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He’s Clueless to How You Feel?  The Reality of Emotional (or lack of) Intelligence

A person’s “heart withers if it does not answer another heart.” – Pearl S. Buck

It’s true, there are women out there who lack the ability to sympathize, empathize, and show compassion. However, you hear this complaint far more often from women regarding men. Men typically just don’t get it, and if they do get it, they pretend they don’t because they don’t want to talk about it.  “IT” is anything related to a feeling. Most men fall off the bottom of the emotional intelligence scale.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

As an emotionally intelligent person, you are able to recognize and understand your emotions. You then use this information to guide your thinking and behavior. A person with a high EQ understands themselves and others and this understanding increases their chances for success. Are you a good listener? Do you stay calm in a stressful situation? Are you good at making decisions and trusting your instinct? Can you sense the emotional needs of others and offer them comfort that meets those needs? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you have a fair amount of emotional intelligence. If the answer is yes to all of them, you are an emotionally intelligent rock star.

Dealing with people is hard. Whether it is one of your co-workers, your best friend, your sister, or your husband you have to be emotionally present in order to respond attentively. You have to be in tune with their emotions and know how to deal with the effect they are having on you. When you react to another person’s emotions rather than recognize them, you lose the ability to manage yourself.  For example, my husband and I used to have rational disagreements until I began to prove my point. Once he knew I was going to be right his eyes would squint and his jaw would get tighter and his tone a little crisper. In response, I began to tense and my voice would become a little louder and soon we were in a full-blown argument. I had reacted to his emotions and became angry rather than understand why he was getting upset and act accordingly. If I had asked him what he was feeling at that moment, guaranteed he would’ve said “nothing.”

Increasing emotional intelligence is empowering and leads to successful navigations in a person’s professional and personal life. Men with high EQ’s are often in influential positions in their professional life and have happy, meaningful, and long-term success in their relationships.

 The four attributes of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness – This is your ability to be aware of your emotions and stay aware of them as you feel them.
  • Self-Management – As you become aware of your emotions, you are able to stay calm and direct your behavior towards achieving a positive goal.
  • Social Awareness – You are able to accurately detect the emotions in others and understand the meaning behind them.
  • Relationship Management – Here you are able to successfully use this awareness to manage interaction with other people.

All of these attributes can be taught, learned and practiced so that you can increase your EQ. However, attempting to teach these attributes to men and have them actually grasp the concepts and practice can be maddening.

While there are no measurable scientific studies that prove that women are more emotional than men, most people agree that is the case. That debate could go on for centuries. It doesn’t matter in this context since it’s not about who is more emotional, but how you handle the emotions you have. It’s about your ability to sense when something may be wrong and skillfully navigate the rough emotional waters.

The effects of low emotional intelligence on your relationship.

It is frustrating and heart-breaking when your partner seems to trivialize the things you care about the most. It could be your hopes for the future, a scary dream you had last night that left you uncomfortable, grief over a loss, or anger over the stupid driver who cut you off on your way home. Men with who have low EQ’s are seldom sympathetic. Rather than reflect and discuss your feelings, they tend to throw out a solution and think they have done their part. Off they go to relax while you now add frustration to the list of emotions you are managing.

Communicating emotions is an important developmental part of a relationship. It builds a connection between the two of you and increases the sense of security and trust in the relationship.

A person with a low EQ often misinterprets their partner’s emotions or actions. It is especially difficult for most men to accurately pick up on their partner’s emotion because they haven’t cued into the subtle, or not so subtle, clues.  If that is the case, then why would they take the time to figure out their own emotions? We have established that a person with a low EQ also has difficulty managing their emotions. Men often react to their emotions with hostility and verbally lash out at their partner because they don’t recognize they are having an emotion. They don’t pause and think “what’s going on here?” Instead, they are uncomfortable and try to distance themselves from whatever is making them feel that way.

After many, many, failed attempts to get him to understand, you begin to lose faith that you will ever be able to trust your partner with the very core of who you are. You begin to keep your feelings to yourself and the relationship suffers as now there is no communication going in either direction. 

