Get ready to level up your emotional intelligence! In this week's episode, we're diving deep into the heart of emotional intelligence, revealing why it's an absolute game-changer. We'll break it all down:
1. Fascinating research on emotional intelligence
2. 3 powerful strategies for mastering your emotions
3. 5 ways to express your emotions effectively
4. My all-time favorite technique for nurturing empathy
5. 2 unexpected gems of emotional intelligence in the Bible
6. A powerful real-life story of emotional intelligence in the fiery furnace of marriage
Do you have questions about friendship for Dr. Alison? Leave them here.
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Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves
Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller
Strong Like Water by Aundi Kolber
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller
Related Podcast Episodes
Episode 50: 9 Types of Intelligence, the Trap of Comparison, and How to Connect More Authentically with God
Episode 57: Should I Turn the Other Cheek? Why It’s the Opposite of Being a Doormat & How to Stand Firm in the Face of Gaslighting, Manipulation, and Toxicity
Episode 69: Your Future Self—8 Challenges to Resolve As You Become the Person You Were Meant to Be
Episode 27: 7 Ways We Manage Perceptions Instead of Forging Real Connections
TBOY Episode 70
Alison: Hey everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. I'm so glad you're here. We are in a new series this fall. I'm calling it Psych 101, but it's really a masterclass for adults who've been adulting in the trenches for a while.
This series is designed to teach you the skills you need to take control of the one thing you actually have control over, which is yourself, the way you think, the way you respond, the messages you tell yourself, even your emotions to some degree, you can shape how you respond as a result of your emotions.
These are the skills you need to take command of yourself so that you can show up more effectively with others. Research shows that when we develop agency, that is when we develop the ability to take charge of ourselves and guide and shape the way we show up in any relationship, in any situation, in any interaction with someone else.
We feel a higher level of satisfaction in ourselves. We feel that good pride of “I just did that thing that is so hard for me to do in that moment”. We feel more positive emotions. We have that feeling of what psychologists call self-efficacy, that I can do it. I have the capacity to change my behaviors, which produces a different outcome.
It's an amazing feeling. It's the opposite of feeling crazy. When you think about that colloquial definition of crazy, which is it's doing the same thing and producing the same result time and time again, it's like continuing to beat your head against a brick wall. Nothing changes, but we're not changing the thing that we are doing to potentially produce a different outcome.
Self-efficacy is the opposite. You make a positive change. You take charge of yourself in a situation, resulting in a different outcome, and it boosts all of these positive feelings inside. It's a feeling of confidence, of empowerment, of I can affect change in my life. And it starts by changing myself.
It always starts with something that we have control over. We can never change another human. We can change ourselves, but as we change ourselves, whether it be an emotional pattern, a thought pattern, a behavioral pattern, we will begin to produce different results in the environment around us.
That's the big picture goal here.
We're trying to grow in self efficacy, this capacity to make the small and big changes we need to make in our own lives that produce different and more positive outcomes in our lives and in our relationships and in our day to day. And it feels so good. That feeling of I did it. I did it.
And I think about this even before God. I feel like God lights up with delight when we make a change and we exert some influence over the environment around us in a positive way. We feel fantastic and God delights over that moment.
With all that being said, we're going to start with emotional intelligence. Now, emotional intelligence is a big concept and I'm going to break it down for you today and give you some practical examples of what it looks like to apply emotional intelligence, but it's something we all need to be working to develop like a muscle.
When you think about going to the gym, you're going to work on different muscle groups. Emotional intelligence is that large group of muscles, so to speak, that have to do with regulating our emotions.
The term emotional intelligence was first popularized by psychologist and author Daniel Goleman in a 1995 book called Emotional Intelligence, and then there's a second book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry that expands on the topic.
Essentially what Goleman hypothesized is that EQ or emotional intelligence is as important, if not more important than IQ.
We all were pretty good about this idea of what's IQ. It's how intelligent everybody is, but what does that really mean? It's usually a measure of our verbal skills or our mathematics skills. We talked about this in episode 50, nine types of intelligence where increasingly we are aware that there are many types of intelligence and the ability to do math or to be verbally intelligent, it's one type of intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is one of these types of intelligence that Daniel Goleman hypothesized was super important and sure enough, it turns out to be as important, if not more important, especially in our work and professional lives.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to do five different things as they relate to your emotions.
