Emotional intelligence according to the Oxford English Dictionary it is the “ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.” Sounds easy enough but so many men struggle with this every day.
Emotional intelligence relies a lot on one’s own ability to understand their own emotions, which is where men often come unstuck because we’ve been conditioned to not talk about our feelings, least of all the ones that make us feel uncomfortable like shame, fear, embarrassment and sadness.
We’ll do anything possible to avoid them, often numbing the emotions through less healthy habits. As a result, it has disrupted our ability to pick up and respond to emotions we do want to feel more of. We hint at them through actions and change our behaviour in hopes that the other person will respond favourably towards us. We do it with our friends and especially our lovers.
We will behave in certain ways believing that if we do well, we will receive what we really want from the other person – sex, intimacy, real conversation etc. This leads to exasperation when we do not receive the reaction we want, often resulting in us pushing away the very people we want closest to us. Affairs are a classic example of poor communication in relationships. The person that men often have an affair with fills the void that they are too ashamed to talk about with their partner or spouse because men don’t talk.
Here’s the bottom line. Until we learn to talk about how we feel and what our needs are we will never have them met or get the responses from people we want. People are not mind-readers so unless we talk about what is real for us it gets left to guesswork and we all know how well that goes, not very.
How can you get connected to emotions?
- Start making a log of your feelings
If you are not ready to talk to other people about your emotions and feelings yet, at least make a start at paying attention to how you feel by keeping a journal. I do not mean writing pages and pages about every part of your day (unless that becomes your thing because you’ve opened the floodgates at last).
Keep it simple and log 1 thing that went well and one thing that didn’t go well today. For each write a brief summary of how you influenced the situation and if there is anything you would do differently in the future.
This isn’t about being right of wrong, it is about learning. You can start to identify patterns you follow in certain areas of your life. For example, if you are always getting into arguments with colleagues, are you talking to your colleagues respectfully or are you making demands?
2. Practice with friends
When you start talking about emotions it can feel a little weird and embarrassing. After all, isn’t this meant to be the very thing men do not talk about, at least not seriously? Find a friend who you trust and don’t mind being embarrassed in front of and tell them you want to talk about how you feel but don’t know quite how to articulate it.
It can be a man or a woman but somebody you trust. Start by talking about how you feel in the moment. For example, you might say ‘I feel really strange talking about emotions and it makes me feel embarrassed I don’t know how to do it’ or ‘I feel like a sissy when I talk about emotions but I want to be able to connect with more people’. And if you really have no idea how to talk about emotions ask someone to help. Get a coach or talk to a friend who is more emotionally aware than you. There is nothing wrong with using someone else as a sounding board.
Talking through how we feel with another person can be a great way to get clear on what we want to say before we have to say it to the person we need or want to speak to. It helps to take some of the fear out of what we want to say because when we talk to the person we need to speak to, we have already heard ourselves say the words out loud before rather than just in our heads. It is amazing how hearing the words out loud before we have a conversation takes a lot of the fear out of the conversation we are about to have. And the more confident you become about what you want to say the more spontaneous you will start to become in saying how you feel.
3. Get curious about the other person
A great way to learn about emotional intelligence is to get curious about other people. When we show genuine interest in others, people will open up and talk about how they feel and are encouraged to share more. If you don’t understand something they say, ask them what it means to them. An example might be if someone has told you they are sad, ‘what does sad mean to you?’.
Sounds odd but your sad and their sad may be completely different because of your different life experiences. It can also be really helpful for the other person as it gives them a chance to explore their emotions further and get clear on what this emotion really means to them. Maybe their first feeling is sad but what they really feel is anger? And play around with it with other emotions like good, fine, happy etc.
4. Take it to work
Ever felt like the dumbest person in the room and tried to cover it up by being quiet or bluffing your way through it? Yep, me too. Here’s a challenge for you, next time you don’t understand something speak up. ‘Hey, I am super confused about what we are doing right now, anyone else feeling it?’.
You’ll be amazed how many people let out a sigh of relief when you do. Nobody wants to say it out loud but when someone does other people jump on-board too. It is the biggest reason businesses have so many meetings that seem to be about nothing but other meetings. There’s disorganization in there for sure but the biggest issue is nobody is willing to admit they’re super confused. You keep having meetings and more meetings until someone cracks part of the issue and then you make some progress until the next bottleneck nobody will admit they’re confused about, and the cycle begins again.
Having the self-worth and humility to speak up when you are stuck can completely transform a business environment, especially if you are a leader. People will be drawn to you because you’re open enough to admit when you don’t know everything.
Emotional intelligence is not something you go from sucking at to expert in a single experience. It is a process and ever evolving but once you get the ball rolling you will be amazed at how many areas of your life start to change.
Being open with your partner or spouse will directly impact how you show up at work. Being frank and open with your friends will impact your relationship with your significant other. And being honest with yourself will directly impact your actions and overall life satisfaction if you are prepared to stop and look in the mirror.
Wherever you are the more you lean into emotions the more you will learn about yourself and encourage others to learn about themselves, but it starts with you. Let’s get started. Comment below how you feel right now.
If you are interested in learning more about emotional intelligence and how it can help you, get in touch today.