An intimate relationship that has two people working toward a greater understanding of their emotions as well as their partner’s emotions, and can manage these emotions, is likely to thrive and sustain through all the ups and downs. The mastery of these emotions allows each of you to feel safe in the situation and cared for by the other person.

So, is it hopeless?

According to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of the book Emotional Intelligence,  “Because it takes the rational mind a moment or two longer to register and respond than it does the emotional mind, the ‘first impulse’ in an emotional situation is the heart’s not the head’s.” That is good news because it means that he can learn from his head how to read his heart and yours. To take it a step further, he can learn how to pick up on emotional cues from people in his professional world and apply these same skills.  The most successful people are the ones who have a high level of emotional intelligence, it’s what makes them pursue excellence.

It is possible for him to raise his EQ. The following are the basic skills involved in the development of emotional intelligence:

  1. Ability to identify your feelings and the feelings of others.
  2. Ability to use those feelings to guide thought and reason.
  3. Ability to understand how feelings may change as the situation unfolds.
  4. Ability to integrate feelings into actions and decisions.

In his article How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence, Justin Bariso breaks those core abilities into seven steps. These will help guide your man to the light of higher emotional intelligence and cement your relationship in trust. He should try doing the following:

  • Think about how you typically respond to particular situations such as another driver cutting you off. When you identify your emotions and subsequent reactions the process of building control begins.
  • Ask for other people’s view of you. People often see us differently than we see ourselves and it is important to understand how perceptions can differ.
  • Observe your emotions through self-reflection and by what others have shared with you. This will help you to connect with how you are feeling.
  • Before you speak or act pause a moment to begin to create the habit of thinking first.
  • Think about “why”. It is difficult to demonstrate compassion and empathy when trying to see another person’s view. Showing empathy means you ask yourself questions such as, what is this person dealing with that I don’t see, why does this person feel this way, and why do I feel differently than he/she does. Understanding their perspective will help you meet their emotional needs.
  • Do not be offended by criticism. Although it is difficult to watch someone tear down something you have worked hard on, criticism often has some truth to it. Put your feelings aside and figure out how the feedback can help you in the future.  One exception to this rule is if the intent of the criticism is to make you doubt your self-worth.
  • Finally, Practice. Then practice again. Then practice some more.

For many men, it does take deliberate thought and effort to develop and utilize these skills. However, in doing so, they can transform this underdeveloped area into a strength that will last as long as the relationship.

You want to reduce your stress level? Try tying the knot; Study finds married people have less stress

Seldom do I hear good things about being married. The divorce rate in America is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, which means that almost half the married population is stressed out and miserable. But then it also means that the other half of the population lives in less stressful, happy marriages. 

Why don’t we hear about the laid-back happily married half? Because we spend our time complaining about what we don’t like to anyone who will listen. It’s human nature. The things that bother us stay predominately on our mind and beg to be shared. Once the frustrations are voiced and discussed, there is seldom time for happy talk. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this article talking about the healthy aspects of marriage.

Personally, I have found marriage to be the most difficult job I have ever had. A lasting marriage is no easy feat and it doesn’t just happen. There are years of giving and giving followed by compromises and frustrations. It takes the commitment of both people to keep the bond intact.

I am 22 years into my marriage and as hard as it has been, it has also been good. When things are not going well either in my own in endeavors or in our marriage, I know that when all is said and done my husband will be standing there at the end of the road and we will move forward together. He may not stand there smiling, but he’s there. Now, it appears that our commitment to the marriage may keep us healthier than our divorce or unmarried counterparts.

Stress

Stress, especially prolonged stress, is associated with a higher level of cortisol. High levels of cortisol interfere with the body’s ability to regulate inflammation and thus the development of psychological and physical ailments arise in response.

Elevated cortisol levels impact the body in other ways as well. The release of cortisol into the body increases sugars into the bloodstream and slows the function of nonessential body

functions. This is important because in a fight or flight situation you would not want to suddenly have an overwhelming desire for a sandwich or the urge to use the bathroom.