Number one, to recognize. your emotions. That's one part of emotional intelligence is simply the ability to notice and name an emotion. I'm scared. I'm sad. I'm worried. I'm angry. That's the first step of emotional intelligence is that ability to be able to notice, recognize, and name an emotion. Okay. This is what we try to teach our kids, but so many of us as adults never learned how to slow ourselves down enough to simply recognize and label an emotion.
Number two, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your emotions. To process them. That might mean I can first recognize that I'm sad and that I can secondly understand why. I might be sad. What's the context for the sadness? What happened that evoked the sadness? Is the sadness from the past? Is the sadness from something that happened in my immediate sphere of awareness? Is it about a memory? Was it triggered by a thought, or was it triggered by a behavior that I witnessed happening in front of me?
Understanding our emotions is a whole separate step from simply being able to label them. It's really important that you begin to process that emotion correctly, because we often misattribute emotions.
We might say, I'm really angry when your spouse says something to you, when in fact they didn't say anything that should have evoked anger, they tripped over a trigger that might have been from somebody else from 10 years ago. Emotional intelligence is tricky. It's both being aware of our emotions and understanding them in their proper context effectively.
And then number three, next level, we have to be able to manage them. This is what I'm feeling in this moment. This is why I'm feeling what I'm feeling in this moment. I understand it. And now I have to regulate the feeling. I don't want to act out of the feeling. I don't want to “sin”.
If you think about the scripture that says in your anger, do not sin. It doesn't say don't be angry. It does not say that it says when you're angry, don't sin. That's part of emotional management or what we call emotional regulation. I'm aware that I'm angry. I understand why I'm angry and I'm not going to act out of my anger in an inappropriate way.
I'm also not going to sideline my anger, managing an emotion or regulating your emotions doesn't mean we stuff them. It means we honor them by considering how our behaviors can reflect those genuine emotions in constructive ways.
And this leads to the next part of emotional intelligence. According to Goleman, there's recognizing, understanding, managing, and then effectively expressing your emotions. That's exactly what happens now if we're doing this really well. And again, listen, if you've become really good at emotional intelligence, this'll feel like a muscle memory. You've got it in your muscle memory. You go in and you know what to do.
But for so many of us, different steps along the way are still really hard. We have to really slow ourselves down to be able to even label and recognize the emotion, let alone to regulate it, to give ourselves a pause, to give ourselves a timeout before we get to effectively expressing it.
It's not expressing it, it's effectively expressing it. I'm angry. I need to let you know that. Here's why. It takes a calm nervous system. We can't be in that fight-flight state–when we're emotionally activated, we rush in for the fight. We rush into the conflict with a tone. We're angry. We're yelling.
That's not an effective expression of emotions, but nor is flight an effective expression where we run away as fast as we can, because we don't trust ourselves to not go DEFCON 2 on somebody and blow up, so we avoid it. We run away.
That flight mode isn't effectively expressing emotions either. It is to some degree managing them. And if you're new to this and you really struggle with that fight flight, going into flight mode for a moment might be a step forward for you to manage it so that you don't hurt someone else. But the goal is that calm nervous system, that homeostasis, where we're aware of the emotion, we're understanding it, we're regulating it.
We're not lashing out of it, nor are we suppressing it. Instead, we're aware of the emotion. I'm angry. I don't like feeling this way, but I do. This is how I feel. I'm journaling about it. I'm taking a walk. I'm taking some deep breaths to let that emotion flow through me so that it's not quite so intense.
This is all part of that management. And it's for the goal of this last step, which is, and then I'm going to need to express it. I'm going to need to express it in my journal. I'm going to need to express it to God. I'm going to need to express it with a safe friend, or I may well need to express this emotion with the person who evoked it.
And I want to do that effectively. This is all part of emotional intelligence. Each one of these steps could probably warrant their own podcast episode.
Now, there's actually a fifth component to emotional intelligence, and that is the ability to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others.
