When it comes to being in touch with our feelings, we don’t always get it right.
In fact, many people associate feelings with emotions, and when they learn that emotions and feelings are two different things you can almost see their brains wrestle to comprehend.
But it’s true. Many studies have been done to determine the reach of human emotion and how feelings tie into human emotion to make us who we are.
The trouble is that humans have a limited capacity to understand and interact with emotion on a deeper level. We see this in the fact that different cultures have different words for emotions than feelings, and how some cultures, particularly Western culture, doesn’t have a lot of the same emotional expressions as other cultures.
If we want to develop a better understanding of how emotions work and how we can become more emotionally intelligent, we need to look at the brain.
Neuroscientists have come up with three ways that humans can become more emotionally intelligent, and they aren’t as hard as you might think.
1) Accept and Practice Emotional Granularity
The first step in becoming more emotionally intelligent is to acknowledge that emotional intelligence is a thing. It’s as real as you and me. You need to accept it and acknowledge that it can help you lead a more meaningful life.
Then, you need to practice it. Regularly.
You need to start paying attention to the emotions you have and determining why you are having those emotions.
We’re not talking about feelings, remember. Feelings are not the same as emotions. Feelings are the reactions we create about the emotions we have.
Sure, these words are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different.
Emotional granularity means that you dig deep to determine the source of your emotions and pay attention to the way things make you feel when you are overcome with emotions.
What does love feel like? What does happiness feel like? How does your body react when you are sad or afraid?
The emotion is what causes that happiness, sadness, or fear. The feeling you get from the emotion is often what people use to describe the emotion, such as “I am afraid,” but the emotion comes first.
2) Expand Your Vocabulary
To become more emotionally intelligent, you need to increase your vocabulary.
Case in point: when someone asks you how you are feeling, don’t say “fine,” or “good.” Try using other words to describe your emotions.
Perhaps you are feeling elated or overjoyed because of a promotion. Maybe you are feeling grief-stricken because a pet has passed away. See how much better those words describe your emotions?
Rather than saying, “I am sad my dog died,” you can use more powerful words to let others, and yourself, understand how your emotions are impacting you.
But you need to know those words to use them. A good place to start is with the basics: good, bad, sad, happy, worried, angry.
Come up with some other ways to describe these feelings, and you’ll be able to pin down the emotions that cause that feeling.
3) Create Your Own Vocabulary for Emotions
Neuroscientists say that coming up with new words to use in your emotional intelligence vocabulary can actually have you tune into your emotions on a deeper level.
For example, when you are trying to describe a feeling for when you don’t want to drive to work on Monday morning, you might come up with a word to describe that, instead of saying, “I don’t want to drive to work tomorrow morning.” Perhaps you’ll invent a word such as “Monday-driving-blues” and people will instantly know what you are talking about because they have the same emotion, but don’t have a word or phrase for it.
Sure, it might seem a little silly to start inventing words and phrases, but it’s a form of expression that can help you develop a more robust vocabulary to explain your emotions and understand them in a more meaningful way yourself.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here, and if you are uncomfortable sharing your new words with others, that’s okay too. After all, this is about building up your own emotional intelligence so you can live a more fulfilling life on your own terms.