Surprising Ways to Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence


In her new book, Untangled, Lisa Damour defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity to reflect on our own thoughts, feelings, and actions and to be aware of complex mental states – the wishes, beliefs, and feelings – of the people around us.”

I love Damour’s book. It’s smart, thought-provoking, and full of practical advice informed by Damour’s private psychotherapy practice and the latest in social science and neuroscience research. It should be required reading for all parents of tween and teen girls.

Over the years, I’ve read dozens of parenting books, and I’ve learned so much about being a good stepmom. Here’s the interesting thing. Most of these books discuss how to help children develop emotional intelligence.

I started to wonder: what can we learn – as adults – from these strategies?

First, a little bit about emotional intelligence. It’s been a hot topic since 2005, when Daniel Goleman published his huge bestseller Emotional Intelligence. Goleman argued that our emotions play a powerful role in thought, decision making, and individual success.

These days, emotional intelligence is a widely used term, a whole new way to talk about being smart. We now know that E.Q. can be as important as I.Q. With that in mind, I’ve gathered some favorite dog-eared passages from my pile of parenting books.

Consider these as ways to enhance emotional intelligence in your child, your tween, your teen … and yourself. Know that the development of emotional intelligence begins early and it’s an ever-evolving lifelong process.

Engage in Mindful Conflict

untangled lisa damour“When we’re getting along, we only need junior varsity levels of emotional intelligence. Only when we are at odds with each other do we start to build our varsity grade emotional intelligence skills.

When we reflect on competing mental states – when what I want isn’t what you want, but I’m holding both of our perspectives in mind – we start to become emotional geniuses.

It’s not the fighting that builds emotional intelligence, it’s the path toward resolution where the magic happens.”

Abide by This E.Q. Manifesto

untangled lisa damour1. There is no right or wrong way to feel about what happens in my life or relationships.
2. In safe situations it’s okay to tell others how I’m feeling, even if my feelings make me appear vulnerable.
3. Upset feelings are healthy and normal.
4. Good people have bad feelings.
5. I am the only person who can say how I’m feeling.
6. It doesn’t matter whether others approve of my emotions, because they are mine.
7. Negative emotions are important and must be acknowledged.

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