“For what is strength without a double share of wisdom?” – John Milton

The above quote is derived from a historical poem about Samson, the bible character whose strength rested only in his hair; once his wife betrayed him and cut his glorious locks, he became weak and impotent. Though a sad story, it is telling that people must have more than one level of ability in this world. Beyond the question of strength without wisdom begs a deeper and more important question; what is wisdom without empathy? Those whose minds are wise can only hope to use that knowledge and power if they also possess an understanding of other people’s needs and desires.

The Three-Legged Table

As noted above, strength is nothing without wisdom, as wisdom is nothing without empathy. None of these attributes stand alone. The three-legged table is a metaphorical version of this concept. Without each of these areas, or legs, man (or woman) is lacking something – and is thus unbalanced. The table absent one leg will tumble down. It requires the sturdy construction of all of the necessary components. Empathy requires emotional intelligence; without it, we dismiss the needs of others. This leads to failed relationships, whether in the workplace or in our personal lives.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

On the most basic level, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize other people’s feelings, and be able to take them into consideration when taking action, whether good or bad. If you notice the look of hurt on someone’s face when saying something mean, you have basic emotional intelligence. If you see that the person is hurt, and try to rectify it, your EI is moderate to advanced, depending on how much you really get it. If you don’t care, simply put, you probably lack emotional intelligence.

However, if you recognize how people feel, and manipulate others for your own benefit, you ought to consider why that is. Do you feel like that is the only way to achieve your goals? If so, why is that? Our planet clearly does not base value primarily on meritocracy (unfair, yes), but this does not absolve us from our responsibility to others around us, or to ourselves as social creatures.

Does This Really Pertain to Me?

The real demand upon the human soul is, why in the heck does this matter? Can’t we just live for ourselves and not worry about it? Well, no – we can’t. We are all universally connected, no matter how many commercials attempt to convince us that we are “special” and “unique.” The truth is, we need to understand one another as a matter of survival, as a species. Social media is a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Many rely on it to reassure themselves of their perceived value, almost incessantly.

Even the angriest misfit on this planet craves attention. Everyone needs, not necessarily wants, to feel like they are a part of something, whether that goes with – or against – the grain. However, it is much simpler to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. Understanding other people’s feelings makes it a bazillion times easier to get others to cheerlead for you if you do the same for them first.

This may not be the reality in every single instance, but it generally rings true. The only people who are drawn to negativity likely already feel negative themselves. Joining in only perpetuates a cycle of hate, pain, and misery, but there are other ways to live; there really are!

What if EI Doesn’t Come Naturally to Me?

Everyone struggles with aspects of themselves. Just because you are highly intelligent does not mean you will have great relationships or be the most popular person in town. Often it takes someone who is open to others with themselves for people to feel okay with exposing their own personal challenges.  Sometimes, we have to be sensitive to others’ needs in order for people to open up to us.

Again, there are caveats here. There are certain politicians who don’t mind too much at all about people’s feelings unless those feelings can be manipulated to increase voter turnout. Sadly, this works for them. It is all a form of marketing – taking an emotionally vulnerable part of someone’s psyche, using it to gain trust, then making the sale. This method is colloquially known as A-B-C: Always Be Closing.

However, aside from the egocentricity that is blatantly displayed in American government anymore, most working people have to function within the realms of reality. And if you are reading this, most likely, this means you. So if you’re wondering about how to increase your EI, there are ways to help you get more in touch with your fellow brothers and sisters. All it takes is a little bit of time and mindfulness.

Life is not ideal, karma is a bitch, and we will all die someday. And that is okay.

Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

If you really care about how other people feel about you and want to increase your EI, but you are unsure where to begin, consider these basic tips:

  • Put down your phone when you are engaged in any activity or social visit. It is not only common courtesy; it is a safety concern. If you are riding a bike, enjoy the breeze. If you are walking, make sure to avoid falling into a manhole – a relatively gross term for a type of construction site.
  • Ask others for their opinions. It helps add to inclusiveness, rather than excluding those who may seem irrelevant to your goal at the time. Even if they have nothing pertinent to add at the moment, there are two benefits to this. First, you will help build rapport. Second, the person may take your question as an opportunity to learn something new, which may just turn into something beneficial in the future. You never know.
  • Learn from your experiences, every single day. There is a vast horizon full of lessons for those who are willing to put in the time and effort. The internet is an amazing thing, but books are truly classic. If you want to touch history and really gain understanding, crack an old book. There is nothing like it on this planet.
  • Recognize that we are all human. In the words of Homer Simpson, “we are none of us perfect.” Forgive others for their shortcomings so that you may be able to grow as a person.
  • Most importantly, be aware that life is not ideal, karma is a bitch, and we will all die someday. And that is okay.

So let’s just make the best of it while we are here and try our best to get along with one another. Life is short. Keep on living, and keep on smiling. That will increase your EI quotient faster than anything else possibly could. No one can resist a sincere grin that comes from within.

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