The dictionary defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” When I enrolled in my university’s emotional intelligence English course to fulfill a general education requirement, I was admittedly skeptical of what the class would be able to offer me.
During the first lecture, my professor asked the class to turn inward by posing the question, “What is the climate of your soul?” He then proceeded to ask a follow-up question, “Can empathy be taught in a classroom setting?”
Currently, Cornell University offers an online certification course titled the Psychology of Leadership, which teaches how to influence people at all levels within an organization through mastery of identifying emotions, interpreting behavior and designing team structure.
The University of California, Los Angeles, also hosts a week-long technical management program to help managers enhance interpersonal skills and learn to problem-solve more effectively. While universities are making strides to integrate emotional intelligence into classroom settings, the availability of these course offerings are limited and often are not pushed to the forefront of educational requirements.
Recognized for his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman says that empathy forms the foundation of emotional intelligence. By being able to understand someone else’s feelings, people can become more connected to each other as human beings as well as expand their perspectives to search beyond themselves.
Arguably, it isn’t something that is traditionally taught growing up because it isn’t as quantifiable as math or as pervasive as the English language. However, emotions are an innate part of being human, whether people choose to accept them or not. As a result, universities should offer emotional intelligence classes because they can give students a better understanding of how to relate to others as well as examine themselves.
Interpersonal Relationship Skills
A lot of first-year college conflicts begin with the roommate scenario. It’s a common struggle when someone anticipates an amazing year with an awesome roommate. The student may be led to believe that extended periods of time in a confined space with another individual will result in automatic best friend status.
However, this dream may quickly shatter when opposing viewpoints clash, different lifestyles conflict and general chaos ensues. Emotional intelligence teaches people how to approach situations from an outside-in perspective. Perhaps your roommate’s parents are going through a divorce. Maybe he or she has a history of clinical depression.
Beyond the roommate drama, however, emotional intelligence is important to have when entering the workforce. Strict bosses, unruly coworkers and even personal issues can arise that need to be dealt with effectively and maturely. Take a look at your favorite Netflix series chronicling some sort of work setting.
Aside from the spicy romantic subplot, major issues erupt between people who just can’t seem to get along. This isn’t too different from the real world, whether you’re an entry-level employee or the CEO.
If students are taught how to better respond to their emotions, in addition to approaching others with a similar level of understanding, relationships with friends, family and coworkers can be strengthened as a result. Emotional intelligence classes can teach problem-solving, especially within relationships.
Self-Awareness and Self-Motivation
Self-awareness is conscious understanding of oneself including motivations, desires and characterization. It also means that you are in tune with your internal state. Self-awareness is important because it allows you to accurately assess where you’re at mentally and emotionally, which can allow you to determine your next move.
You’ve probably met someone with low self-awareness who hogs a conversation or says something completely out of line without even realizing it. Those with low self-awareness fail to see how their behavior comes across toward others and may have a distorted view of themselves.
They may not practice compassion well and have negative interactions in their day-to-day life. By training yourself to become more conscious of how you come across to others, you can monitor yourself better and increase overall happiness and well-being.
On the same thread, self-motivation is an important factor in college life. Burnout is common and lack of will to follow through with tasks is inevitable. Goleman identifies personal drive, commitment, initiative and optimism as the four factors making up motivation. It is best analyzed in turning inward and assessing what your reasons for doing things are.
This is extremely imperative in everyday life, whether you’re slogging through a difficult course or applying to multiple internships. It’s the same reason why people stop and ask themselves why they chose a specific major. By teaching emotional intelligence, self-motivation techniques can also be learned, such as goal setting, risk taking and opportunity creating.
Lastly, college can be a stressful time balancing academics, social life and work, not to mention all the unanticipated curveballs tossed in between. Ignoring your emotions can lead to isolation and pent-up feelings that cause you to become a ticking time bomb ready to explode without notice.
On the other hand, letting all your feelings out as they come can also be detrimental and even annoying to the people around you. By striking a balance between the two extremes and constructively learning to manage your emotions, you’ll vastly improve your overall health and increase your successes.
Mental health is important, and a big part of that is composed of an emotional aspect, as addressed by emotional intelligence.
Despite the stressful situations you may face, taking control of your emotions ensures that you can remain effective and productive despite pressing circumstances that threaten to pull you away from your long-term goals. It isn’t just about experiencing positive emotions 24/7, it also pertains to carefully sorting out and addressing the negative ones that roll in as well.
Many colleges already offer health programs to manage stress and anxiety. However, they should venture further than merely providing workshops and should institute courses dedicated to the very subject too.