It's not about me and my emotions when it comes to emotional intelligence. It's also about having an emotional intelligence about your emotions. Now, here's the thing. Again, if you go back to episode 50 on the nine types of intelligence, there's intrapersonal intelligence, where you're very gifted at understanding your own inner states.
You're aware of your own emotions. You're aware of your own experiences internally. if you're naturally high on that intrapersonal awareness, that intrapersonal intelligence, for you, those first five steps might come fairly easily.
You're really readily able to identify what you're feeling, to understand it, to manage it and to express it effectively. But then we go to that other type of intelligence, interpersonal intelligence. How well do you read others? How well do you attune to the needs of others and respond to the needs of others in an intelligent way?
That's getting at this fifth part of emotional intelligence. It involves the ability to recognize, understand, and even influence the emotions of others.
Let me give you an example of what emotional intelligence might look like. Imagine you've been invited to a party. Maybe it's a neighborhood event. You haven't seen these people in a while. You're a little bit anxious.
You're excited, but you're also where, wow, I'm going to walk into this room full of people. I don't know a lot of people here. I haven't seen a lot of people here. A lot has changed in my life. I'm aware that I'm going to feel anxious. You've prepped yourself for that. You're going to be a little bit anxious.
You understand that it makes sense. You don't feel ashamed about it. Of course, I'll feel a little bit anxious. That makes sense. When you walk into a big group full of people you haven't seen in a while you've thought about how you're going to manage those emotions.
You've prepared some scripts. You've thought about how I'll smile. I'll look for this person that I know really well, who I really enjoy. I've envisioned myself walking into the room and what that will feel like when I see the different people.
I've normalized the anxiety. I've talked myself through it so that when I feel it, when I walk into that room, I can take a deep breath and smile and see what happens. I've done some of that prep work and then I might even say when I'm at the party, I might even say to my friend who I see, say, Oh gosh, this is so fun. And I also feel a little bit anxious. I haven't seen these people in a while.
And then my friend says, Oh yeah, me too. I was also a little bit anxious about this party and suddenly we're connecting and we're laughing and all those good chemicals are being released. That's an emotionally intelligent way to go about the simple activity of having some anxiety.
For going into a neighborhood party, you've recognized the emotions. You've understood them without shame. You figured out ways to manage them. It's normal. I'm going to take a deep breath. I'm going to look for a couple of safe people, and then I'm going to express to those safe people what I'm feeling in that moment, which alleviates the pressure of the emotions. I have a connection and all of a sudden there's good chemicals coming in. I'm starting to have a good time.
That seems like a simple example, but imagine what happens when none of those steps of emotional intelligence are in place.
And I see this honestly happen all the time where we've suppressed that emotional awareness. We don't want to deal with it. Instead, we are feeling anxious, but we're pretending like we're not. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm not going to think about it. I'm going to go in. We rush into the party.
We might work overtime to make sure everybody else feels okay. We might get busy, roll up our sleeves and start doing all the dishes. We have all these coping tactics for emotions. We don't end up having a good time because we spent the whole party either taking care of everybody else and ignoring our own emotions with all that heightened anxiety still in our body that we're not aware of, but we're overcompensating.
We don't have a good time. We're super stressed out afterwards. No wonder we don't like going to parties. We never make a meaningful connection with someone else because we're too busy trying to cope with our own feelings of anxiety that we haven't actually named, understood, managed, and expressed in a healthy way.
We leave the party, we end up beating ourselves up because we feel like we were too intense, or we feel like we didn't really connect with anybody. We have all this negativity in our minds because we weren't present to the reality of what we were actually feeling, and then it goes on and on.
Over the course of that next week, you bump into a neighbor. Wasn't that party great? Oh, it was fantastic. We smile. Even though we actually had a terrible time because the whole time we were anxious, we didn't know what to do with our anxiety. And now we're cycling through more and more disingenuous connections. We're never actually stating what's true.
“That party was hard for me. I get really anxious about parties, and I realized I just talked too much because I was so anxious. I tried too hard and now I'm feeling shame.”
We're never really connecting in a meaningful way. Why go through the motions? If the goal of being with other people, of gathering with other people, being in a room with one other person, with five other people, with twenty other people is connection, why go to all that bother if we're not actually connecting?
