction of negative emotions in others.”
EQ is a vital part of any homeschool parent’s toolbox. It equips you to speak to your child’s heart, possibly the most important aspect of homeschooling.
How it works
Scientifically speaking, emotions start in your brain.
“Everything you see, smell, hear, taste and touch travels through your body in the form of electric signals” to your brain, explained Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
Those signals first pass through your brain’s limbic system, where emotions are generated, then through “billions of microscopic neurons” and onto your frontal lobe, where rational thinking resides.
So you experience emotions about an event before you can reason it out. That’s why it can be difficult to curb a knee-jerk reaction.
The good news is you can learn EQ. It’s like when you lift weights, you build muscles, which leads to muscle memory.
Similarly, when you apply EQ skills, the neurons in your brain build pathways to “remember” those skills. The more pathways, the quicker you can recall and apply your EQ skills.
“A single cell can grow 15,000 connections with its neighbors,” the authors said. “This chain reaction of growth ensures the pathway of thought responsible for the behavior grows strong, making it easier to kick this new resource into action in the future.”
Improving your EQ
EQ covers four main areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Consider taking an EQ test online to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Then focus on improving one area at a time. Here are some strategies to get you started.
Stop viewing your emotions as good or bad. “Passing judgment on whether you should or shouldn’t be feeling what you are feeling just heaps more emotions on top of the pile and prevents the original feeling from running its course,” Bradberry and Greaves said.
Instead, pay attention to an emotion when you sense it. Becoming fully aware of it enables you to understand what’s causing it, they said.
Journal about your emotions and what triggered them. This will help you view them objectively and point out patterns. “You’ll get a better idea of which emotions get you down, which pick you up, and which are the most difficult for you to tolerate,” the authors noted.
Write an emotion vs. reason list. Write down what your emotions are telling you to do in a situation, and what your reason is saying. “Your emotions will create trouble if you let them lead you around without any reason,” Bradberry and Greaves explained, “but your rational thoughts can be just as problematic if you try to operate like a robot that is without feeling.” A list helps you determine whether emotions or reasoning should “have more say in your decision.”
Take control of your self-talk. Your internal narrative directs your emotions, amplifying them whether they’re positive or negative. Most internal dialogue is positive. When you hear yourself speaking negatively, Elaine Mead, BSc, recommends switching them with such positive affirmations as:
Attempting to do this took courage and I am proud of myself for trying.
I am capable and strong, I can get through this.
I can’t control what other people think, say or do. I can only control me.
This is an opportunity for me to try something new.
For more insights on helping your child in this area, see my articles, Spock vs. McCoy: Handling Emotions Before They Dominate You and Get Your ACBs Straight: How to Belay Negative Responses When Bad Things Happen.
Clear your mental clutter. Two main things can steal your focus in conversations: your constant self-talk and composing your reply. These mental distractions keep you from fully listening. They “are much like clutter in your garage or closet—there’s useful stuff in there, but it’s crowded and hard to get to what you need,” said Bradberry and Greaves.
To clear out the clutter, don’t interrupt the person who is talking. Recognize when you start drifting toward planning an answer. Then shift your focus on the speaker’s words and facial expressions.
“Remind yourself that you are in the conversation to listen and learn something, not to wow the other person with your insightful remarks,” Bradberry and Greaves noted.
Seek the whole picture. Ask others for feedback regarding how they see you. “Regardless of the answers, their perceptions matter because others’ opinions of you influence and your life,” the authors explained. Plus, “believe it or not, what others say about you is usually more accurate than what you think about yourself.”
Put yourself in the other person’s heart. When your child is affected by a situation that you’ve never personally encountered, focus on the feelings rather than the event, said psychologist Dr. Abby Medcalf.
Perhaps the incident caused your youngster to feel humiliated or upset. “Instead of trying to put yourself in that situation, think of a time you felt humiliated or upset. Ask yourself, ‘When have I felt something like what they’re describing?’ Recall that painful feeling, not a similar event. Now you can empathize,” Medcalf explained.
“It’s not about how you would feel in their situation, but rather how they actually feel,” Andrews said.
Make your feedback direct and constructive. Feedback should concentrate on the problem, not on your child. Beware of nagging about past offenses; focus on the one current issue.
“Instead of ‘Your report is terrible,’ use ‘I believe there are parts of your report that could use revisions. [Let’s look at] some suggestions,’” said Bradberry and Greaves.
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Lasting change takes time. Improving your EQ skills can take three to six months, Bradberry and Greaves said. So give yourself grace. Stay in tune with your own emotions and trigger points. Listen purposefully. The insights you gain will enable you to connect more with your child’s heart.