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:
- Ability to identify your feelings and the feelings of others.
- Ability to use those feelings to guide thought and reason.
- Ability to understand how feelings may change as the situation unfolds.
- 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.