Normally, once the threat has passed the cortisol levels return to normal. However, if you are in a constant state of stress, the release of this hormone stays elevated.  Long-term exposure to high levels of cortisol can make your body feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, before he got oiled up.

This constant state of stress puts you at risk for several health problems including:

  • Digestive problems
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive impairments/impaired memory

If these aren’t enough reasons to act against life’s stressors, then also consider your emotional well-being. Living in a state of frustration and depression seriously lowers quality of life which in turn causes more stress and more unhappiness and more sickness.

Learn healthy ways to control the stress that arises in your life. You can start by putting a smile on your face. Doing so sends signals to your brain that can improve your mood.

Apparently, another thing you can do is get married.

It’s not all bad after all

According to the article in Science Daily, a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University offers the “first biological evidence” that marriage impacts health. Researchers discovered that married people had lower levels of cortisol, (stress hormone) than people who had never married or had been previously married.

The researchers collected saliva samples over a three-day period from 572 healthy adults between ages 21-55. The cortisone levels in the saliva were tested at different times during each 24-hour period.

What they found was that married participants had lower cortisol levels than the previously married and never married people over the three-day period. Cortisol levels change throughout the day with the peak time being when you wake then declining as the day goes on.  When the groups were compared, married people’s stress hormone declined at a faster rate. Lower cortisol levels, as well as a faster decline of cortisol, has been associated with less heart disease, less physical pain and longer survival among cancer patients.

If you’re happy and you know it…

Now, before anyone says, “what about this or that…” I realize that some people do not get married for whatever reason and live happy satisfying lives. I also know that marriages exist that are abusive and dangerous and associated with an exorbitant amount of stress. Those are opposite sides of the spectrum and this study looked straight down the middle. Take it for what it’s worth.

We all travel different paths as we head down the road to happiness. If you are happy being single, enjoy it. If you dove into matrimony with the love of your life, embrace it. If you are considering saying “I do,” go ahead and do it. It looks like it just might be better for your health.

 

Reference:

  1. Carnegie Mellon University. (2017, February 13). Married people have lower levels of stress hormone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2017 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170213131232.htm

Journal Reference:

  1. Brian Chin, Michael L.M. Murphy, Denise Janicki-Deverts, Sheldon Cohen. Marital status as a predictor of diurnal salivary cortisol levels and slopes in a community sample of healthy adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017; 78: 68 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.01.016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go ahead and cry. Grief and Sadness, Why it’s important to grieve.

Grief and Sadness.

Recently I discovered through personal experience that grief and sadness are not the same. Not at all. I’ve been sad before. I’m sure you have been sad at some point in your life too.  The feeling of sadness is as normal as the feeling of happiness.  We experience sadness when have been disappointed, or when we go through a break-up, and sometimes when we finish a really good book and there is no sequel.

Sadness is the feeling that something isn’t quite right. We feel like we are missing something and have no way to obtain whatever that “something” is. Maybe we have lost something like a job or a marriage and we feel sad it is gone.  The ability to feel our own sadness is what lets us recognize it in others and then empathize or offer sympathy.

Grief, however, is very different. It is a normal reaction to a profound loss or life-changing event. Comparing grief and sadness is like comparing an ocean to a swimming pool. You can jump into the pool, touch the bottom, and rise to the surface. If you jump into the middle of the ocean, there is no bottom. You splash around aimlessly looking for a lifeline. That is grief. You are lost in the middle of a darkness that seems to have no end. It’s devastating and terrifying. It is what you feel when you reach out for someone who is no longer there.

Know the Difference

I know the difference. I have felt the twinge of sadness and the pain of grief. I clearly remember receiving the news my best friend was in an accident and had been killed. I do not remember much about the next few days. I was completely lost. I cried until I had no tears left and every so often some kind of desolate sound escaped from my throat.

