The Gap in my Emotional Intelligence

I’d like to talk about emotional intelligence.

Until recently, I thought I had emotional intelligence nailed. I’m often described as empathetic. A mentor once told me “your emotional intelligence is off the scale”. I was even asked to coach a colleague on emotional intelligence.

Identifying and talking about my emotions comes naturally to me, and I’m pretty comfortable talking with others about theirs.

Nailed it, right?


I’ve been studying emotional intelligence recently, and I’ve discovered a gap in mine. It’s quite an important one.

I have some seriously unhelpful beliefs about how ‘acceptable’ my emotions are.

Turns out this is quite common. And, with the pandemic situation right now, a lot of people are feeling strong emotions. So it seems like a good time to share this.

Do any of the beliefs below sound familiar to you? Like me, you might find that some do, and some don’t.

  • “If I lose control of my emotions in front of others, they’ll think less of me.”
  • “I should be able to control my emotions.”
  • “I shouldn’t let myself give in to negative feelings.”
  • “I should be able to cope with difficulties on my own without turning to others for support.”
  • “Other people don’t feel this way. There must be something wrong with me.”
  • “Only an immature person would get so emotional.”

In the scientific literature, these are known as ‘dysfunctional’ beliefs about emotions. It sounds like a nasty word (I prefer the term ‘unhelpful’), but they’re called that because:

  • They don’t reflect the reality of human experience
  • They’re often rigid, over-generalised and extreme
  • When you ‘violate’ these beliefs, for example by not being able to completely control your emotions, you tend to experience an additional wave of negative emotions. Not super helpful.

So what can you do if you recognise some of these beliefs?

Thankfully, being aware of them is a really helpful first step. It means you’re more likely to spot them next time they come up. Which gives you an opportunity to remind yourself that they’re not true. It takes practise, but awareness is the place to start.

Coaching can help you bring some of these unhelpful beliefs into conscious awareness, and then develop more helpful, accurate, ones. If you’re interested in finding out more, just get in touch.

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