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Techniques for a Wiser Life

Wise Thinking #6: Emotional Intelligence

© 2017 Kristi Bridges

Frozen in place, he was a stiff strip of black bungee rubber. I said, “Hi!” The man coming up the trail responded in kind, not realizing my eyes were on the ground. I stayed on my side of the tree, and after the man passed, the black rat snake stuck out his tongue hesitantly, waited another second and slithered to safety. April and May are Tulsa’s loveliest months, and Turkey Mountain is the place to go. I’ve never seen a snake there before, but I imagine the woods offer plenty of good eats for my little friend. I recognized that he wasn’t poisonous. Even if he’d been deadly, I knew bony ankles and bug repellant weren’t his thing. A snake that size wants small prey or a smooth getaway.

Knowing a bit about reptiles saved my day and his. Instead of being freaked out and jumpy, I enjoyed my hike. I climbed rocks, smelled the spring buds, laughed at the kids clambering along with their parents. I sat in the shade, listened to the birds and thought about you.

His head is like the point you’d thread through a needle. That’s how you know he’s not poisonous.

Knowing a bit about human nature helps us. We enjoy our days without lashing out at other people or acting awkward and insecure.

We recognize our tendency to anchor. We don’t compare ourselves to other people in order to determine our own value. We don’t jump into a crummy relationship just because a previous relationship was worse.

We admit that, if educated judges are prone to the Gambler’s Fallacy, we should work smart in order to avoid that trap. When we’re at work, dealing with case after case, we take breaks. We shuffle the files and have someone else double-check them, because we’d rather make fair decisions than protect our pride.  We know our inner thermostat might tell us to switch gears when we’ve gone in one direction for awhile, even if there’s no evidence to support the change.

Knowing our own minds, we automate good things. We meet frequently with positive people; read and share encouraging news. Leveraging the availability heuristic and recency bias in good ways keeps us motivated for long-term goals.

Since everyone has natural vulnerabilities, we know we can be brilliant and still make mistakes. Therefore, we don’t give into shame and hindsight bias. One of the authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Dr. Travis Bradberry says, “Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.”

We’re smart, and we’re grateful. When our mental train fills with complaints like, “She has it so easy, why can’t I get a break?” we toss out those thoughts and pay attention to the beauty around us. Happiness is fun, and a great attitude attracts good things.

These are signs of emotional intelligence. TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence in relation to other work skills and found that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make an average of $29,000 more per year than others, even though they might have average IQs. The good news is that emotional intelligence is something we can learn and improve. So what if you weren’t born logic-driven or good with people? Maybe you were born with a wild temper, or raised on old wive’s tales. You can still develop emotional intelligence. You only have to choose it, and keep choosing it.

I think it’s so important I’m going to keep exploring it. Let me know what you think. If you haven’t read Wisdom – Better than Wishing, order the book and journal in time to read it during May, the next 31-day month.

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