Outreach: emotional intelligence

Today, in our ever-changing, fast-paced, technology-based society, we are facing a new set of challenges with communication and how we connect to our world. Over the last decade, a shift has taken place in how we relate and socialize with one another. From cell phones to  computers to social media, there are so many portals to connect to our friends and family, yet are we really communicating effectively?

When we consider technology, teenagers often come to mind. In a time when devices seem a part of nearly every conversation, how do we effectively communicate as parents, educators, counselors and mentors?

One way is to show teens a new way to navigate the world through accessing emotional intelligence skills, or also known as emotional quotient or “EQ.” EQ removes barriers to success by providing a “road map” with tangible skills to turn to when making difficult decisions.

Here are five facets of emotional intelligence that can help people of all ages:

Self-awareness provides a  great advantage, allowing us to step back and change our ways to adapt to new surroundings. One way to become self-aware is through mindfulness, which paces our thoughts, feelings and actions through the lens of forgiveness, non-judgment, non-striving, compassion and acceptance.

Self-regulation This basically means not being swept away by  feelings and reacting out of anger, fear, or frustration. It’s being aware of our emotional states and asking ourselves “is this emotion serving me?”  It’s recognizing how we feel and being able to let it go.

Motivation is what drives us towards a long-term goal, and it is not always easy to sustain over time. One way to stay motivated is to think of how achieving a goal will change your life. What will life feel like and look like when you achieve this goal? This can help get us to the finish line.

Empathy is not just being friendly or kind to others. It gives us an opportunity to show our best selves by trying to see the world through the eyes of someone else,  especially when we don’t agree with that person. Imagining what it might be like to be someone else is a good learning experience, no matter what happens in the end.

Social skills are more than just a means to make friends and become popular. Mastering social skills means learning the art of good eye contact, understanding facial expressions, using a tone of voice that appropriately matches your intention. It’s about building rapport and influencing people not with what you have or own but through your genuine compassion and concern.

Practicing the skills of emotional intelligence allows life to unfold in a much richer way by making the most of our opportunities for growth and change.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer counseling and educational programs to teens and parents that are affordable, accessible and discreet; all within a welcoming, supportive environment. This column is made possible in part by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.