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EQ can mean the difference between love and hate, violence
and non-violence, and, ultimately, war and peace.
Meaningful friendships, satisfying working relationships, and intimate romantic partnerships are what make life worth living. Studies show dying people consistently report the same thing as having been most important to them during their lives: Relationships.
Healthy use of our emotional intelligence offers us much help this major part of our lives. A touch of EI at the right time can mean the difference between conflict and cooperation, understanding and disagreement, closeness and distance, love and hate, violence and non-violence, and ultimately, war and peace.
Most of us desire more closeness in our lives. We prefer acceptance and approval over rejection and disapproval. The more important the person is to us, the more important their approval and the more intense our fear of disapproval. This importance may be a result of either:
(a) Our respect for them, or,
(b) Our dependence on them
Either way, we want to have the best relationships possible. Therefore, let's look at some practical guidelines for improving relationships in the areas of friendship, work, and intimacy.
All of us need true friends. But what is a true friend, and how do you know when you have found one? We can best answer that question in terms of our feelings. With a true friend you feel:
Approved of Encouraged
(Not coincidently, these are the same feelings children need from their parents.)
With high EQ you attract and keep such people because:
You accept them rather than judge them. You express your feelings and encourage them to do likewise. You take responsibility for your feelings and never lay guilt trips on them. You show empathy, compassion, and understanding for their feelings. You are sensitive to their feelings and needs, but you do not let yourself feel responsible for meeting them. You recognize that each person is responsible for their own feelings, thus they never feel like a burden. You do not blame them or attack them, so they do not need to feel defensive or to counterattack. You do not advise them or tell them what to do, since you know that this will foster dependency and, later, resentment. You are honest with them, even when what you have to say is unpleasant for them, because (a) You respect them enough to honor them with the truth, (b) You want them to grow through awareness, and (c) You trust them enough to manage their own responses.
A true friend is someone who helps you reach your highest potential, someone who helps you be the best you can be. At the early stages of your friendship a true friend gets to know the real you by frequently asking how you feel about different things. They ask questions like:
What's important to you? What are your values? What are your beliefs? What are your fears? What are your dreams and desires? What do you feel strongly about?What infuriates you? What excites you?
As the friendship develops, your friend is able to help you find the answers to your important questions in your life. She does this not by advising you, but by asking you the right questions. Perhaps the most important question a friend can ask us is, "How would you feel if you did this versus that?" Our friends serve us best when they help us focus on our feelings. They don't tell us what they would do if they were us, since they know that if they were us, they would do exactly what we would do (since they would have our same fears, desires, values, beliefs, needs, etc). When we are feeling down, a true friend helps us identify our feelings and generate options for feeling better.
A true friend is also honest enough to tell you when you seem to them to be:
Acting out of character
Acting out of integrity
Acting under your potential
Neglecting your feelings
A friend gives you feedback in an objective, but caring way. She shows concern for you when, for example, you are hurting yourself by being hard on yourself. She express her fears, rather than telling you what she thinks you should do.
A friend who is willing to give honest feedback is invaluable, since she will often see things that you do not. We can encourage such honesty by our willingness to listen with an open mind and without feeling the need to defend ourselves. The more secure we are, the easier this is.
Finally, a true friend gives us emotional support, but does not try to fix things for us or do things for us.
Popular convention holds that work and feelings do not mix. When you go to work, you are advised to "leave your personal feelings at home." This is literally a counter-productive convention. It causes burnout, turnover, and alienation. When people are treated with respect, and when they feel their co-workers and managers are their friends, they are much more productive. What I mean by respect, by the way, is respect for feelings. Feelings, though, are not often topics of discussion at work. The common office greeting is "How ya' doin'?" not "How are you feeling?" We may be "doin" okay, but feeling miserable inside. Actually, most people at work don't really want to know how you are feeling. We all have so many negative feelings that it would take a long time to go through them. And after all, there is "work" to be done.