And how do we connect authentically if we don't exercise some of this skill called emotional intelligence? If we're not aware of what we're feeling in the moment, in the first place, this is the baseline for human connection.
How can I connect with you if I'm denying or suppressing or covering over or coping such that my genuine feelings in the moment aren't even allowed to come to the surface in a meaningful, effective, healthy way? Why are we doing this? Why are we going through all of these motions together if we're not really connecting,
We do this in our intimate relationships. We do this in our family relationships. We do this in our social relationships. We do this in our church communities. Why bother going through the motions of all the work it takes to be with other humans if we are not actually showing up in a meaningful way, both in terms of understanding our own internal lives, what's happening with me in this moment, and in terms of being connected to what's genuinely going on with you?
What a beautiful moment of connection when I can say to my loved one, to a friend at a family dinner, I'm hurting today. Yeah, I'm okay. I don't need group therapy, but I wanted you to know that's how I'm feeling right now. How about you? What's going on with you? Oh, you're having a great day. I'm so glad to hear it. Tell me more. I'd love to hear more.
And suddenly we're connecting authentically because each person is doing the work of recognizing and labeling their own emotional state of understanding that there's no shame there. This is what's true. This is what's happening, each person is regulating their own emotions. I'm not bleeding all over you.
Even if I say something true, even if I say, yeah, it's been a rough day. I don't need you to take care of me. I've done the work. I'm managing my own emotions and. What's also true is I'm still hurting a little bit. And I can sense that you're with me. And you're saying, Oh, I get it. I'm so glad you were honest with me.
Here's how I'm doing. And there's suddenly this moment of connection. It's real, I'm being real, you're being real. We're not taking care of each other. I'm not trying to cope by avoiding myself and jumping into your problem. I'm not asking you to fix my problem. I'm being real. You're being real. We're together. We're connecting. What a beautiful moment. This is emotional intelligence.
What does research show about the benefits of emotional intelligence? I've gone through it in the picture that I painted, but essentially emotional intelligence paves the way for deeper, more fulfilling relationships with other people.
It helps us to connect on gauzy words, but that's what it means when we're actually being real in a moment with another person. We feel seen, we feel understood, we feel known. And that exchange in and of itself brings deep satisfaction and relief.
Number two, emotional intelligence produces more resilience. Instead of getting bogged down by our emotions or bogged down by challenges, we are able to approach them with balance. We can honor complex emotions, different emotions–I have a job that I really value. And sometimes it's really hard for me. That's emotional intelligence. When we can really honor the complexity of the challenges we're facing.
Maybe it's a parenting issue. Maybe it's a marriage, maybe it's a friendship. A lot of things can be true in this moment and I can honor all of those things, which allows me to develop this emotional tolerance or resilience where I don't need things to be perfect to thrive, I can tolerate some ambiguity in a moment.
This helps us manage stress better because we're more prepared. We start to prepare our bodies. We start to prepare our minds. We start to prepare our nervous systems to cope with things that are hard because we've named them. We've understood them. We're not deceiving ourselves.
We're not pretending anymore, which allows us to equip ourselves to face the challenging situations that we face. And then lastly, it leads to an approved self concept, an approved sense of satisfaction in yourself, a better sense of well being.
It feels good to go, man, I faced that. I can do it. I have a sense of confidence in myself. I can show up for this hard situation and it won't take me out. And that feels good to our system. There's a lot of benefits to emotional intelligence.
Here's the good news about emotional intelligence. It's not a trait. It's not something you're born with. It's a skill we develop over time. The same as any muscle that you develop in your body. You start to work on it a little bit each day. You start to develop the muscles that lead to emotional intelligence. It's never too late to develop the skill of emotional intelligence.
Number one, we're going to start with the basics of self-awareness. This is a buzzy psychology word, self awareness. What does it really mean? It's actually really important. And if you think about Jesus, love God, love others as self, you think about self awareness in each of those three points of the triangle, we need to be aware of God's movements, aware of God's spirit.
We need to be aware of others, aware of their emotional states, aware of where they might be hurting. And we need to be aware of ourselves, of when I'm hurting, of when I'm fearful, of when I'm activated or angry. All three types of awareness are essential to healthy relationships.
