“Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33
I remember when my children were old enough to begin pulling themselves up to a standing position. It was fun to watch them as they grew stronger and stronger in their ability to stand up and then to watch as they tried to take those first faltering steps. They would not let go of whatever it was they happened to be holding onto in that moment. They were unsure of their ability to take that first solo step. But with encouragement they each finally took their first step as they let go of what was holding them back. Over time they would take more and more steps on their own and eventually they were walking everywhere. As they became more confident in their walking ability they would eventually begin to run. And once they were running, it wouldn’t be long before they would begin to add jumping and skipping to their ever-growing repertoire of activities they could do.
Each of the milestones they accomplished was bitter-sweet for me as with each one they became more and more independent of my help. But then that is the goal of parenthood. To ensure our children grow up into responsible adults able to handle whatever comes their way in life. Both the good and wonderful as well as the bad and difficult. But in order to handle what comes, we must begin with baby steps.
Baby steps are the building blocks we have as we progress in our abilities. In order to walk we first must be able to stand. In order to do addition, we must first learn how to recognize what numbers are and then we can add them together. Once we can add them together, we can subtract them and then multiply them and divide them until before we know it, we are doing Quantum calculations. This building block premise is true for all things we do. We learn what comes first and build on that knowledge. And as we build, we grow in our abilities and expand our knowledge base.
This is true for our emotional well-being as well. In order to deal with our emotions, we must first be able to recognize our emotions and accurately name them for what they are. We need to be able to name what it is we need and in naming our needs we can understand why we react in certain ways when those needs are not being met. There is a lot of self-awareness that goes into our emotional intelligence! What is EQ? Well, basically and according to dictionary.com: “it is the skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.” A high EQ is a good indicator that someone will have a successful and more stress-free life. In addition to being able to recognize and understand one’s own emotions, people with high EQ’s, can recognize the emotions of others. In short, our emotional intelligence matters. In fact, it matters a lot as we navigate life in community.
One way we can help ourselves is to first learn to label our emotions correctly and accurately. There are so many times that we over inflate what we are feeling. We exaggerate that everything in life is just the worst ever! But is it really? Probably not if we let ourselves cool down for just a minute to evaluate what we are truly feeling. When we do, our reaction might be, “I am so tired of having to do the same thing over and over. It is very frustrating.” Which is a completely different response from something being the “worst ever!” So, it is important to acknowledge our feelings as long as we label them accurately.
It is even more important to keep our negative emotions in check. Making sure we stop the negative thinking and reframing our situation in positive terms can help us manage our emotions which helps us from feeling overwhelmed. In this season of pandemic, racial unrest, and political upheaval…that is a vital practice. Something that can help in accomplishing that goal, is called mindfulness. Mindfulness means that we are aware of all that is going on around us. It also means we focus on the here and now. We do not worry about what needs to be done tomorrow. There is a scripture passage we might want to consider committing to memory: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Good advice. We have enough to do today. We don’t need to add to our to do list all the things we need to accomplish in the future. Those will happen in their own good time. We can plan, but our job is to be mindful about what we need to do today.
Something else we can work on is our communication skills. Be specific, precise, and accurate in what we are communicating to others. Lose vague language. If someone is talking to you and you aren’t sure what they mean, then ask questions. Mirror back, in your own words, what they just said. Get clarity in all your conversations. Don’t worry about what people might think. I am quite sure they will appreciate your wanting to make sure you understand them completely so there are no miscommunications or misunderstandings. I know it is something I appreciate!
Learn to understand body language. When we speak, our words, the method of our communication, our body language all go into the message we are sending. Learning to understand basic body language cues and vocal inflections is important. Understanding what is going on in the life of the people you are communicating with can also help in your understanding them and what is stressing them or causing them to act in ways that might not be typical. In addition, know your own stressors. Knowing them may help you have conversations at a different time when you are feeling less stress. Or it could allow you to acknowledge where you need some help in your life. And when you realize you need help…ask for the specific help you need.
All of the above, as well as many other skills can help you build a healthy emotional intelligence. And some of you may be asking why do I need to do this? Well, when people are ending lifelong friendships over who you voted for…when people are angry and think it is perfectly ok to yell at others and say some pretty atrocious things to one another…when people troll others online…or think it is ok to bully you for your beliefs…well…I think we all need to work on our EQ’s. And just like everything else in life we build a good emotional intelligence one step at a time. You will be successful as you continue to put one foot in front of the other. And to be sure, it is a whole lot easier than putting your foot in your mouth.
I ran across a quote, no author was given so I have no idea who to credit, but the quote said this: “the five keys to success in life are: what you watch, what you listen to, what you read, what you think about, and who you associate with.” Make sure all the above is positive and uplifting. Another way to put it is this: “Garbage in, Garbage out.” Something to think about…