There are several problems, though with neglecting feelings. First, managers miss out on a wealth of information simply because they don't ask how an employee feels about things. Neither do they ask how an employee would feel if certain changes are made. They might ask what the employee "thinks," but rarely how he feels. It is interesting that managers who are otherwise experts at interpreting and analyzing data, are often beside themselves when it comes to emotional information.
Second, when employees are afraid to share their true feelings for risk of being fired or punished, both the management and the company lose valuable sources of data. Every work day employees across the country hide facts from their management out of fear. In addition, when a psychologically safe environment is not fostered, companies miss excellent opportunities to develop cohesiveness.
Third, when employees are harboring negative feelings, whether the source is the home or the office, they are simply less productive. They can't concentrate, they feel edgy or defensive, and they spend large amounts of time seeking solace from other employees.
A further argument for addressing feelings is to prevent needless lawsuits. In my experience, people resort to lawsuits more from emotional reasons than financial. Countless numbers of suits could be prevented, therefore, if people's feelings were respected. Once a conflict reaches the stage of legal involvement, feelings are strong, and the legal system is not at all designed to nurse emotional wounds. Lawyers, in fact, may be among the worst group of people to address emotional issues since they receive no training in emotional skills, and, in my opinion, seem to be largely trying in vain to feel powerful and important through winning cases and amassing wealth. At any rate, there can be no doubt that companies which address emotional issues, will spend far less money defending themselves in court. When emotions are openly discussed and each employee's feelings are treated with respect, companies will not only face fewer lawsuits, but they will also benefit from increased loyalty, more dedication, more commitment, more cohesiveness, and higher productivity. Research confirms, by the way, what we would expect: that employees who possess high EQ are promoted more often than those who possess only high IQ's.
Intimate Romantic Relationships
We all yearn to be totally accepted just as we are. We long to be accepted and loved even when we are angry, sad, jealous, hurt or depressed. In fact, when we have the most intense negative feelings, it is simply an indication that we are most in need. These are the times we most need to be accepted. Healthy intimacy is the state of such total acceptance. Healthy intimacy means sharing your innermost self, in other words, your deepest fears and desires. To do this you must know what you feel and know how to express it. Intimacy is unhealthy if intense feelings are expressed in unhealthy ways, such as through acts of jealousy, anger, violence, and loveless sex. There is no safety in such a relationship, so true feelings will eventually either get buried or find expression indirectly through actions and reactions. The pinnacle of acceptance is sexual intimacy. In healthy relationships, sex follows emotional intimacy rather than the other way around. Reaching this pinnacle of total acceptance requires a progression up the ladder of acceptance which we saw previously. (Note that I have added two steps at the top of the ladder: intimacy and sex.)
Frequently, even habitually, sexual intimacy is seen as a shortcut to total acceptance. In reality though, sex without all other forms of acceptance being met is only a substitute for the more important emotional and psychological acceptance. This is somewhat like robbing a bank, winning a lottery, accepting handouts, or receiving an inheritance. In each case we tend to feel undeserving if we benefit from something we have not earned through our own efforts and merit.
People with low EQ often seek physical intimacy in the place of emotional intimacy, but are destined to remain unfulfilled because no amount of a physical substitute can fill a psychological need. Just as when we climb an actual ladder, we risk injury when we try to climb to fast or skip too many rungs. With relationships, however, we risk hurting not only ourselves, but others as well.
On the other hand, people with high EQ are much more emotionally available for all types of intimacy. If you are ever uncertain as to whether to enter into a sexual relationship, ask yourself if you feel understood, respected, admired, supported, and valued.
Suggestions for Creating Intimacy
I think you... You shouldn't... You better... You should... You need to... Why don't you...
Can't put together three word sentences beginning with "I feel"
Frequently feel angry, disappointed, hurt, ignored, jealous, rejected, unimportant, inadequate, unsupported, bitter or needy. These are signs of low self-esteem, unhappiness and unrealistic expectations, all of which set you up to fail.
Healthy emotional intimacy requires two sensitive and aware people; you can not create it alone. What you can do alone, however, is work on elevating your own EQ so you will increase your odds of attracting and keeping a healthy, happy partner.
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