Because only I can do that for myself.
Humans seem to be quick to jump to the role of relief, light-heartedness, and positivity whenever there’s a dull, awkward, tense, or depressing moment.
Think about all the times you were sad, how many times did people tell you, It’s OK, or Don’t cry, or Cheer up. How about angry? Do you remember hearing, Calm down, or Stop over-exaggerating, or Don’t get mad?
Let’s be real, it’s not that easy to just flip a switch and move on from those feelings. Why do we expect others to then have that level of resilience?
This behavior tells our subconscious that we should always be either calm or positive. Being negative is always bad and we should suppress them. But then we become numb, complacent, and lonely.
You Can’t Negate Feelings
Sometimes it feels good to be consoled. Sometimes we might even need someone to slap us out of the negative thoughts we’re having. A lot of the times, the problems in our heads are worse than the reality. And if someone has expressed that they need that (either directly or subtly, which is where your emotional intelligence comes in), then you can give them what they need. Because they’re ready to grow.
But most of the time, the emotions are so real for them that nothing you say is going to help, even if it might be rational.
It took me a while to internalize this when learning about other people’s emotions. Which is ironic, knowing how much I disliked someone telling me to “calm down” while I’m in a temper tantrum, or to “stop being sensitive” while I’m crying.
We Never Learned
I was never taught this, I had to learn it myself. The people around me weren’t taught this. They thought they were helping because that was how they were taught. We all model after what we see.
Having that self-awareness, empathy, and patience to respond appropriately to a highly emotional situation is way easier said than done. I can sit on my high-horse writing this and you can learn all you can from reading this, but we both know we’re still going to mess it up again.
Nothing beats experience. No amount of studying is going to help us deal with our emotions, let alone other people’s. Increasing our emotional intelligence requires us to be thrown in the middle of the battlefield and figure it out as we go. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to go through self-development, but the real education is out there with another human being.
Feel Bad, Then Learn From It
This human desire for constant positivity and pursuit of happiness now has us at a point where no one wants to ever talk about anything negative with each other. It’s too hard, it’s too much conflict, it’s too ‘depressing.’
I don’t want everyone to all of the sudden air out all of their personal sh*t to everyone and their neighbors. But if there’s any sense that you’re running from something, that’s going to get very tiring very soon.
I’m aware that there’s a lot of fear in leaning into the negative emotions. Fear of social awkwardness, fear of “going off the deep end,” fear of it escalating out of control, fear of someone misunderstanding you.
Plus, people gravitate towards happy, optimistic, joyful, light-hearted people, right? No one wants to be the “downer.”
But is that gravitation towards the positive really a genuine push to be better? Or is it an avoidance of those fears?
I don’t mean to doubt anyone’s positivity, as long as it comes after enough self-reflection. After they have asked themselves where it comes from and why they want to exude it. Without it, you get inauthenticity, you get people “faking it ‘till they make it,” you get people ignoring their own problems while thinking they can fix others.
Avoidance is easier. Ignorance is bliss. Shoving it aside is quicker. But that is short-term thinking. How long are we going to let that fear control us? How long do we allow it to gain its power?
What Do We Instead?
I’m going to bet that you’re asking this question because you want a strategy to deal with that angry coworker, that sad friend, or that anxious teenager. Well, there is none. There’s no ‘tactic,’ there’s no magic response or secret template to follow.
But the alternative is beautifully simple. It’s to listen. Really hear them.
They came to you with a problem, but they already have the answer. And if you just listen, you’ll be able to catch the hints you can use to help them find it. Some will be obvious and direct, but some will be a little more subtle. You have to listen for which one it is, or ask more questions to clear it up.
Maybe that angry coworker isn’t just trying to piss you off. They just want you to understand why they’re angry in the first place.
Maybe that sad friend doesn’t want you to instantly make them happier or joyful. They just want to feel that they’re not alone.
Maybe that anxious teenager doesn’t want you to tell them what to do. They just want to feel supported by someone who’s willing to work through their thoughts and decisions.
The key is to listen to the emotional words they use. What is it that they’re actually feeling both physically and emotionally? How does that add context to their problem? And what is your role in helping them through it?
Talk to Someone
I actually work with people on a more personal level to increase their emotional intelligence, as well as the skills to deepen relationships with everything I mentioned here. If you’re interested, you can schedule a free call with me to work through a specific issue that you’re stuck on, with no judgment.
If not me, I still encourage you to reach out to someone you trust to talk about what emotional intelligence means to both of you.
Come back and share with me what you learn from that conversation!