Stress

Emotional Intelligence

The last couple of days have been a very interesting opportunity for some serious reflection on how I deal internally with stress and criticism. I won’t go into huge detail as to why – suffice to say that my cage has been rattled quite unexpectedly and violently so, and I’m still trying to steady myself.

But at this point, after hearing a lot of things I never imagined were true and dealing with some folks who really, REALLY got under my skin – unintentionally, but nevertheless they did – and just dealing with a whole lot of generalized crap, I’ve been able to pause and suck in a few huge breaths, and think more clearly.

Dictionary.com describes emotional intelligence as “skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.” I don’t like the word “intelligence” in this context, because at first blush, the very phrase itself suggests that a low emotional intelligence level is something akin to being stupid, and I’m pretty sure that’s not true in most cases. And in my case, I see myself as someone who can perceive and understand the emotions of others very well, but oftentimes I don’t do so well in managing my own, and I definitely don’t think that makes me stupid. Not sure what it does make me, but unintelligent isn’t it!

Out of curiosity, I took one of those “About.com” quizzes I found in the Googledom to test my own “EI” score. Here are my results:

“Your results indicate an above average score on emotional intelligence.

People with a better than average score on emotional intelligence tend to be good at interpreting, understanding, and acting upon emotions. They are usually quite good at dealing with social or emotional conflicts, expressing their feelings, and dealing with emotional situations.

It’s important to remember that no matter how good your score is, there is always room to improve your emotional intelligence. Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow. Take stock of your strong points and find ways to continue to develop and apply these skills.”

Hmmm. Interesting, because given my somewhat visceral reaction to comments made about me and other people’s behavior, I would score myself somewhere in the vicinity of the toilet bowl.

Obviously, these sorts of Internet exercises must be taken with a grain of salt (or two). Filling out a 3-minute pop quiz on the web and interpreting the results as anything other than superficial is kind of like giving your very last dime to buy sand in the Sahara Desert. And unfortunately, that doesn’t bode too well for the reality of my score. But at least in this case, the quiz master’s follow-up advice seems pretty sound:

Consider areas where you are not as strong and think of ways that you can learn and grow.

This is where the pausing and the breathing comes in real handy. And the reflection.

So, ok – a few people said some things that really surprised and angered you, but didn’t necessarily attack you personally, so there’s really no reason to get on that boat. And then, someone irritated the crap out of  you and displayed rude behavior, but that’s not really your problem and it’s way over and done with now, so why are you insisting on replaying that tape over and over in your head? And oh – just because you made a mistake here doesn’t mean you will never get there.

And so on.

One of the benefits of getting older is that it becomes easier to see the value in stopping (or at least slowing) the out-of-control freight train that emotions can often emulate by forcing one’s thinking into an objective, outside-of-oneself framework. It’s sure as hell not easy, and I don’t have as good a grasp of that skill as I’d like, but I’ve had lots of scenarios lately just begging to use the practice. All the more emotional intelligence for me, right?

I’m thinking that, barring a tragic natural disaster or some other nuclear meltdown in my personal life, tomorrow will be a better day.

 

(And just in case you’re interested, you can take that quiz here.)

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