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« 10. Emotional self-management: Create joy daily »

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and internationally recognised Emotional Intelligence Coach.

If you want to develop your skills in emotional self-management and emotional resilience you need to draw on many different emotional intelligence and EQ skills.

I have identified three main skill sets or pillars that are required to enable you to build your emotional intelligence and emotional resilience in a step-by-step way, so you can meet specific goals. If you are developing an EQ program for yourself or your team at work, it is important to include all three pillars.

This is the fourth article in a four-part series on the three pillars. 

  1. The first article explains how the three pillars integrate to build emotional resilience.
  2. The second article covers the first pillar: how to keep your cool and not get angry, anxious or frustrated.
  3. The third article covers the second pillar: how to calm yourself down quickly if you have become irritated, anxious or angry. 
  4. This fourth article covers the third pillar: the deliberate cultivation of "positive emotions" on a daily basis to off-set "negative emotions".

They are all important aspects when developing emotional intelligence and EQ.

What is your EQ when it comes to ensuring you experience regular "positive emotions"?

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What is your EQ? Managing your emotions - create joy

How well you manage your emotions can depend on what actions you take, on an emotional level, each and every day of your life. This includes how much time you devote to feeling "positive emotions" versus "negative emotions".

Some people, for example, pay little attention to positive emotions and do nothing to deliberately cultivate them in their lives. This means that when something goes wrong, negative emotions can grow at a rapid rate and take over. This a type of low emotional intelligence.

For example, I remember one man calling me when I worked on a counselling hot-line.

He was distraught because he had paid for something on-line through his bank but forgotten to record the receipt number. He was frightened that the people whose bill he'd paid did not know he'd paid it, and he would then incur a financial penalty for an unpaid bill, and wouldn't have enough money to pay another bill.

His "negative emotions", including anxiety and fear, escalated. The minor mishap and irritation of forgetting to record a receipt number had become a much larger and more intensely negative experience.

Why? Because the initial problem had landed in an already existing cesspool of "negative emotions", such as anger and anxiety, and added further to it.

When we experience a strong "negative emotion" it can intensify and distort our perspective so we become solely focused on the problem, however minor.

Low emotional intelligence, in a case such as this, can make life a misery.

What is your EQ? Do negative emotions take over?

We have all known the way that a negative emotion can "take us over", I am sure. "Negative emotions" such as anger can limit our perspective.

For example, we may be angry at a group of people. We begin to only notice the bad things in them. We view everything they do through an angry eye. Every time they say something we see it as bad. Even if they look at us we are suspicious of their motives. Everything about them makes us angry or irritated, they can do nothing right. The anger distorts and limits our world view.

The "negative emotions" can increase in duration and intensity as we keep feeding the anger. We initially have senior people we like, we end up having senior people we resent.

Yet, once we have resolved the issue and the anger goes, we start to see the good things about those people once more. The senior people are fine again.

"Negative emotions" are made all the worse if we spend most of our lives being acquainted with them. If we feel irritation, stress, frustration, distress, resentment, disappointment and the like as the mainstay or canvas of our life, we will end up being sucked into negativity more and more, and find it hard to bounce back from such emotions.

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What is your EQ? Can you counteract negative emotions?

Contrast the people with these "negative emotions" with people who each day deliberately develop positive emotions in their lives. Their canvas is predominantly positive with gratitude, delight, appreciation, joy, contentment, hope, love, and the like.

Imagine then if something goes wrong - how much of an effect do you think this will have on them? Not much. It will be like a small rock of negativity dropping into large ocean of positive emotions, the rock will make barely a ripple.

I call this third pillar: "Daily cultivation of positive emotions". Generate your own positive emotions, deliberately, each day.

What is your EQ? Is it worth cultivating positive emotions?

The external experiences that greet us in life are not the cause of our reactions, it is our own sense of positive emotional wellbeing or negativity that are.

For example, I have a friend with severe rheumatoid arthritis who is the most delight-filled, happy and joyous person I know.

I have seen her time and time again meet difficult and painful obstacles in her life and bounce back. She calls her arthritis "King Arthur" and will say things like, "King Arthur has come to stay" and then chuckle. Yes chuckle. Is she in pain? Yes. Is she incapacitated? Yes. Does it stop her physically from moving easily? Yes.

Is she rich? Money-wise no - she is on a pension. What she is rich with is positive emotions. She cultivates them every day, deliberately, and with enthusiasm and determination. She has a high level of emotional intelligence.

What's more, she fosters these emotions for her own benefit, irrespective of her surroundings or situation. She takes responsibility for how she feels and blames no one else. This again, is characteristic of people with high levels of emotional intelligence.

Her positive emotions act as a buffer, a foundation stone against which problems, mistakes and difficulties can be dealt with and sorted.

The third pillar involves the active and deliberate cultivation of positive emotions in your life.

What is your EQ? Can you foster positive emotions?

Let me explain the value of cultivating positive emotions in terms of a bank balance.

Imagine you have just dropped and broken your mobile phone, and find it is going to cost you $200 to repair it. How you react will be strongly influenced by the amount of discretionary money you have in your bank balance.

If you have a lot of money in your account when you pay for the repairs you will barely feel the consequences. There is still money left in the bank. The incident becomes a minor annoyance.

If your bank balance is low and all the money is already accounted for, and there is no more money expected for another fortnight, suddenly having to find $200 to have your phone repaired is likely to escalate from minor annoyance to distress or despondency quite quickly. Furthermore, the unexpected bill will probably cause distress and other negative consequences for weeks.

So it is with emotions. If your bank balance is full of positive emotions and you have to draw on some of them to counter a negative emotion, there is still plenty of positive emotions left. If the bank balance is depleted and there have been no recent deposits of positive emotions upon which to draw, then the negative emotions will make a much bigger dent on your emotional wellbeing.

There are many emotional intelligence techniques you can employ to help you foster positive emotions on a daily basis and we cover these in separate articles.

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