Being emotionally intelligent is knowing when and how to express emotion.
This above definition is simple enough, although it doesn’t fit neatly into the four-pillar arrangement of secular emotional intelligence. But being emotionally intelligent by knowing when and how to express emotion implies an acute level of personal and social awareness and management.
There is a key test. Can we respond to each situation in the right emotional way?
Do we weep with those who are weeping? Do we rejoice with those who are rejoicing? Can we weep with ourselves? Can we celebrate within ourselves?
These are all vital clues regarding how emotionally intelligent we are. And, furthermore, these are indicators of how in touch we are with our inner selves.
And how are we to learn when to be ‘emotional’ and when not to be?
Emotions Must Always Be Fitted to Truth
Emotions are always okay, and appropriate, when they are in alignment with reality.
This is not to say that our emotions will be met with the approval of others. Many others may feel uncomfortable at the presentation of our emotion. For some, emotion is disarming, for others it is enchanting, and for others, again, it is bewitching. But when we react emotionally according to the broadly-expected reality our emotions will resonate with at least some.
In some situations emotions get in the way, like in business, and we would be best to exercise emotional self-restraint. But in other situations, like when there has been a loss in the family, we would appear numb if we didn’t react emotionally.
Another key test of true emotional intelligence is the level of instinctual response. Do we respond intuitively, and without thought, or is it a put-on? Is it natural or spontaneous?
Of course, if our emotions are to come as a direct reaction of the broadly-accepted reality, as opposed to our own personal maladaptive reality, we will be emotionally intelligent. We will have reacted as a mature person would. We see here that truth is only represented in the relational context of what could be broadly accepted.
Emotional Intelligence Is a Relational Concept
As we relate with ourselves, and others, and our God, the test of our understanding is the adroitness of our emotional reaction in each moment.
Emotional intelligence is, therefore, a relational concept. It requires the byplay of transaction. By it, a relationship can be rated on its performance—the congruence between the two or more parties to it. We either relate well with ourselves, or not so well. We either relate well with others, or not so well. The same is true for our relationships with God. And if our emotions are askew, and they are reactions not fitted well to the truth of the moment, we are not relating, and, for that time, are not emotionally intelligent.
Emotional intelligence is therefore a moment-by-moment proposition. We can lose it or we can acquire it. Our performance has form. We can be in form or out of form.
Knowing when and how to express emotion is a blessing in all relationships. Things go well because the truth is respected and reactions are reliable. Good emotional performance helps people feel safe.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.