Defining emotional intelligence with Dr. Serra Pitts

Dr Serra Pitts

Dr Serra Pitts

Dr Serra Pitts to take us on a deep dive into what emotional intelligence (EI) really means.

We ask her all the 'need to knows' when it comes to emotional intelligence, how we can all be more self-assured in this area, and shares some practical tips showing us how we can practise emotional intelligence everyday by getting to know ourselves better.

Let’s meet Dr. Serra…


Dr Serra, how would you define emotional intelligence (EI)? 

Emotional intelligence is not one single thing, it’s a collection of qualities in a person that includes a few skills which take practice to learn, but can greatly improve your life. The key ingredients to EI are:

1)    Self-awareness, including:

·      Emotional awareness: recognising your own emotions and the effect they have on your life;

·      Accurate self-assessment: knowing your strengths and limitations, and accepting them;

·      Self-confidence: believing in your self-worth and capabilities. 

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2)    Self-regulation, including:

·      Self-control: managing your disruptive emotions and impulses so they are expressed, but don’t hurt other people;

·      Trustworthiness: being honest and having integrity so other people can rely on you;

·      Adaptability: being flexible when things don’t go your way and confidently handling change;

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3)    Social awareness, including:

·      Empathy: where you can sense how other people are feeling and try to see the world from their perspective;

·      Developing others: where you can sense what other people need in order to grow, and help them build their abilities through feedback and support;

All put together, emotional intelligence is what we use when we empathise with our friends, family and colleagues. It allows us to connect with other people, understand ourselves better, and live a more authentic, happy and healthy life. 

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Where would EI sit on our on 87%'s mental fitness wheel? 

Emotional intelligence doesn’t sit in any one place really, it covers a range of areas and is applicable everywhere that you are. If your emotional intelligence is strong, you’ll feel it in your self-esteem and you’ll have strong, healthy relationships.

If you still need to work on it, you might notice negative self-talk and difficulty getting your point across in the workplace.  

Can EI be taught?

Yes, it can. And it begins with getting to know yourself better. Here are a few things to get you started:

1.    Know your triggers. Most of our reactions come from a lack of self-awareness in the moment, and most us run on auto-pilot. But in just a few seconds an action or really strong reaction to someone/something can display an inability to manage emotions. And that can reduce trust and the confidence other people have in us.

Try this: Consider and deconstruct the last time you lost your temper or snapped at someone. What caused you to get so upset? What behaviours of other people got under your skin? What were you thinking and feeling before you got upset? If you don’t know, then there is a good chance it will happen again.

2.    Manage your self-talk. Did you know that we talk to ourselves in as many as 50,000 sentences a day!? Think about your running dialogue or the story you tell yourself: are most of those thoughts positive or negative? Most of us unconsciously evaluate our actions too harshly and ask bad questions like “How could I be so stupid?” “Why do I keep making the same mistake?”

Try this: Turn your beatings into learnings. Be kind to yourself, and curious so you can recognise patterns. For example, “Ah, I recognise this situation. Last time I felt this way because… maybe that’s happening now too.”

3.    Accept others, don’t judge: Another strategy to help you be more on everyone’s side is to catch yourself judging other people, and instead simply accept a person or situation for what it is. The majority of people are not consciously trying to irritate you! Some people are in their own world and sometimes not aware of you at all. Most people are doing the best they can and often aren’t aware of what you want, need or expect, and patient communication can help.

Try this: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Explore your assumptions before believing them. Ask yourself: “Am I being harsh? Is this judgement really true, what is my proof, what else could be going on?” By challenging yourself to think differently, you’ll learn more about yourself and other people, making you a better communicator.

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