How to cultivate emotional intelligence
Emotions underpin everything we say and do. They are important cues to the world and people around us that help guide decisions and build relationships. However, many of us are shown and told that emotions are not OK. When we are sad, we are told that we will get over it. Or we are told to calm down when we are angry. This may result in us pushing our feelings down, repressing them until we feel like an imposter in our own skin.
Mark Brackett, author of a new book, Permission to Feel, is the founder of Yale Universitys’ Center for Emotional Intelligence and is passionate about teaching adults and children about emotional intelligence and our right to embrace what we are feeling. He is a leading expert in cultivating emotional intelligence and has created “RULER”, an emotion skills building program aimed at school children.
Why is emotional intelligence so important?
Emotional intelligence is necessary to living a healthy, fulfilling life. Through many studies it has been shown that those people with higher emotional intelligence:
- Have better mental health.
- Are less anxious and depressed.
- Have a lower risk of work burnout and have a better workplace performance.
- Have better quality relationships
- Perform better academically
People who possess emotional intelligence are better able to understand what is behind their or other peoples’ behavior and feelings. This goes a long way to effective communication and being able to support others, especially children when they may not be able to regulate their emotions. Being able to identify the themes and triggers behind your emotions is critical to emotional regulation.
What is “RULER” and how can it help you and your children?
Mark Brackett has developed a skills-building program called RULER that aims to help children:
- Recognise emotions within themselves and others.
- Understand where those emotions arise from.
- Label their emotions as precisely as possible.
- Express emotions in a healthy way.
- Regulate their emotions.
Currently, the RULER program is being taught to schools across the US. However, the principles can be applied to everyone. If we work to recognize and understand our emotions, to label them and express them in a healthy way, then we will be well on our way to emotional intelligence. And by teaching our children RULER we will be providing them with invaluable tools they will use throughout their lives.
How does a skills-based program like RULER affect social change and challenge gender stereotypes?
Think about your childhood. As a girl, were you ever told not to be loud and excitable or angry? As a boy, were you ever told that boys don’t cry? That it was “wimpy” to be upset or sad? Teaching your children about their emotions means breaking down these barriers. There is no “feminine” or “masculine” emotions. There are just emotions.
As parents, we teach our children by example every day about emotions. We need to show them that if a boy cries it does not make them weak. And if a girl is showing negative emotions like anger it does not make her a “mean girl”. The RULER program teaches us that all emotions are acceptable and form valuable sources of information. We all express emotions, and the form of this expression is based on who we are. Not what gender. Through teaching and showing our children what emotional intelligence looks like, we can challenge those stereotypes and they will grow up as healthy, well-adjusted individuals.
Our children watch and learn from us. We are their role-models, so it is up to us to teach them, RULER. To show them the skills and strategies to develop emotional intelligence that will see them through into their adult lives.