The Essentials of Emotional Intelligence

As Family Law practitioners, we see people at an incredibly emotional and transitional time. We need to understand what is going on with our clients, offer appropriate support, and be able to take care of ourselves as well. In the latest episode of Family Law Matters, Kate Reese and Christal Benton Stone, a former attorney with ReeseLaw, both who happen to have Master's degrees in the counseling field, engaged in a lively exchange about emotional intelligence that covered some important aspects of this important skill to develop for ourselves and in relation to others.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

While some people shy away from anything associated with the word "emotional," its become increasingly recognized that emotional intelligence is a critical life skill. In essence, it concerns managing our own feelings and those of others. While we are not innately able to recognize the extent of our emotional intelligence, we need to identify, understand, and regulate our own emotions as well as recognize the emotions in others.  Emotional intelligence allows us to be self-aware about our emotions as they are happening and to communicate with others about emotions through an empathic lens into their emotions. When we have strong emotional intelligence, we do better with personal happiness, work/life balance, and our relationships are better managed.

Like a Muscle, Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed With Work

Any skill set takes effort to develop and maintain, and emotional intelligence is no different. While each person is in their own place when it comes to self-awareness and empathy, there are 6 steps that we can take to improve.

Step 1 - Recognize

We aren't always aware of what we are feeling in the moment. Sometimes, we can sit on an emotion without realizing it is having an impact. As you experience an emotion, give it a name and a place. We feel emotions; they do not define us - no matter how powerful, a feeling is not integral to you. When you recognize you are experiencing a feeling, describe it in a way that is safe for you and in a way that allows you to understand what is happening. This will help you identify this same emotion when it comes around again and be better able to manage it.

Step 2 - Assess

Self-assessment tends to veer towards the extreme ends of the spectrum - denial or deep self-recrimination. Try to find a middle ground, where you not being too harsh, and you are not avoiding a hard look at your weaknesses. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback from those around you. They are a good source of honesty about what is going on. Be a little selective in who you ask for feedback, because you want someone who you know has your best interests at heart.

Step 3 - Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness is to focus on the here and now without influence from the past or the future. Being wholly present with your feelings and your environment allows you to experience them fully and have a greater understanding of what is a fleeting moment. Mindfulness works with our own emotions as well as our engagement with others.

Step 4 - Active Listening

In short, rather than tapping a mental foot, waiting your turn to speak, try to listen to understand not respond. Really listen to what it is the other person is communicating. Listen not just to words, but also for emotions that they might be conveying, and try to name them. Communicate what you have understood is being said, and that you are seeing the emotions. Stay curious - ask questions, be interested in what they are saying. People will notice.

Step 5 - Practice Makes Perfect

The more you focus on emotions - yours and those of people around you - the better you will be at using your emotional intelligence. None of us is going to get it right at first, but with practice, focus and intentionality, we can achieve genuine insights and connections.

Step 6 - Read the Room

Why bother you might ask? This is an actual instruction and a metaphor. Paying attention to your emotions, and those of others helps with work/life balance, and with relationships in both places. Paying attention to your inner room means you are understand what you are feeling when you are feeling it. Reading emotions can help inner burnout and burnout complications in relationships; it helps to connect more deeply with the people who matter and be the healthiest person that you can be.

At ReeseLaw, we see people at their very worst, we help them mourn the life that they are leaving behind, and we help them get to the next stage of life. We use our own emotional intelligence as professionals and caring people, and we encourage our clients to get help to do the same. To schedule a consultation about your family law matter, contact us today.

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Evening and weekend appointments are available under certain circumstances.


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