You might have heard of the “3 R’s” – the basic skills that school is designed to develop: “Reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic”.
While these are great fundamental skills to learn in the classroom, today’s school environment provides you with the opportunity to develop as a person – well beyond the basic concepts taught in class. As well as the measures that make someone traditionally ‘intelligent’, school gives you the opportunity to develop your emotional intelligence as well.
Emotional intelligence is loosely defined as an ability to understand, monitor, and manage your own emotions, and the emotions of others – and to use this information to guide your behaviour.
Why is emotional intelligence important? There are a few reasons. First of all, it’s critical in today’s workplace – as more and more analytical jobs are taken by machinery and software, the value placed on being human and understanding the people around you only increases. And secondly, higher emotional intelligence is linked to positive wellbeing metrics such as a stronger ability to manage stress, so it’ll help with day-to-day life at school as well.
Just like your ability to play a musical instrument, or make a logical argument, developing emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey. However, the unique environment being at school provides you with every day gives you a good opportunity to work on particular aspects of your emotional intelligence that will set you up well in later life.
Here are six of our top tips to develop your emotional intelligence – read on!
Teach yourself to take constructive feedback from others.
One of the hallmarks of strong emotional intelligence is the ability to take constructive feedback from others on board. It’s never easy to admit that you’re not perfect at something, even if you know this to be the case! In the long run, people who can actively seek out feedback, and improve their work in response, will develop their craft much quicker than people who slip into the mindset of thinking they know everything there is to know.
If you have a few teachers you trust at school, you can get in the habit of asking them for ways in which you can develop your work. This is particularly true for writing-based subjects such as English or the social sciences, but will also work for more analytical subjects such as Maths.
Then, once you’ve got a list of things to work on, don’t get too hung up trying to fix everything at once! Instead, pick a couple of key areas to focus on and actively work on improving these every time you have a chance – with every piece of homework, or every essay, for example. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can see results!
Take notice of your own emotions, and what they’re driven by.
It sounds simple, but a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence is the ability to describe and evaluate emotions. When we experience life on a day-to-day basis, there’s so much to process that it can be hard to isolate the impact of different events on our experiences. In a high-pressure environment such as school, this can lead to the feeling that everything is coming at you at once.
Negative emotions can often be mitigated by simply being aware of them, and giving them a label. When you stop for a minute and realise that you’re feeling stressed because you’ve got two tests tomorrow, it helps to put things in perspective – in the moment, it can feel like you’re stressed at everything in life, which is an unhelpful sensation. In doing so, you can also focus your energy on where it’s needed (in this case, by preparing for your tests!).
Seek out people from different backgrounds.
As you grow older, you start to notice more and more that different people have different backgrounds, which leads to different sets of experiences. This starts to become apparent at school, and particularly so at schools with a wide diversity of people.
Take the time to seek out people from different backgrounds, and understand their experiences – and share your own background and experiences growing up. You will likely find that you have much more in common than you have differences! Doing so will also allow you to evaluate the impact of your own context on who you are as a person, and will open your mind to new interactions with other people.
Take notice of the words you use.
A large chunk of emotional intelligence can be thought of as simply being aware of things – and one of the best things you can be aware of is the language you use. How often do you use one of the following phrases?
· “I can’t do that…”
· “I don’t like (person)…”
· “That’s a stupid idea…”
What would happen if you replaced these phrases with…
· “I haven’t learnt to do that yet!”
· “I find it difficult to get along with (person) because…”
· “What if, instead, we tried…”
Of course, the statements above are just examples – but the wider point is that the choice of words you say can have a massive impact on how people perceive you, even in seemingly unimportant interactions. Using language that is inclusive of other people’s ideas and thoughts, and that promotes the concept of a growth mindset and ability to positively change, is a valuable step in developing your own emotional intelligence.
Sometimes, you’ll be frustrated. Learn to manage it.
School is a time of immense personal and educational growth, and that doesn’t come without its challenges. When you’re consistently taking in new information, meeting new people, and trying new things, you’ll inevitably get frustrated sometimes. That’s normal – it’s a natural part of growing up, and learning to manage it is a valuable skill.
What managing frustration look like? Well, perhaps you’re frustrated with some school work you’re doing – maybe you’re trying to learn a concept, but it just won’t stick. In that case, a good course of action is to take a break, get some exercise, and perhaps sleep on it – and come back to it once you’re in a better headspace. Once you’ve reached the point of frustration, there’s likely to be little more you can do to learn something, so it’s well worth taking a break to give your mind to process things.
Keep a journal.
Reflecting on your thoughts and experiences is a great way to grow and develop, both in emotional intelligence and as a person. One way to do this is to keep a regular journal of what you’ve learnt and experienced. It can be a difficult habit to get into, like anything else, but it doesn’t need to be every day and it certainly doesn’t have to be long – even a few sentences in a journal presses you to reflect on things.
While at school, you might want to pick a particular topic to write about. This might be the most interesting thing you’ve learnt during the week, or perhaps one thing you’ve found memorable since writing your last journal entry. Write this up in a safe place, where you’ll be able to refer to it in years to come. The process of documenting things that have happened to you is a great way to reflect on your experiences, and will serve as a way for you to learn and grow as a result.