And again, you may be listening to me going, oh, I'm pretty good at God-awareness. I'm pretty good at other-awareness. I'm terrible at self-awareness. Or you might be someone who's really aware of yourself and you have a really hard time reading other people.
Just start there, that self-awareness right there. That awareness of, oh, this is hard for me. I need some work here. This is a muscle I need to work to develop a little bit more. That is the essence of self awareness. Self-awareness is being really honest, radically honest with yourself.
There's no shame in self-awareness, it's simply noticing what's true. Right now, I feel insecure. I wish I didn't. Right now, I feel overwhelmed. This feels overwhelming to me. I can't process this. That's self-awareness. If you're feeling that right now, that's awesome. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Listening to Dr. Alison right now is making me feel overwhelmed. I don't think I can do this. If you're feeling that right now, I want you to pause and go, oh my gosh, that's self-awareness. This is overwhelming to me.
Or if you're listening to me right now thinking this is elementary, I know this, why doesn't she move past it? Pause right there. You're aware of something in yourself. I already know how to do this. That's excellent self-awareness.
It's simply noticing right now what's happening inside of me. What am I aware of? Am I riveted on what Dr. Alison is saying? This is fascinating to me. That's self awareness. There's no right or wrong with self awareness. It's what is happening right now. It starts with this self reflection. Tuning in and recognizing and naming what you notice.
To take a step towards self-awareness, journaling is a fantastic research based way to begin to become more aware of what you're thinking and feeling. There's something about picking up a pen and starting to write out on the page and externalizing the things you're thinking and feeling that helps you see it more clearly. Oh my gosh, that's how I really feel right now. And so you might consider a journaling practice. Start with 10 to 15 minutes every day and ask yourself, what am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? And start to journal about it. I'm feeling sad today. Why am I feeling sad? I don't know. And you start to follow the rabbit trails of noticing what's happening inside your mind.
And when the timer ends, stop. You don't want to get overwhelmed by it, but give yourself 10 to 15 minutes a day. Don't censor yourself. There's no right or wrong. It's just, this is what's true. There's no bad or good in this space. This is what is, and you can turn it to God.
You can say, God, this is what I'm feeling right now. It's what is, I want to be honest with you. The truth sets us free. There's no bad, no good, these are not binaries. This is what. It is in the moment, you're not acting on it, you're simply acknowledging and you're beginning to reflect.
These are those first two steps of emotional intelligence, recognizing the emotions and understanding them. You might ask yourself, what happened right before I started feeling this way? What was it that I did? Did I open up a social media app? Did I scroll past and see something? And again, there's no judgment here, no matter how silly it may seem to you.
Oh, why did that post create such a havoc of emotion inside of me? But honor it, own it. You got some information about yourself. That's good data. That's helpful to understand yourself. That's all you're trying to do. Getting curious is another way to put it. We talk about all the time in Boundaries for Your Soul when you're beginning to look at yourself.
You're taking a You-turn. You're getting curious. curious about what you notice. No shame. Sometimes when you're working through these first couple of steps of recognizing and understanding, locating what you're feeling in your physical body can be helpful. You might do a body scan where you notice from head to toe where you're carrying tension in different parts of your body.
Some people tend to be more attuned to their physical body. They might notice that I have tension in my neck or I have a headache or, whatever it is, notice that as a form of self awareness , and then you can begin to ask yourself, I wonder where that tension is coming from. What emotion might be behind that tension that I'm noticing in my neck or shoulders?
Self-awareness starts with simply beginning to pay attention to your emotional states, to physical tension in your body and journaling is a great way to start taking 10 to 15 minutes to notice what you're aware of each day.
And then we're going to move into self-regulation. Now, sometimes the reason we're a little bit afraid to become aware of an emotion is we feel like the emotion will take us over and that's really understandable, especially if you have a history of trauma, if you've never done this work, if you have a lot of pain.
I don't want to become aware of all that pain because it'll overwhelm me. It's a really normal fear. And again, that's great self-awareness. That's a really beautiful first step of honesty. I'm a little bit afraid of my emotions because I don't know what to do with them.
And if you're feeling that way, it's a great opportunity to meet with a therapist to work through that. Say, “emotions are a little bit scary for me. And so I want to work through them in a safe, guided setting where I can learn to pace myself as I unpack those emotions”.
