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What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is our ability to identify and manage our emotions, and the emotions of others. This helps us to empathise with others, communicate more effectively, and better manage personal stress.

What are the benefits of emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence helps us…

  • Better process our emotions, so we have less interpersonal aggression
  • Moderate our emotions, so people perceive us more positively
  • Communicate better, so we enjoy better relationships
  • Empathise more with others, so we perform better in negotiations
  • Accept ourselves, so we enjoy higher levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem

Why is emotional intelligence important?

Today, majority of us find it difficult to connect with others. With technology providing us with more remote flexibility, we are spending more time than ever alone. We are choosing to work from home and glued to our screens when we leave the house. Rarely do we feel the need to interact with a stranger in person. If we need directions or an opinion. We don’t ask others. We turn to our phones.

This may feel normal, but it is not how evolution built us. For millions of years, we homo-sapiens evolved as a communal tribe. We slept together, hunted together, cooked together. We did everything together. Today things have flipped. We are all off pursuing our individual dreams and passions. All the while, we are missing the deep interpersonal connections that evolution built into us since before our ancestors left the seas.

Sure, we’ve got 1,000 friends in our pocket, but a digital friend can’t replace the touch and presence of another human being. And, sure we live together with our spouse and children, but a spouse and children can’t replace the village.

The problem is we don’t recognise that we have fewer of these personal connections. It is hard to say “I feel lonely” when we can see traces of connection in the continuous flow of text messages, emails and social notifications. Especially, if we have never known any different. Like those born after the launch of the internet in 1991. Our thinking has become, “So long as my phone battery is charged, I shouldn’t feel lonely”.

This is where the problem is compounded. We don’t feel entitled to feel lonely because we are permanently plugged in. It doesn’t matter that we may feel dissatisfied with the shallowness of social media, or that we recognise the sheer volume of misunderstandings, bullying and bragging digital relationships bring with them. We feel ashamed to share our struggles with others because we struggle to put our thumb on what exactly our struggles are. It means for the most part we keep our anxieties to ourselves. This disconnects us even more.

Only most of us don’t understand the full consequences of disconnection. We don’t just feel a little down when we are out of the loop. Disconnection can play a big role in our overall health. A study of 300,000 people run by Brigham Young University in Utah found that social isolation is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. The danger is isolation breeds isolation.

Eventually, this pent up loneliness manifests itself in the form of anger or depression. The extreme consequence of this disconnection is high-school shootings, homegrown terrorism and a rise in suicide rates. The more common consequence is a surge in depression and anxiety. In the US, 18% of the population over 18 years old suffer from depression or anxiety in any given year. In Australia, 45% of people experience some form of depression or anxiety in their adult life. Never in the history of the world have more people suffered in silence.

This wasn’t a problem for our communal monkey ancestors. Being in the company of one another around the clock meant the tribe could quickly pick up on the signs when someone was feeling ostracised. From here they could work together to make the individual feel included. Only today we don’t have a tribe to catch the early signs. Instead, the angry and sad choose to lock themselves away in plain sight.