When I think about emotional intelligence, I think about knowledge pertaining to emotions. The ability to name emotions and acknowledge them gives us the power to be attuned to how we feel. That knowledge gives us awareness about what’s going on inside ourselves. It also gives us information about how we feel impacts our interactions with others.
How is emotional intelligence different from emotional maturity? In my mind, emotional maturity has more to do with how we use our emotions in our lives. Ever get a shocking emotional response from someone? For me, this is a display of immature emotional knowledge or sensitivity. It’s okay for someone to feel what they are feeling. When someone reacts quickly without understanding their feelings, it can lead to bad outcomes. The receiving end of that is often undesirable.
In contrast, emotional intelligence has more to do with being knowledgeable about emotions. First, understanding what an emotion is and giving it a name gives us a context for understanding what we feel. That knowledge gives us a foundation to explore more about it.
When I know I’m sad, for example, it helps me learn more about what’s going on in my life. I feel sad about this news I received from my friend. Now that I know this, I can feel that sadness, and when it’s time for me to let go of that, I can choose to allow other feelings to come in. The sadness feels validated, and it’s easier to release it.
Once I’m aware of that sadness, then I understand how it influences what comes out of my mouth, or the actions I might execute. That’s where emotional maturity comes in. I can feel the sadness and acknowledge it, and when it is time for me to move away from the sadness to something more joyful, I have more freedom to do so.
Life is an experiment, I say. Emotions are such a big part of who we are. Doesn’t it make sense to get to know what they are and what they are about?