Building emotional intelligence
I wrote this workshop for a lovely charity in Brisbane. It’s an organisation that works with children whose parents or siblings have cancer. I gave it to the charity for free and I hope the messages contained here help the kids and their families. I decided to put this workshop online so hopefully more people will start to do these exercises. It takes about 5 minutes to read so let me know how you go.
Part 1 – Listening to your body- what is it trying to tell you? – So many of us are wrapped up in our own thoughts. We are often listening to the voice inside our head rather than listening to others.
The average human brain can absorb about 120 bits of information per second and the average human voice contains about 70 bits of information per second.
Therefore if you are talking to yourself, in your head, you can barely understand what the other person is saying to you.
Developing emotional intelligence starts with two things – Before anything else we need to listen to how our body is feeling. For example if you are short of breath or tense or shaky it means that you may have experienced emotions which have translated into physical sensations.
Emotions are information. They tell you something. They might be telling you an important truth. Or they might be telling you something that is incorrect. For example you might be feeling sick to the stomach because you perceive that someone has gone out of his or her way to do you harm. When in fact any harm was unintentional.
Our perception may be out of line with reality when we feel pressurised or stressed. We can interpret what our body is saying and get the wrong end of the stick.
Quite often, however, people don’t even reflect on how their body is feeling nor do they appreciate that the way their body is affects the way they communicate with other people. We become absorbed in our goals and thoughts and pay little attention to what our body is telling us.
- DO A BODY SCANNING EXERCISE , TALKING TO YOUR BODY , TELLING IT TO RELAX SEQUENTIALLY
- THEN AT THE END OF THE EXERCISE GO BACK TO AN AREA OF TENSION. BREATHE INTO IT AND RECOGNISE THAT IT OFTEN STARTS TO DISIPATE WHEN YOU FOCUS ON AN AREA OF TENSION
- MAYBE START ASKING YOURSELF WHY YOU MIGHT BE FEELING A PARTICULAR SENSATION – MAYBE YOU FEEL TENSE BECAUSE OF HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT A LOVED ONE
- AND THEN CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK. ITS RIGHT TO FEEL HURT AND TENSE WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS SUFFERING
- BUT THEN OBSERVE HOW IF YOU BREATHE INTO THAT PLACE THE TIGHTNESS GOES. AND THEN ALSO NOTICE HOW MUCH BETTER YOU FEEL
- ITS RIGHT TO FEEL SAD AND ITS RIGHT TO FEEL PHYSICALLY UPSET BUT THEN WE CAN OBSERVE THAT SUCH THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND SENSATIONS MOVE AWAY IF WE OBSERVE THEM WITH COMPASSION, KINDNESS AND CURIOSITY
When we do an exercise like that we start to observe that our mental and physical states are inter linked. We can also observe how, after doing such an exercise, we are in a better position to help the people we love and we are better able to get on with our lives.
We know that our loved ones would want us to be happy and optimistic and the best way to help them and help ourselves is to observe our pain a little. Acknowledge that it’s there for a very valid reason, then cut ourselves some slack, breathe into it and then watch as we feel more confident and ready to help ourselves and the people we love.
Part 2 – Listening to others
Now the next stage, having observed our own body, is to find a way to be present to what the other person is saying.
EXERCISES 2 AND 3 – Two ways to do this:
2) Take three big breaths in through the mouth and out through the nose – it shuts the monkey mind up!
3) Listen to your feet – as you walk around the room visualise the weight of your body dropping down into the ground – as you do so you feel lighter and ready to absorb information from other people
Part 3 – Putting yourself into someone else’s shoes
Having got your body relaxed and your mind quiet, take a look at the other person and in a non-judgmental way simply observe their face and body. Don’t second-guess what they may be feeling – we often get that very wrong. Life is complex and we often have no idea what’s going on in someone else’s life.
Simply get into the habit of observing them with loving kindness. People just want to tell their story. Let them do that. Try not to jump in and second-guess what they are about to say. Simply smile and be assuring. Let them tell their story. And as they speak, you will learn about yourself. Learn the joy of letting others speak about their truth.
It’s their truth as they see it. You may see the world in a very different way but they have their reasons for their beliefs.
Quite often we come across people we find annoying or obstructive. But these people are our greatest teachers. The people who push our buttons are the ones who have most to teach us about our own insecurities, uncertainties and frailties.
Let them have their time. Try and see the world a little from their point of view and do the following exercise.
EXERCISE 4 – developing positive regard for people – loving kindness meditation
Before you start – when someone annoys you repeat silently “just like me they are looking for love”
Then close your eyes and focus on sending good vibes out to the edge of your body as you breathe out. Then expand the good vibes out into the room and to the edges of the room and then imagine sending them out into the street.
Picture someone you love very dearly. Visualise sending them good vibes and after some time move onto acquaintances and then perhaps try someone you are having a difficult relationship with.
Remember that difficult person is “just like me is looking for love too”.
Part 4 – telling your story
Quite often we might feel that we have nobody to share our fears and darkest thoughts with.
You will find that by doing parts one, two and three every day, people will warm to your love and sincerity. People want to spend time with people who are loving, kind and good listeners.
As you develop your attention and positive regard for others, you will find that positive energy and love and friendship will flow back to you. You will build deep, warm and loving relationships with people and they will be your greatest source of energy as you face difficult times.
The most important thing for you to remember is that the only thing that is in your control is how you react to the life events that flow around you. We all need to develop self-love and we do that through the practice of developing love for others.
Your body and mind are your greatest tools. As you develop a warm, loving, abundant, mindset it will attract so many positive people into your life. And they will be your warriors in the challenges ahead. They will be there to cuddle, hold your hand and listen to your story.