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From the CONCERN: EAP Resilience Library

What do 90 percent of high achievers have in common? It may surprise you, but it’s not high IQ. It’s high EI, or emotional intelligence. Recent studies suggest that people who have developed strong EI skills tend to earn more and enjoy more success in general compared to those who rely on their IQ alone.

The theory of EI starts with brain structure and chemistry. Consider a scenario where a colleague asks a tough question. That visual and audio information enters the brain through the limbic system (the brain’s emotion factory), where it picks up emotional energy. Then, it travels to the frontal cortex (the brain’s executive office), where we make rational decisions.

By nature, the brain puts the emotion first. So, the more emotionally charged the question, the harder it is to react rationally. However, observing our feelings, and working with them mindfully, can help us to offset this pattern and be more resilient and rational in the face of strong emotion.

Here are some ideas for building a solid EI foundation by mindfully approaching strong emotions.

Pause and Observe: As soon as a strong emotion comes up, stop for a moment, take a deep breath and let yourself experience the moment. Try not to push the feeling down, ignore or try to change it.

Identify and Acknowledge: Mentally recognize the feeling, give it a name and acknowledge it. For example, you might say to yourself, “This is frustration. I’m feeling frustrated right now.”

Accept with Compassion: It’s human to feel. Try accepting your emotions with that in mind. Holding the emotion in your awareness—without judging yourself for feeling it—can help lower the emotional intensity and achieve a sense of calm.

Find the Why: Although a trigger in the moment can cause an emotional reaction, a very strong one indicates that something else might be in play. Once you’re in a calmer state, try taking a deeper look into what fueled your reaction. Were you worrying about something else? Have there been other, unresolved, instances in the past that have made you feel the same way?

Once you’ve applied some mindful self-awareness to your emotional state, you will likely be better able to respond appropriately to the situation. Sometimes, the exercise of observing what you’re feeling in the moment is all you need to begin to move forward positively.