You can think about a couple of different exercises. Breath is one of the most well researched ways to slow down emotional responses. if you notice an emotion to take a deep breath, practice breathing in and holding for a count of four. And then slowly releasing that breath. It's a physiological simple intervention that slows down the firing of the nervous system and allows you to calm yourself in that moment.
Another way to regulate emotions, especially if you have a lot of big emotions, is a grounding technique called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, technique. Aundi Kolber writes about this technique in her book, Strong Like Water. I found it to be very helpful to me. It brings you into the present moment in a really manageable way.
What you do is you look in the room around you and you identify five things you can see. Four things you can actually touch with your hands, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one that you can taste. And this diverts your attention, bringing you into the present moment and out of big emotions.
Again, there's some people who need to bring their emotions into their conscious awareness. They need to try to understand them more. They tend to sideline their emotions. Other folks have big emotions and they need to learn how to make the emotions less big in the moment.
As you breathe, you might notice emotions, but you're also noticing them in a contained way without the rapid firing of your nervous system. When you're having a big emotion, start to ground yourself, five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear. Take some deep breaths. Two things you can smell. One thing you can taste and your emotions start to get a little smaller.
Now, another thing you can do to help regulate an emotion in IFS, we talk about emotions being attached to parts. And as you connect to that emotion, you can use the power of your imagination to imagine that emotion behind a glass wall where it's with you, but not overtaking you.
Anger is here with me. It is not all of me. Sadness is here with me. It is not all of me, a part of me is sad, a part of me is angry. That's getting at that intra psychic differentiation where you allow an emotion to be with you, even as you have a little bit of healthy distance.
Those are some different techniques. You can use your breath. That's sometimes the easiest place to start and the quickest way to slow the firing of the nervous system. You can use a grounding technique to keep you really grounded in your physical surroundings. You can use that imagination imagining the part of you as separate from you, maybe behind a glass window or a glass wall.
You name the emotion and you also very clearly remind yourself it's not all of who you are. You can get a healthy distance from it. This is all part of emotional regulation. As you start to practice self awareness, you start to notice emotions. Now, these are some things that you can do to help you manage them. Remember, we're recognizing, we're understanding our emotions, and then we're managing them.
Managing doesn't mean making them go away. It means keeping them at a healthy distance. Not too big, not too small. Just right, here's the emotion, it's here, it's not taking me over. I'm not desperate to get away from it. And that's when we begin to move into the next step of expressing ourselves effectively, where we speak on behalf of an emotion or we care for ourselves through the experience of an emotion.
It doesn't always mean we have to go tell somebody, although that's a wonderful way to express on behalf of an emotion, whether you're telling the person directly or whether you're seeking support from a friend, but you can also do it through taking a walk.
You can express an emotion through music that helps you metabolize that emotion. You can do it through movement. There are a lot of ways to express emotion. You can get anger out through beating a pillow. These are all ways that we begin to express the emotion, get it out of our bodies in a healthy way.
I want to touch on this other awareness, this interpersonal intelligence becoming aware of other people's emotional states in an emotionally intelligent way it has to do with empathy. And you can cultivate empathy, you can cultivate the ability to step inside someone else's shoes if it doesn't come naturally to you. And my favorite technique is to simply ask yourself, I wonder what this other person is thinking and feeling. And imagine going through their day, the two hours preceding when you had an interaction with them.
And the best example of this is when you and your spouse both show up at the dinner table after a long, hard day. I am so aware of the day I've had, I am so aware of what's going on inside of me, but take a minute consciously. This is a decision. It's a muscle you're developing to think about what's going on in my spouse.
At this moment, what happened the two hours preceding them showing up at the dinner table or my child, or my friend, what happened in their life, the two hours preceding this interaction, they were maybe sitting in traffic, stuck, maybe they had a bad day at work, maybe they had a bad day at school, maybe they had a bad conversation with someone else.
Imagine what that other person has gone through those two or three hours preceding them coming into your immediate sphere. You are each bringing into that moment of contact a whole world of stressors, a whole world of thoughts, a whole world of feelings.
