Emotional Intelligence: The 8 Evolutionary Steps to Master Emotional Skills

Three are the main categories in which we can group the capabilities that drive people to outstanding performance.

Pure technical skills are knowledge-based depending on the different fields in which we are operating. Accounting for someone working in banking, laws of physics and materials for engineers or dates and history for a tourist guy.

Cognitive abilities, otherwise, are brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. They are related to the mechanisms of how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention, rather than with actual knowledge. Perception, or the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli; attention or the ability to sustain concentration on a particular thing and to manage competing demands in our environment; memory, motor skills, language, visual and spatial processing or executive functions are the best examples of them.

Finally, we come to the group of all those competencies that demonstrate emotional intelligence, exemplified around five main groups of skills fundamental to enable the best of leaders to maximize their own and their follower’s performance. Self- awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills are the key steps to master EI.

And yes, the three of them are important. But according to Daniel Goleman, when calculating the ratio of technical skills, IQ and emotional intelligence, EQ is proved to be twice as important as the others at all levels. After all, is emotional intelligence what build rapport with others and make them move in the desired direction. And these are the eight evolutionary steps to do so!

1. Identifying and labeling feelings

Anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, shame. These are some of the candidates considered as primary feelings from where all the others derive and evolve. From anger, we can experience resentment hostility, indignation. From sadness, other emotions such as grief, sorrow, self-pity, melancholy. Anxiety, nervousness, concern, or consternation from fear. Joy, relief, pride, satisfaction from enjoyment. Acceptance, kindness, friendliness, or adoration from love. The list of emotions is long. Recognizing them and putting them a name according to our body reactions is the first step into the ladder of high performance.

2. Assessing the intensity and duration of feelings

Emotions display a remarkable variability in intensity and duration. Every feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, manifest in different levels of intensity. From a light agitation or disturbance of mind to psychopathologies or extreme pathological reactions that require external guidance and special treatment.

Basic feelings have an emotional nucleus at its core. In its surrounding, we can find moods, which are more muted and last longer than an emotion. Beyond moods are temperaments or the readiness to evoke a given emotion or mood. And still beyond we can find disorders of emotions considered as clinical pathologies. 

Understanding the emotional intensity and duration of our feelings is not only essential for getting a better picture of our emotional life but also to better identify any possible emotional disturbance characterized by inappropriately strong (or weak) and long (or short) emotions display.

3. Expressing feelings

Emotions entail three main elements. A subjective component that defines the way we personally experience the emotions. A physiological component or how the bodies react to the emotion. And an expressive component that determines how we behave in response to this emotion. In this behavioral element, the expression of feelings plays an over-expanding role as t he positive management of our emotions is directly related to the positive and appropriate communication of them.

4. Controlling impulses

Strong willpower is an excellent ally of positive emotional management. Strengthening willpower helps to better educate character and positively control emotions. By controlling our own impulses and driving them to the consecution of our desired outcomes, we gain a sense of ownership and responsibility for our own lives that allow us to design and achieve the best version of us and others around us. Counting to three before answering to a toxic person or letting other person finished taking before jumping in are simple actions that we can exercise daily. As small as they may seem, is on mastering control over these little actions that we can over perform emotionally when needed. 

5. Delaying gratification

Closely linked to controlling our impulses and developing strong willpower, we found the delay of gratification. Revealed as one of the most effective personal traits of successful people, this trait ensures a long-term perspective and a sustainable approach to goals-achievement. Choosing to have something now feels good, but making an effort to have discipline and manage impulses can result in bigger or better rewards in the future.

6. Reducing stress

Stress affects social skills because it is one of the most significant barriers to successful communication. Communicating under pressure will substantially increase our chances to display negative non-verbal signals and lose control over our emotions. Reducing daily levels of stress and ensuring a calm environment are vital when we are training ourselves to better master our feelings and emotions.

7. Knowing the difference between feelings and actions.

Understanding the life cycle of emotions as well as the differences between what we feel and what we do is crucial for healthy development and mastering of social skills.

Each emotional episode is characterized by two stages. During the first stage, the emotion blossoms and strengthens over time, adding to the overall intensity of the emotion. During the second stage, the emotion fades with the speed of this recovery process being strongly related to the duration of the emotion.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to master our emotions, so we use them in at the right time and the right way. For that, understanding the difference between what we feel and what we do is crucial. Yes, our most primitive part of the brain built upon emotions as a mechanism to ensure survival. We were feeling fear to hide, anger to kill our enemies, and sexual excitement to reproduce. But after millions of years of evolution, different layers were added to this primitive brain forming the neocortex and offering an extraordinary intelligence edge that allows us to strategize and plan long-term. It is thanks to the neocortex that we started to feel fear and chose to use it to be better prepared. That we were able to control our anger, ensuring the long term achievement of our goals even when against our momentaneous negative impulses.  That we were able to feel sexual attraction and transform it into long-lasting love and strong family ties. Is as of this moment when intelligence and willpower came into the scenes to ensure that we were able to choose over our emotions and take action in the best possible way.

And is since them that we speak about culture and civilization. About personal development and personal excellence. About humanity and humankind. And after all, about freedom.

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