Restraint – The Key to Improving Emotional Intelligence

You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass. – Warren Buffett.

I saw this quote scrolling through social media recently and it really caught my eye. I think the message is absolutely pertinent in today’s society where people’s tempers seem to flare at the slightest urging, from battles on social media to recurrent road rage incidents.

Despite being a writer, I never really thought about the true power words have. I think back to learning about kinetic and potential energy in grade school science class, and I see a similar connection with words. Words have the potential to have an incredible amount of energy, depending on how they are used and in what manner they are received.

How can one person remain unfazed while someone else may be immediately moved to take negative action when exposed to the very same words? It all comes down to emotional intelligence and how much power we allow those words to have in our lives.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Also known as Emotional Quotient, or EQ, emotional intelligence is a term originally coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey but brought to prominence through the writings of Daniel Goleman.

Goleman reflects on writing his 1995 groundbreaking book simply entitled Emotional Intelligence. According to Goleman, “Those were days when the preeminence of IQ as the standard of excellence in life was unquestioned; a debate raged over whether it was set in our genes or due to experience. But here, suddenly, was a new way of thinking about the ingredients of life success. I was electrified by the notion,” said Goleman.

Using emotional intelligence in daily life

Understanding emotional intelligence may be the first step, but how does a person incorporate emotional intelligence into their everyday life? It’s certainly easier said than done.

Emotional intelligence is made up of five unique components that incorporate both internal and external interactions. The three internal hallmarks of emotional intelligence pertinent to self are:

  • Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.
  • Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgement and think before acting. In practice, it is your ability to influence your emotional clarity.
  • Motivation is a passion to work for reasons that go beyond the external drive for knowledge, utility, surroundings, others, power or methodology and are based on an internal drive or propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Externally, EQ is a measure of what goes on between you and others.

  • Social-awareness is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and how your words and actions affect others. Summed up, it’s all about assessing others.
  • Social-regulation is your ability to influence the emotional clarity of others through a proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.

Self-Regulation: the key to improving EQ

Once we become aware of how we feel and what we are thinking, we can begin to improve our EQ. Recognition is the first step. Being aware of how we feel and thinking before acting can make all the difference.

Self-regulation speaks to the ability to suspend judgement in a moment of stress and thinking before acting. Defined, it is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. Self-regulation is a person’s ability to modify their own mood when they become self-aware of a disruptive mindset.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve said something and almost immediately wish you had a chance for a “do-over?” This realization is an example of self-awareness. The key is getting to a place of realization before you say something you may later regret. When you accomplish this, you improve your self-regulation. Remember how powerful words can be!

You can begin to work on self-regulation by asking yourself a few simple questions during moments of stress:

  • Does this issue need to be addressed right this minute?
  • In the grand scheme of things, how important is this issue?
  • Am I able to walk away from the situation to gain time and perspective?

Often, time is your greatest ally. When seconds count, even a deep breath can make all the difference between a good and bad encounter. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a moment to gain your composure, take a deep breath and run through those questions. Since you can’t unsay something to somebody, it’s best to think things through before you say something you’ll regret. Showing restraint is paramount to keeping composure and is the underlying key to improving emotional intelligence.

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