Monday, October 24, 2011

Emotional Intelligence: How SMART are you behaving?

The other day I was preparing to teach a class on Conflict Resolution, and as I scanned my notes before start time I had an interesting revelation regarding Emotional Intelligence. If you don’t know, emotional intelligence is the learned ability and capacity to understand and manage your emotions.  It also means having a good perception and understanding of the emotions of others. That morning it occurred to me that the whole world would be a much different place if we were truly able to master the concepts that emotional intelligence theory suggests.
Behavioral scientists tell us that it is no easy matter to stay in control of our emotions.  It takes work to get in touch with yourself that deeply.  It takes practice, especially for those emotions that don’t seem controllable. It takes a high level of proactive forethought to manage the outlandish range of furor we experience on any given day and at any given moment. We tend react without thinking so much of the time. We respond to people and situations without first stopping to analyze our actions and words. We do and say stuff in response to life, circumstances and situations that fall way short of what could be called emotionally intelligent. However, the good news is that we can learn how, and we can learn now.
Why is emotional intelligence important? Well, consider a few scenarios I’ll describe for you. The other day I saw a man inside the Target store call his wife “stupid” several times. “That was stupid. You’re stupid. You are SO STUPID.”  His wife hung her head slightly, offering some excuses for her “stupidity”. I kept looking on.  I had a surprised and displeased expression on my face and said to myself, “NO HE DIDN’T.  He did not just call her stupid out in front of all these people.” But, yes, he really did. In my opinion, there was no consideration for her feelings, or the fact that they were out in public and everything he was saying could be overheard. I felt her hurt and embarrassment.
On another day inside Walgreen’s, a woman totally lost her cool while talking on her cell phone. She was yelling at someone on the other end, using curse words that I had never even heard before. She walked around for several minutes picking up items, while still raging wildly. She even stood in line still crazed and cussing. She barely paused from her tirade to search for her wallet and pay for the items she was purchasing. She left so emotionally charged up that it was scary. When I walked out, I saw that her car was close by the entrance and she was inside gesturing wildly and still screaming obscenities. WHEW!
Sometime ago I was at the post office standing at one of the counter tables working on a mailing project. It was around seven o’clock in the evening in late November, so it was already dark outside. A man came inside with a little boy who looked to be around six or seven years old. The man walked with a limp, almost dragging one leg in a slow, but even stride. He had a stack of mail in his hand. The little boy seem so excited to be with his Daddy, and was  jumping up and down and skipping around like kids do. I smiled when I heard him say, “Daddy, can I put the mail in?” He was now jumping up and down in place as he made the request. His Dad gave him an interesting look of disregard, and put the mail in the drop box himself. The son offered up a quick pout, and a few words of disappointment, and said “You said I could do it.”
I was still smiling as I looked on, but within a split second I saw this man ball up his fist and hit his son square in the face, hard, knocking him to the floor. The little boy shimmied fast away from his father, scooting backwards along the floor. The man moved as fast as he could, dragging that bad leg, but nonetheless moving more quickly than the boy. Next came a kick. Then, another kick. The boy got up crying and ran outside to the car. I stood there speechless, and frozen in fear.
It was dark and the parking area was dimly lit, but I watched the man head to the car. It was then that I realized that Mom was in the car, too. As I watched from the doorway, I saw her put her arms around herself in terror. She was frozen with fear, too, and unable to come to the defense of her son. I started crying, but through my tears and shock I was able to see the license plate number. I could not believe what had just happened.  I regret to this day that I wasn’t able to do anything in the moment.
A few short weeks ago, I heard about a conflict situation that had every appearance of becoming very ugly.  This was a professional situation where an individual was planning a physical confrontation against another Individual that could potentially result in a crisis in more ways than one. The anger level in this person was all self-escalated, a situation where his own self-talk had sent him into an emotional place that had him believing  that he had to defend himself against “something” the other man was going to do to him. It was all a matter of poor, irrational perception, not reality at all. All of it was made up in his own mind. The other individual was not instigating any threats against his accuser, and he had no idea that his very life could be in danger at the time. This is sad, but true.