I thought that profound grief would stay with me forever. But time does what it does best, it heals. It was a slow process and sometimes I would have terrible days following the good ones. I remember the moment I knew I was going to be alright. It was a late Tuesday afternoon in the fall, my favorite season. 7 months had passed and I sat on a faded green wicker chair on my porch watching as the neighbors packed up to move to Idaho. I thought about the new life that had just blessed their home, the new life they were going to make in Idaho and the new life that would move into their home when they were gone. I had reached the 4th stage of grief. Acceptance.

Everything has an end and when it ends something new begins.

Stages of grief

We go through these stages as we are learning to live with the emptiness we feel in our life and in our heart. Sometimes we visit them in order, other times we skip a stage, and almost always we go back and forth between them during our mourning period. How long we stay at each stage varies from person to person.

The 5 stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

  • Denial – This is usually the first stage, however, some people skip it or come back to it later. In this stage, you can’t comprehend the reality of the situation. You are still waiting for the car to pull into the driveway or the phone to ring. You think, “this isn’t happening.” Denial is a defense mechanism that helps buffer that first wave of pain. It can keep us from going into shock until we can begin to process the trauma.
  • Anger – The second stage of grief is in response to reality and the pain it is causing. The loss has become real and nothing will ever be as it once was. Anger at your deceased loved one is a normal reaction as is anger at the doctor, at life, at death, at the cat, the mailman and even the goldfish he won at the state fair.
  • Bargaining – When we feel out of control, vulnerable, and helpless we search for a way to regain that control. We think, “if only I had worked less he wouldn’t have left me.” We make deals with God, “if you will bring him back I promise I will….” We scrutinize every action we took and second guess every decision we made thinking if we had done something differently, the loss wouldn’t have happened.
  • Depression – Depression during grief is different than being depressed at other times. During the grieving period, depression is the feeling that sinks into your bones as you gradually come to see how many things in your life must change. It’s during this time you begin to prepare to say your final good-bye and begin to move on.
  • Acceptance – This is the final stage of grief and some people may never get here. This is the time to make peace with your loss and to accept that it has changed you in some way. Accepting that you have lost something meaningful to you allows you the opportunity to find peace. Those who do continue to resist accepting the loss tend to remain angry and deny themselves the fulfillment they could still find in their life.

I knew I had to say a final farewell to my friend. I had to accept that she will no longer be there to talk to, to share with, or to offer comfort.  For that, I will always feel a sadness. I will always miss her.

Moving through these stages is not negotiable, we all must do it to heal.

What about those who resist the process or ignore their emotions and do not allow themselves to grieve?

Learn to grieve, learn to live again

Grieving does not come naturally to everyone. Some people think they must remain strong and do not allow themselves to go through the process. Sometimes timing doesn’t allow us to grieve due to responsibilities so we cope with the loss however we have to. People who refuse to go through the grief stages tend to be more isolated and suffer long-term depression.

So how do you grieve? There isn’t a right or wrong way to mourn. Coping with the loss of something or someone significant is a personal and sometimes private matter. You may cry, get angry, want to be left alone or need the comfort of a friend. No one can make it easier for you or help you through it. It is something you must work through on your own.

Learning to grieve is as simple as allowing yourself to feel the emotions as they happen, which doesn’t feel simple at all. It hurts. Human reaction to pain is to shield against it for protection. With grief, you must open yourself to it and allow it in. Learn to identify your emotions and come to understand why you are feeling them. They are normal and necessary.

Time Does Heal You

When you are ready, in your own time, you will learn to rebuild yourself and live your life in a new way. That does not mean you have forgotten what came before but rather that you have built upon that foundation to find a new purpose.

 

I still struggle a bit and find myself unwilling to accept my friend’s death at times. In the early days, I had no desire to find a new purpose or move on. I found that I was questioning not only my place in the world but my purpose for living as well. The grief still sits heavy in my heart at times, but as I think of her I can almost hear her say, “Now you know, that I know, that you know better than that. Go give it all you got.”

She was many things to me and I will miss her forever. Memories are bittersweet as I learn to move on without her.