It takes more than acing exams to get ahead. As the smartest among us are increasingly aware, learning the art of controlling and expressing our emotions is a key driver to success.
Indeed, research has shown that, aside from the obvious benefits, those who are high in emotional intelligence (EI) go on to perform better at work and earn more money. The good news is that EI is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice.
“EI is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, as well as the emotions of others,” explains Hannah Wells, Deputy Head Teacher, Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba. “Judging how emotionally intelligent a person really comes down to their own self-awareness. People need to be able to judge the impact – positive or not – of their own actions and behaviours on themselves and on the people around them. They also need to be able to judge how successful they are in managing their own emotions as well as those of others.”
To set the record straight, EI has nothing to do with your ability to cry at sad films. It's all about how you demonstrate an awareness of your own emotions, and those of others, and communicating it in a healthy way.
“We may choose to express our emotions only to people we trust and feel comfortable with and this is completely normal. The difference is that having a high EI means making a healthy choice rather than using an avoidance tactic,”
says Joanne Jewell, Founder, Mindful Consultancy (www.mindfulparentinguae.com
), which helps parents, children and families build emotional intelligence in ways that are appropriate for their age and stage of development. “Whether children are aged five or 15, if they feel emotionally connected to their parents and teachers then they will be much more likely to learn the skills we want to teach them and to seek us out when they have a problem. Further to this, using our EI is a great way to build a strong, healthy, loving relationship with our children so that they have a secure base from which they can explore the world.”
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Teaming EI with education
parents will know that demonstrating EI is an integral part of the culture – and with good reason.
“It is our responsibility as school leaders and as parents to ensure that children are being given explicit opportunities to consider their own emotional intelligence and to act on feedback,” says Hannah. “Acquiring an understanding of how to be emotionally intelligent supports children in building relationships with their peers and with adults. It helps them develop crucial collaborative skills as well as their knowledge of how to manage their own and the emotions of others.”
At Kings’ it’s believed that nurturing children to become emotionally intelligent learners will help to foster leadership potential in the future.
“Much of the research states that emotionally intelligent leaders are more likely to build more cohesive teams with higher productivity and rates of happiness and that they tend to retain employees for longer,” confirms Hannah. “Children learn best through experience and need concrete examples to help them. Our teachers build opportunities into learning across the curriculum that allows children to develop competencies linked to building EI.”
Setting the tone at home
Of course, as well as attending a school that’s on board with the concept, there’s a lot you can do at home to foster EI.
“Children learn most through role modelling, such as watching, listening and experiencing the skills we use so they learn them as and when their brain is ready,” says Joanne. “The key way to build EI at home is to value it and, therefore, role model it using appropriate skills and strategies.”
It’s something that the teachers at Kings’ also endeavour to inspire.
“Parents can help by encouraging children to self-regulate their own emotions and develop an awareness of how their actions and emotions impact on the feelings and emotions of those around them,” says Hannah. “Crucially, developing self-awareness of their own emotions is one of the first steps towards becoming emotionally intelligent.”
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4 Elements of Emotional Intelligence
EI is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence – something the teachers at King’s strive to nurture and develop an awareness and understanding of in children.
Personal competence comprises self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behaviour and tendencies.
Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen. “In order to raise our self-awareness we can reflect on how we interact with others, for instance, and what skills we use that make situations with our children successful,” says Joanne Jewell of Mindful Consultancy.
Self-management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behaviour. “This means giving emotions a name and not judging whether an emotion is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as it’s just a feeling,” says Joanne. “It also covers improving the ability to calm ourselves using self-care, breathing techniques, being self-compassionate, understanding what intrinsically motivates us and creating a healthy environment where nutritious food and exercise are part of family life.”
Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills. It also refers to the ability to understand other people’s moods, behaviour and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.
Social awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on. “Responding to our children’s nonverbal cues is important, as this teaches them the value of body language,” says Joanne. “Similarly, being non-judgmental in our approach to our children and society as a whole and having personal and family values and putting them into practice is key.”
Relationship management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and other people’s emotions to manage interactions successfully. “This means using active listening, empathy, setting boundaries and teaching our children how to set them for themselves in an age appropriate way,” says Joanne. “It also covers teaching conflict resolution skills and how to talk about what is bothering us, rather than ignoring or sending people away. Plus, it refers to using praise as a tool to build a growth mindset and intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivation.”
Source: World Economic Forum, weforum.org
*World Economic Forum. ‘Why you need emotional intelligence’ by Travis Bradberry, President, TalentSmart