And the more you will become aware of your own. And can simultaneously imagine, oh my gosh, that other person, this other being in front of me is showing up to this moment with a whole world of their own stressors, their own hard conversations, their own traffic jams, whatever the things are, and you can begin to remind yourself of that you're going to dramatically improve your ability to connect in that moment.
Now, remember, it's not sidelining yourself. Some of us sideline ourselves and we're so empathetic. We know that this other person is struggling so much when they show up at the moment with us. It's not taking yourself out of the equation.
It's both. Here's what I'm coming to the table with today. All the things that have been hard in my day, all the things I've been worried about, all the things I'm ragged about, and oh my gosh, this person sitting in front of me, same thing. They're coming to this moment in front of me with all the things that are hard for them.
All those conversations that went sideways, all the ways they're beating themselves. We are both right here with all of that. Let's start getting real. This is emotional intelligence. This is spiritual maturity. This is what it means to become more like Christ. I am so aware of everything I'm bringing to this moment with you guys.
It's here. It's with me, and I'm going to honor you by. Regulating myself. I'm not going to dump all of this on you because that's not fair to you. I'm also not going to sideline it because that's not fair to me. And guess what? If you are simultaneously doing that same work, you're coming to me aware of everything that's going on inside of you and all that's hard about it.
And you're also going to be mindful. You're not going to dump that on me. You're also aware that I'm coming to the table with my own stuff. Oh my gosh. Can we have together a beautiful moment of genuine connection? It starts so simply. How are you? Oh man. It's been a day. How about you? Oh, it's been a day.
Yeah, I see you. Me too. Me too. And you're right there with almost not that many words. You are so present to each other. Yeah I'm pretty overwhelmed. Yeah, I'm overwhelmed too. All right. Good to know. How can we be tender with each other in this moment?
Or maybe one person is actually doing. Great. I'm in a good place, which frees you to say, I'm struggling. Would you have the capacity to walk with me through some of my struggles as I process them? It allows us to each take responsibility for our own responses and it leads to these beautiful relationships that God designed us to have.
Now, in closing today, I want to share with you a couple of illustrations of emotional intelligence from the Bible, and then one from real life that I think is a really great example. The first one that we see is when Jesus confronts those who are about to stone the woman who's caught in the act of adultery. And if you think about this, let's go through the steps of emotional intelligence.
When the religious leaders ask him, they're trying to test him. And they're like, don't you think we should stone this woman? She's been caught in adultery, right there. They're trying to set a trap for him. And Jesus is pretty calm.
He doesn't race to an answer. He doesn't get impulsive. He takes a moment and bends down. He grounds himself in that moment. He puts his finger in the sand, he grounds himself, maybe he's even counting to 10, taking deep breaths, calming himself. There's that self awareness and that emotional regulation in that moment that we see in Jesus.
He's gathering himself. He's aware of whatever it is that he feels inside, a combination of anger, maybe some compassion for the woman. He's also reading the cues from the woman. My guess is that the woman was hurting. She was in pain. She probably felt shame. She probably felt demoralized.
Jesus is picking all of that up. He's aware. He's empathetic to her. He's aware of what's going on in himself. He takes a minute to regulate, and then he communicates effectively, and it's brilliant. “Hey, whoever among you has never sinned, has never found yourself in a position like this woman is in right now, why don't you go ahead and throw that first stone?”
That's a brilliant, emotionally intelligent response. He is turning it on them. Hey, you look inside yourselves for a minute. Really? Really? You've never done anything? And then he turns to the woman with empathy. He reads her emotions. He's reading the whole room. He's reading himself and and he's reading the woman with empathy saying, you go in peace, I don't condemn you. You're free.
He sets her free of her shame. He knows this woman. He knows what she needs. He's reading her accurately, perfectly. Now we're not going to be Jesus. We're not going to be able to perfectly read a situation, but that story shows all three elements of his self-awareness. His ability to regulate his own emotions, to ground himself, his ability to read the other people around him, both folks who are trying to trap him, whom he calls out and folks who need his compassion. He's reading all of that beautifully.
Now, there's another example where we see emotional intelligence in Jesus, and that's when he turns the tables over in the temple. We see emotional intelligence there. Emotional intelligence doesn't mean we don't have emotions. When Jesus walks into that temple and he sees it being used as a marketplace where people are exchanging money and selling animals for sacrifices.
