Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is key to preserving a positive mental state and throughout this article I’d like to unpack this concept further exploring what it is, its impacts and how to cultivate it.

Emotionally intelligent people possess an understanding of how their emotions impact those around them and possessing this understanding enables them to respond and manage emotions in a positive manner.  

Individuals with limited EI are the opposite as they have minimal self-awareness and struggle to regulate their emotions, often acting impulsively in response to intense emotion which negatively impacts our mental state.   

Psychologist Daniel Goleman who authored the book Emotional Intelligence in 1995 determined there are five fundamental EI attributes, each of which have their own benefits, including:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Empathy
  4. Motivation
  5. Social skill.

Let’s break down Goleman’s five attributes listed above, which I’ve accompanied with some tips which you may find useful to boost your EI:

  • Self-awareness and self-regulation — Take time to develop insight when you are emotionally reactive. Scan your surroundings to identify potential triggers which will assist you in restructuring your responses. Combine this with journaling as it serves as a reference point, jot down triggers, what you did well, what you need to do better and the impacts it had on those around you. This will foster self-improvement and allow for better emotional regulation should these or similar situations arise in the future.
  • Empathy This is key as it allows us to have an awareness and appreciate another’s feelings and beliefs. In order to achieve this, focus on refining your emotional sensors to identify feelings and changes in those around you. An article by clinical counsellor Gary Gilles provides three simple but valuable principles you can practice and references “listening for the Emotion, reflecting what you hear and probing for context”. I encourage you to read it in its entirety.
  • Motivation This will boost your self-confidence, which has a flow on effect. One strategy I use to grow my motivation levels involves simplifying daily tasks, as I find that chaos and confusion decreases motivation and input throughout the day. I break all my tasks down into bite-sized chunks, providing me with a sense of accomplishment upon completion. Why not give it a go?  
  • Social Skills In the context of EI, this is our ability to navigate the emotional needs of others across the relationships in our lives in a considerate manner. You can achieve this through focusing on your engagement style with others. Why not ask yourself this, to fine-tune your engagement style: Do I actively listen, reflect and seek clarification? Do I tactfully diffuse conflict by recognising the other person’s point of view and feelings, and can I agree to disagree?  

I’m hoping I’ve been able to provide perspective and useful tips that are transferable in your daily life. Lastly, I’d like to conclude with a fitting quote by psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl who astutely stated: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:

By Kym Marsden

Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.