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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Heart Thoughts - How to think effectively with your heart

"Happiness and sadness are emotions that are within our power of choice. The decision is made inside the heart"

Christian Glitter by

It is easy to go on an emotional binge and simply let loose your emotions in a flurry. And it is just as easy to bottle up the emotions and behave properly without making a hoot in public or in private. Either way it's not that healthy - for anybody in any kind of relationship whether in the workplace or at home - and puts us in a dysfunctional state.

Our perception of the relationship between thought and emotions can be somewhat misguided. A large number of us tacitly subscribe to the idea that thought is most appropriate when not clouded by emotions. And, of course we know that strong emotions make it difficult to think straight. Rationalists have even made the elimination of emotion from thought their credo. Yet, clinical experiments show that thought devoid of emotions renders satisfactory decision-making impossible.

The problem is not with emotions as such, but with the appropriateness of emotion and its expression. The task is not so much to suppress emotions every feeling has its value and significance - but to strike a balance between rational thought and emotions.

Our emotions have the potential to serve us today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions alert us when natural human need is not being met. For example, when we feel lonely, our need for connection with other people is unmet. When we feel afraid, our need for safety is unmet.

Our emotions are also perhaps the greatest potential source of uniting all members of the human species. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they have tragically and even fatally divided us. Emotions, on the other hand, are universal. Emotions unite, beliefs separate!

One of the keys to sound decision-making is a greater awareness of our emotions and those of others. Emotions are not just present when we get real mad or during times of bliss and joy, but are ever working in the most subtle ways in everything we do. How often do we feel? The answer is all the time though some would not care to admit it.

However, there are some who leave their emotions unbridled and unleash them without paying the slightest heed to the impact the emotions create. And these unbridled emotions could bring about much adverse effects. Excesses in stress, anxiety and anger have led many to decadent lifestyles that try to undercut the enormous flood of uncontrolled emotions.

So, are we to be slaves to our ill-placed seemingly unpredictable emotions or those of others all the time? The answer is no. We can do something about it. Basic skills related to handling emotions, settling disagreements peaceably and just plain getting along can be learnt or improved on.

If we wish, we can develop human competencies such as self-awareness, self-control and empathy, and the arts of listening, resolving conflicts and cooperation. Not only is our ability at work and the quality of our life at home play at stake but also more generally the cohesion of society at large.

Easy as it may sound, we can do it by simply increasing our emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence or EI as it is commonly known? In brief, emotional intelligence is knowing how we feel and others feel, and knowing what to do about it.

Well, here are the components of EI that will help us to monitor our emotional intelligence better:

  • Self-awareness: Knowing how we feel in "real time", right at the moment and not what we should be feeling.

  • Emotional literacy: Being able to label emotions precisely and being able to talk about feelings with others.

  • Empathy and compassion: The ability to feel and understand the emotions of others.

  • Balance: Being able to make decisions using a healthy balance of emotion and reason. This is a crucial component and needs to be always monitored and gauged.

  • Responsibility: Taking primary responsibility for our own emotions and happiness. Not saying that others "made" us feel the way we feel.

And when we are done managing our EI, we could find positive results from ourselves and also those around us. When our emotional needs are satisfied we feel better, and when we feel better we are more productive and motivated to live our lives whether at home or work.

And if we are still unsure of our EI, go read Danial Goleman's Emotional Intelligence or just think heart!

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