This distortion of his father's house–he doesn't like it. He's aware of the anger. He regulates himself. That act of overturning the tables is not impulsive. In my estimation, in my view, there's no indication that he's out of control.
It's a strategic move to show and express the depth of his anger. He doesn't hurt anybody. He's not motivated out of cruelty. He's not trying to harm people. He's not beating people up. He's showing the depth of what he feels about that situation. There's self-awareness, there's self-regulation, there's understanding and there's appropriate expression. There's genius in that moment.
And there's an example that I want to close with. It's from a book by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller called The Meaning of Marriage. He tells a story in the book about something Kathy does that reminds me of that emotional intelligence of Jesus when he turned those tables over in the temple.
I want to close with this story because I want to paint a picture for you of emotional intelligence. It's not being a doormat. It's not always being kind. It's a little bit like what we talked about in episode 57 about should I turn the other cheek? This is not being a doormat. This is shrewdness. This is being strategic. This is knowing the power of your emotion, the power of what you feel, aligning the power of what you feel with.
The truth of what is good and right in the universe and effectively expressing on behalf of those emotions to impact other people. There's a lot of power in emotional intelligence. And in this story that Tim Keller tells, he and his wife, Kathy have negotiated during his early work as a pastor, he's going to be working crazy hours for about three years. That's what it takes. And she's agreed to that. They've gone in, eyes wide open. He's going to be working all the time for three years to try to build this church.
And she's, she said, okay, that's going to be hard, but I share this vision with you. Okay. Three years pass and he is still constantly working overtime. He's not making good on his end of the bargain. He's not scaling back and she sees this.
Essentially he keeps wanting more. Oh, I need more time. Just a little more time. And she's done. She says I gave you the three years, you're building the church and I see what's going to happen. You're going to become a workaholic. I am never going to see you. And 20 years from now, we're not going to have a marriage.
This is going to destroy our marriage. I gave you three years. I'm done. You need to scale it back. You need to put your marriage first. (This is my take on the story. I'm imagining this is what's going on.)
And in the story, she’s smashing plates and he's freaked out. What is she doing? And she is saying to him with laser focus, you are destroying our marriage. What I am doing to our wedding china, I am showing you. What it is that you are going to do to our marriage if you don't reign your workaholism in and she's destroying these China saucers that were a wedding gift to them and he talks about how he thought she had lost her mind, but oh my goodness did she have his attention and later come to find out, she planned it.
She was angry. She was aware of being angry. She understood her anger. He had betrayed her and he was getting set to betray her for a lifetime and she was not okay with it. She regulated her emotions. She got her anger down to enough of a degree that she could manage them.
She didn't lash out. She didn't yell at him. She didn't throw the dishes at him. She was not motivated by hurting him. She was in command of her anger. And then she expressed effectively on behalf of that anger. And she knew there was the only way words hadn't worked. The only way to get his attention was this very physical metaphor for what he was doing.
She even told him later that she had chosen the saucers for teacups that are already broken. The saucers that she chose to smash strategically were actually ones that were actually ones that didn't have a match anyway. That's how strategic she was. She was not taken over by her emotions in that moment.
She was strategic with her emotions. She was making a point. This is what you're doing to our marriage. And she smashed the saucers so that he could see it. And he got the message. She also knew her husband, she knew what would speak to him.
This is not a lesson that I would prescribe to you or to my therapy clients. This is a lesson rooted in emotional intelligence. The moral of this story isn't to break wedding dishes to get your spouse's attention. That is not what this story is about. This is a story about emotional intelligence.
She was in command of her emotions. She understood them and she harnessed their power to express effectively in a way that she knew this man that she loved and knew very well could hear. The moral of this story is emotional intelligence.
What are you facing, whether as a parent, whether as a spouse, whether as a friend that is igniting some emotion inside of you, you're aware of it, you understand it, you're regulating it, and then you begin to think to yourself, what is the best way to express what I need to express in this situation in a strategic way?
That's emotional intelligence. It's a skill we all need to develop to become the fullest, truest version of our God made selves.