By Steven E. Tobias, Psy.D., coauthor of Boost Emotional Intelligence in Students: 30 Flexible Research-Based Activities to Build EQ Skills (Grades 5–9)
If you have children or work with them, you know how important and sometimes challenging it can be to manage your feelings and interact with kids in a positive manner. These skills have been called emotional intelligence (EQ), and they are necessary for success and happiness in all aspects of life.
EQ can be broken down into nine skill areas. For each one, it’s useful to ask yourself, “Do I consider this to be a strength or an area I would like to improve in myself?”
- Assessing and knowing my own emotions, values, and capabilities (both strengths and weaknesses)
- Coping with my emotions and maintaining self-control
- Persevering to achieve my goals
- Understanding and empathizing with others—including having an awareness of individual and group similarities and differences
- Communicating effectively, both perceiving others’ messages and expressing myself to others
- Working cooperatively with others
- Establishing positive goals
- Planning and enacting behaviors effectively to achieve those goals
- Resolving interpersonal conflicts constructively
As with most things in life, these skills are easier said than done. This especially occurred to me one day when I was yelling at my daughter to stop yelling. Something about that did not feel quite right, and for some reason, she kept yelling. When interacting with others, especially children, it is necessary to, as the Greeks said, “Know thyself.” We want to make sure that we are modeling the skills we want others to demonstrate, especially self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and effective communication. It can be helpful to consider your own strengths and challenges when it comes to your EQ skills. Here are some questions that, if you answer as openly and honestly as you can, will help you become more emotionally intelligent.
- What are your core values as an educator (or a parent)? What are your overall values as a human being? How often do you reflect on your values? How often do your values conflict with the values of others at work, in your family, or in society? How do you handle these conflicts of values?
- How good are you at identifying your own feelings? How well can you express them, especially when the feelings are particularly strong (positive or negative)? How often do you reflect on your feelings (outside of times when people ask how you are doing)?
- How sensitive are you to the feelings of others? Where would you place yourself on a scale of highly responsive to others to emotionally distant? How do you experience and express empathy?
- How well are you able to maintain your emotional and behavioral self-control in emotionally intense situations (also called trigger situations)? When do you find it most challenging to control and manage your emotional reactions? What tools or skills do you use to exercise self-control?
- How aware are you of your own inner dialogue or self-talk? Does it tend to be generally positive or negative? When are you most aware of it? If your self-talk is negative, what do you do to handle it (such as try to ignore it or transform it into positive self-talk)?
- How effective are your communication skills? How well do you listen to others? How well do you express yourself? How well do you balance listening and speaking? How aware are you of your nonverbal communication (body language, facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice) and that of others?
- How well can you perceive things from other people’s perspectives? When is this easiest for you, and when is it most difficult?
- How goal-directed are you? How often do you think about your goals—both short-term and long-term—and how specific are these goals? How do you balance goal-directed behavior with flexibility and spontaneity?
- How good are you at problem-solving? How good are you at facilitating others’ problem-solving? In what situations do you typically struggle with problem-solving?
- Before acting, how much do you think about the various possible outcomes of what you might do (or not do)? How often do you change your course of action after anticipating possibilities?
- How resilient are you? How do you deal with challenges and obstacles? How often do you willingly put yourself in challenging situations, as opposed to trying to avoid them?
Based on these reflections, identify your clear strengths. Be aware of them and keep working on them. Then take a realistic look at where you are most lacking. These are the things you need to improve upon (both individually and with the help of others) and to be mindful of when interacting with others. This is especially true with people you are close to and people you find challenging in your personal life and at work. Pick one of these and start to pay attention to it and work on it. After you make progress, pick another. Being aware of these skills is the first step in better managing them and becoming even more effective in your interactions with others.
Steven E. Tobias, Psy.D., is the director of the Center for Child & Family Development in Morristown, New Jersey. He has over thirty years of experience working with children, parents, families, and schools. Dr. Tobias feels a strong commitment to children’s social and emotional development and provides consultation to schools as a way of reaching many children, including those who are underserved in terms of their social and emotional needs. He has coauthored several books with Dr. Maurice Elias, including Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and Raising Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers. He has given lectures throughout the United States on topics related to parenting and children’s emotional development. Dr. Tobias lives in New Jersey.
Steven is coauthor of Boost Emotional Intelligence in Students: 30 Flexible Research-Based Activities to Build EQ Skills.
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