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Self-enhancement


This is the second article in a six-part series about understanding EQ and making it work for you

In touch with emotions

By Dr Peter Chew, Specialist in behaviour

Development of EQ depends on understanding emotional needs

Last week's article introduced the concept of EQ (emotional quotient) and explained that, by learning to master and use our emotions, we can all live better lives. The next step is to understand why emotions are so important and to see how they influence both our own behaviour and our relationships with those around us.

The importance of emotions begins at the most fundamental level with their role in our survival. Nature and evolution have developed mankind's emotions over thousands of years. As a result, what we have today is a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system.

Our emotions serve to alert us when any natural human need is not being met. For example, if we feel lonely, it is because our need for companionship is unmet. If we feel afraid, there is something missing from our basic need for safety. If we feel rejected, then our common desire for acceptance is unfulfilled.

Besides this, emotions guide us in making decisions and are a valuable source of information. Studies have shown that, if you disrupt the normal pattern of emotional connections in the human brain, a person cannot make even the simplest decisions. This demonstrates that, in order to decide, we have to know how we will feel about our choices.

Many of us will have experienced being uncomfortable with another person's behaviour without quite knowing why. It is because our emotions are sounding an alert about boundary setting. We should learn to trust those emotions and express them appropriately. There is nothing wrong with letting someone else know we feel uncomfortable, if we are consistently aware of that sensation. Doing this will help us set the personal boundaries which, in the long run, are necessary to protect our physical and mental well-being.

Clear signal
In every situation, our emotions help us communicate with others. Facial expressions, for example, simply convey what we are feeling inside. If we look sad or hurt, we are really signalling to others that we need sympathy and assistance. In doing so, we are allowing our emotions to function.

How often does it happen that, by talking about a problem, we manage to get it in perspective?

In fact, we are communicating our emotional needs and, as a result, giving ourselves a better chance of dealing with them. Talking, though, is only one side of the story. An effective listener also uses a range of emotions to empathise and help someone feel understood, important and cared about.

In a broader context, our emotions are perhaps the greatest potential source of unity for all members of the human race. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not brought us together. Far too often, those differing beliefs have done more to divide us. Emotions, however, are universal. Feelings of compassion, cooperation and forgiveness have the potential to unite. By understanding and sharing them, there is nothing to stop us overcoming the kind of superficial barriers that now keep us apart.

This still depends, though, on recognising that basically everyone has human emotional needs. These can be seen, for example, in the universal need to feel accepted, respected and loved. While all of us share such needs, the strength of feeling may differ between individuals. Some people require more food or sleep than average and we should picture a similar scale existing for emotions. Certain personality types expect more freedom and independence, others look for security and closer social ties. Not everyone aspires to be a go-getter or leader, despite the efforts of management gurus to convince us otherwise!

Interpret needs
Every family, never mind any larger group, contains individuals with divergent emotional needs. The key thing is to know how to accept and interpret the differences. More often than not, a family described as dysfunctional is one where this is not happening. A child or teenager may be getting enough to eat and have a roof over their head, but that does not automatically mean we can conclude they have good parents. If their emotional needs are neglected or mishandled, there is the potential to create a degree of unhappiness that can last for years.

Experts in the field of education have observed that problems at school generally begin when children are regarded as having identical emotional and psychological needs. Those with unsatisfied needs become frustrated and try to effect a change through their "misbehaviour". When teachers are able to recognise the unique needs that exist within a class of students, and can identify ways to meet them, the number of behavioural problems drops sharply.

Generally speaking, the aim for all of us should be to achieve better awareness of the emotional needs of others. This is the first step towards a clearer understanding of how the world works and will make it easier for us to develop our own EQ. In the next article, we will discuss the difference between primary and secondary emotions and see that, by training ourselves to focus on positive images, we can overcome anger and depression.

Founder of Best International Group of Companies, Dr Peter Chew is a psychotherapist, motivational specialist, author, lecturer, international keynote speaker, and consultant with over 20 years of vast experience. For information, please contact Peter Chew at peterchew18@yahoo.com

Taken from Career Times 24 September 2004

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