How Can Emotional Intelligence Help You In School?

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will talk about emotional intelligence (EQ), what it is, how to improve it, and the impact it can have on interpersonal interaction.

Sheldon Socializes

Sheldon is a bright but awkward student who struggles to interact socially with other students. He has a high IQ (intelligence quotient), but his EQ (emotional intelligence) has always fallen short. He hopes to work harder to learn how to interact with other students, teachers, and administrators by trying to improve his EQ.

Understanding Neuroscience

Human interaction is largely governed by neurochemical processes. This means our brain chemistry has a series of responses to interacting with others that includes the release of certain hormones and chemicals that we interpret as feelings and sensations. This is not meant to imply that we are determined by these processes, unless in cases of mental health issues that inhibit neurochemistry like clinical depression, social anxiety, and PTSD. On the contrary, Sheldon has the ability to learn how to develop and strengthen the neurochemical processes that promote prosocial behaviors.

Rather than seeing emotion and reason as opposing forces, try to see emotion as another mental process.
image of the emotional brain

If a social interaction is interpreted by Sheldon as potentially dangerous, his brain releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. This creates feelings of fear and anxiety triggered by the brain's fear response to social interaction. Sheldon thinks his low EQ is related to this social anxiety that prohibits him from healthy interpersonal relations. Someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has experienced something that made this fear response hypersensitive.

If he improves his EQ and learns to perceive interactions less fearfully, he might be able to generate some of the more positive neurochemical processes. When we have positive interactions with others, the brain releases pleasure hormones like dopamine and serotonin. With some of these positive interactions, the bonding hormone oxytocin is released, and this helps encourage the development and maintenance of relationships.

Identifying Emotions

One of the biggest ways Sheldon can work to improve his EQ is by understanding the vast range of human emotion. The ability to identify and articulate one's feelings is the first step to increasing EQ. Because of how children are often socialized, specifically gender socialization, boys often struggle to allow themselves feel emotions they have learned are not masculine.

For example, Sheldon internalized all the times he was told that boys don't cry and learned not to admit sadness or fear. When he acted aggressively, he heard 'boys will be boys'. Thus, he has replaced any feelings that might not be socially permitted by boys and men with anger.

These emoticons can be a great strategy to learn how to identify emotions in oneself or others.
image of expressive emoticons

Learning how to appropriately identify and articulate these feelings can be difficult to learn, and even more difficult to identify in others, but this skill has the immediate impact of releasing prosocial hormones. With practice, one can effectively retrain neurochemical pathways from engaging the fear response to engaging the pleasure response. Recognizing these feelings as they are happening, and allowing for their healthy expression, is a critical step in increasing one's EQ.

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