Well, I think you get the point. These scenarios are irrational. They lack emotional control. They lack emotional intelligence.
Of course, not all encounters are so escalated and violent, but they can be just as damaging nonetheless, to ourselves and others. Everyday incidences cause us to lose our tempers, get frayed, irritated, and come apart at the seams. We get pressed for time. Traffic is congested. Work deadlines are pending. The kids are acting crazy. People strain our nerves. Arguments arise. Things don’t go as planned. Misfortunes occur. We get bad news. We feel that we are at the end of our rope. The pent up emotions rise up into actions and before we know it, we’ve said or done something that could have been handled totally different if we had not lost our head.
For the good and bad of it, it is apparent that we are highly emotional beings. It’s in our makeup. Fortunately, most of us are rational in our thinking and doing on a daily basis. We’re not walking around trying to create drama or devising ways harm someone.  Unfortunately, some people are not as capable of controlling their emotions, and that’s when anything and everything can happen from the outrageous to the unbelievable.
Can these individuals win the emotional war against themselves? The answer is yes.  They can learn to think and react in much smarter ways. Using emotional intelligence is so necessary for our lives, relationships, peace of mind and overall happiness. When we use emotional intelligence, we create harmony. We show regard and respect for others. We love out loud instead. We are easier to live with. It’s easier to live inside our own heads as well.
It takes work, but here are a few ideas that can help us start reacting S.M.A.R.T. now:
S: STOP and START. Yes, just stop it. STOP screaming at people. STOP being angry at everything. STOP abasing everybody and cursing life. STOP harming yourself and other people. TELL YOURSELF TO STOP. Get counseling if you need it, but just STOP IT. START “STOPPING” NOW. Life will feel better sooner than you can imagine. You will, too.
M: MANAGE your attitude and emotions. Choose kinder words. Use them on yourself first. Instead of telling yourself all of the reasons that validate bad behavior, tell yourself, “If I’m kinder, people will be kinder to me. If I treat others well, I will feel good about myself. If I show love, I’ll feel the love in return.” Compliment instead of condemning. Show affection instead of anger. Have more faith and less fear. Be understanding instead of uncontrollable. Pull your own leash whenever you have to.
A: ADD positive things to your life. There are a gazillion books available on managing anger and irrational behavior. There are groups that meet frequently at hospitals and clinics to discuss difficult issues if that’s your challenge. There are therapies that can address what you are feeling. Find positive solutions that will help you get yourself and emotions under control. Don’t be willing to trade a lifetime of happiness for something you can decide you’ll change. YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSES.
R: REALIZE that you were not born that way. That behavior is a CONDITIONED RESPONSE, which means your angry words, your irrational thinking and your angry reactions are more than likely learned behaviors due to your environment and people who handled you that way. YOU CAN UNLEARN IT.
T: THINK. THINK. THINK. THINK. THINK. THINK. THINK FIRST. THINK MORE. THINK LONGER. THINK and then SPEAK. THINK and then RESPOND. THINK and then DO SOMETHING. THINK and then REACT. THINK and then WALK AWAY. THINK and then CALM DOWN. THINK and then UNDERSTAND. THINK and then SAY TO YOURSELF, “I AM EMTIONALLY INTELLIGENT.”  It’s an age-old concept. USE IT. STOP AND THINK before you open your mouth or before you come out swinging. THINK!
You can start today. You can start right now.  Get control of your emotions and get control of your life. You don’t have to be a condemner of others, or someone who rages out of control, or a person who hurts and harms others. Instead, be SMART. Be smart enough to choose a better and brighter path to wonderful and successful interactions with everyone around you. Don’t hesitate to take this important step toward a happier and healthier life for yourself. You’ll feel so proud when everybody sees your intelligence is showing. You’ll also be a part of a wonderful, changing world – yours.

Silver authors all of the articles at, and also positive quotes at . She has also self-published two downloadable books, an audio e-book entitled “Colored People” and “Talk Productive: A Guide for Speaking Excellence”. For additional information, visit .