As technology advances exponentially, our human minds only progress linearly, which means the gap between people and technology will only increase. How will humans keep up?
One thing we can do is increase our emotional intelligence. As artificial intelligence is already automating most of our monotonous and repetitive tasks (e.g. data entry/analysis, audio transcription, email marketing, bartending, vacuum cleaners, autonomous vehicles, etc), humans will need to become more competitive by creating solutions to the more complex problems that require creativity or insight on human behavior.
It’s Already Needed Today
Humans are social, emotional beings and we will always have to interact with each other in some capacity, even when technology might be doing most of it for us. Humans will always need each other, so we will need the skills to be able to develop ourselves and our relationships productively.
Unfortunately, we’re already seeing how technology has been disconnecting us from each other, creating siloed camps of thought, perspectives, and beliefs. We see people who prefer to scroll through their phones at dinner rather than become curious about their company. We see people not able to handle their emotions to discuss sensitive topics. We see how convenience have fueled the introverted side of us, where our cravings can be satisfied with delivery services and instant access to a less fulfilling version of social connection.
This makes the understanding of our individuality that much more important because our emotions heavily influence how we think, behave, and communicate with one another. If you allow your emotions to fluster you, you’re more likely to react poorly to that co-worker, your parents, even yourself, harming your relationships and self-regard. And if your instinct is to then retreat or suppress, life will start feeling shallow and unfulfilling.
Automation Allows Us to Be More Human
This is not meant to sound anti-technology. In modern society, it’s unrealistic to completely avoid technology. Doing so actually puts you at a competitive disadvantage, where those around you would be able to learn, create, and connect more efficiently than if they didn’t have these tools. But moving forward, it would benefit us to also look at the effectiveness of technology, as well as its impact on mental and emotional well-being. We need to start thinking about how to use tech with intention rather than allowing it to consume us, both socially and professionally.
Technology is a tool that has been augmenting human performance and progress for centuries. A farmer would not be able to plant her crops efficiently enough to produce enough revenue to support her family if she didn’t even have a shovel. To be even more effective, she could upgrade to a tractor, optimizing the farm and giving her time to spend with her family.
When given the opportunity, everyone would choose to save time. Instinctively, we know that time is our most precious resource. It’s the only currency that we can’t get back. And it makes sense that we want to automate as much as we could, especially the menial tasks that are unfulfilling or cause burn out.
This is the key perspective shift. Automation exists to help us perform certain tasks more efficiently, freeing up time for us to engage in other, more meaningful parts of not just our jobs but our personal lives, the more human parts. Talking to people, being creative/experimental, producing something, exercising, being of service to others, volunteering, spending time with loved ones, staying active in hobbies.
The crucial ingredient to those human parts of life is emotional intelligence (which I’ve defined here for you). When we get out of the mindset of scarcity and basic survival mode, we’ll have the physical and mental space to explore deeper. We can then go from stagnation to thriving, taking full advantage of what the human experience has to offer. And the first step is being honest with how you’re feeling.
EI Helps You Stand Out
Emotional intelligence is more than being smart with our emotions, or being “touchy-feely.” It’s about understanding who we are at a deeper level and what powers us so that we can show up as our unique and best self to the people around us.
Many people will prioritize acquiring the hard skills needed to perform the job, or the perfect body and looks to impress people on the outside. But not everyone goes through the more intangible, deep, personal work of understanding who they are, how they want to align their interests, skills, and values, and how that all fits into that business or relationship.
That emotional intelligence is what makes you stand apart from the technological future. It’s what makes you more human than the future human and robot drones. Every human is unique. Only you have the skills, the training, the practice, the experience, the history, the upbringing, the relationships, the resources, the interest, the gumption to do what you do. It will be different than your siblings, your parents, your co-worker, your boss, that random social media personality you scrolled past.
But you can’t find that uniqueness, you have to create it. And you create it by getting a better understanding of how you feel and how that’s affecting your habits and behavior.
EI Skills Are Important For Relationships
Besides time, it’s safe to say that most humans value relationships over anything else. In the end, we can acquire all the knowledge, money, and toys in the world, but it doesn’t mean much when we can’t share it with anyone.
There’s something satisfying about natural human connection. We can interact with people all day on social media, for example, but for many of us, it isn’t as fulfilling as a deep conversation with a good friend in-person.
As technology becomes even more ubiquitous than it already is, there won’t be as many opportunities to have these meaningful interactions. Which means the muscle for authentic social and emotional connection will atrophy.
To train that muscle, we have to practice sitting with what we feel. It might be easy and convenient to distract ourselves from any negative emotion that comes up, like boredom, anger, sadness, stress, but we have to learn to stretch those emotions so that we can better understand their stories and validity. Having better emotional self-awareness will help us have better relationships with ourselves, which will then create better relationships with others. When we have a healthy grip on our emotions, as well as the empathy to understand those of others, it will become that much easier to foster the relationships that we want in our lives
The technology has the potential to do so much for us. It’s now our responsibility to make the most of it.
Where Do We Start?
There are many ways to start increasing your emotional intelligence and it’s all in the consistent practice from there. I’ve collected 11 exercises to get you started!