How to Manage Emotional Intelligence in a Stressful Environment

When was the last time you ended a tough situation and thought, “Wow, that felt like a valve just opened up” and your heart felt lighter? In this entry, let’s look at emotionally intelligence from different angles.

First, what is emotional intelligence?

Harvard Business School defines it as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. Learn more here – you can even learn about the model’s components! 👩🏻‍💻

As a lifelong learner, Emotional Intelligence is a thing for me. Lately, I have read a number of articles on Emotional Intelligence via emails or social media posts. Some articles have included various tips suggesting readers get in control of our emotions in the light of conflict, which are great. Others have left me hanging yearning for more content.

My Own Results

I had a peer-assessment done on Emotional Intelligence as part of my work at Georgetown University in 2022. We also did our own self-assessments before meeting with our coach to discuss our results. She did an excellent job explaining everything and said something along the lines of “well balanced, mature and emotionally intelligent.”

The assessment also revealed, not to my surprise, that I am one to try to avoid conflict a little. This is true as I’m not one to deal with conflict for the sake of dealing with conflict. I understood and did not disagree.

Reaching the Limits of Emotional Intelligence

As I read the more recent articles and follow links to more content, I feel that society has romanticized being ‘emotionally intelligent’. It’s like treating it almost as if it’s a badge of honor. This is especially true after the pandemic, and more so when we’re in a leadership position. Looking at it from the lens of a Latina woman, the bar is definitely set at a different level. To me, this almost sounds like being emotionally intelligent these days means allowing ourselves to be emotionally abused and disrespected.

Truth be told, at least from my experience, it is exhausting controlling those emotions almost every day. It’s so taxing to put on a straight face when a situation triggers memories and feelings with new challenges. That is, until we get to the point of no return where we put our foot down and walk away.

Those of us who have reached a certain level of emotional intelligence have a limit, you know? We are humans who can and will get to a point of saying “Oh hell, no! Enough is enough.” Enough with the stress and other people’s demands on our lives. Time to stop putting ourselves last and ‘turning the other cheek’. To hell with all the burden and with “assuming positive intent.” 😵‍💫 This last one triggers me.

This may sound angry or bitter, yet I guarantee you that it’s not. I promise! The way I see it, it’s a reaction to holding on for so long. It’s the disbelief that a) I am expected “to take it” and b) I am expected not to react. At all!

Releasing the Pressure Valve

The point of no return is where we say “I am done dealing with this, I am filing for divorce”, or “I am done with this, I am breaking up with you”, or “I can’t do this anymore, I am moving on from this job”. Many times, it’s for our own sanity and yes, this action shocks everyone. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Yet, no one except for us see it coming like a train wreck!

Sadly, I have had to do all three in the last three years. I didn’t necessarily use those words, but when the moment came, you best believe I had held on for as long as I humanly could. Then, I knew it was time. One common theme I did notice in each scenario was how I wished I had done so earlier because hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. The valve opened up for me.

Frequently, emotionally intelligent people are encouraged to:

  • “go with the flow”
  • “question the process, not the individual”
  • “to stay in control”
  • “to keep the emotions in check”
  • “to assume good intent” (yes, yes, yes! 😤) – not my favorite
  • “to not take things personally” and so many other things.

If this is you, I can almost guarantee that these expectations can make you, as they should, question your role in that situation-ship (whether it’s work or romantic) and what to do next. But, remember this: You are not the weakest link for not being willing to endure these expectations.

What Can You Do?

If, like me, you have done an assessment on your emotionally intelligence and your quotient is high, here is what I recommend:

  1. Remember that you are a human being after all, and take care of your needs.
  2. Take only as much as you are willing to take in conflict situations without disregarding your dignity.
  3. Reach out to other emotionally intelligent individuals – those are the people who can and will listen without interrupting to then ask more questions before giving you feedback.
  4. Take time off from the situation if you can (go for a walk, take time off from work, take a break from the relationship) to clear your head and your heart. Then return once things have simmered down.

In some situations, there is no walk, time away, break or vacation that can get it fixed. You may find yourself making the best decision for you.

Don’t know your EQ?

If you have not done any type of assessment on your emotionally intelligence, regardless of what your generation is, I highly recommend it. Check with your HR department. They may have a tool to help you. Search online if they don’t, can’t or won’t provide a tool as you may find something free out there.

You will discover traits in your personality that you can improve to become stronger. The traits you discover can also help you better navigate whatever environment you’re in before it gets to the point of no return.

Closing the Loop to Manage Emotional Intelligence in Any Environment

Being an emotional intelligent person has a number of benefits to any situation-ship. An EI person can be rational, logical, analytical. That person can think critically and objectively while being a problem solver. They alone can’t fix everything and diffuse a crisis, but the way they think definitely has lots of validity.

Now, listen up! (and remember this…) If you’re managing an EI person, the key to making sure they can thrive is to at least meet them half-way to ensure their needs are met too. Most likely, an EI employee will not ask for help. They think they got it all covered, even when they risk burning out. Your role as a leader is to make sure this doesn’t happen. Ask. Ask away as much as you can, then take action.

Likewise, if you are an EI person in a challenging environment, Speak Up! Communicating with others is key to make sure that others understand what you see and what you’re thinking. Your success will depend largely on it.

From one EI to another possible EI, you can do this!! That is, until you don’t want to do it anymore and that’s okay too, my friend.

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