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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Over the next couple of months we are going to take a tour of the five natural intelligences that form the foundation of our Nurture Nature Program: Emotional, Social, Multispecies, Ecological, and Spiritual. We will begin this week with Emotional Intelligence (EI), because it interconnects with the other intelligences and brings out our full potential to nurture.

EI is the ability to be open to, curious about, understand, and accept your own feelings and needs. This provides you with greater choice around your feelings and behavior, so as to meet your needs and the needs of others. We need to know what is going on in our bodies and to accept what is going on, if we are to understand other humans (social intelligence) and other animals (multispecies intelligence). Knowing what others need is key to ecological intelligence (how the needs of one person relates to other beings). All of these intelligences lead to an overall view that takes individuals beyond their own concerns and perceptions by connecting them to so much more than the perceived isolated self (spiritual intelligence).

These intelligences all have aspects of nature and of nurture. Each of us was born with a certain ability in each of these natural intelligences, some more than others (nature), and all of us can grow them with practice, understanding, and support (nurture). What happens to us and around us matters. Nurturing our human nature as much as we can helps us live well, so that all people and other beings can live well.

Healthy communities are those that have free flowing expressions of emotions with immediate feedback from others. We can do this in the virtual world, but really practicing EI and social intelligence (SI) requires body sensing and resonance, within ourselves and with others. Sharing need not be intimate or overly vulnerable (though it sure can be). Try this with another person: state a simple sentence, “I feel this because I need that.”

For example, on the shuttle ride to the airport early one recent morning on my way to field conservation work in Honduras, the driver told me how Mexico is exporting their criminals to us. I might not choose to share EI with this particular individuals (3 a.m. may not be most opportune time to seek connection with someone’s back to you), but I can do it later with someone else. What I did right in that moment was take a deep breath, and continued listening. I could have said, “When I hear someone say, ‘Mexico is exporting their criminals to us’ I feel irritation and sadness, because I want empathy and understanding for others, and shared reality for myself.”

Getting it? It seems such a simple thing to practice EI, yet it is the hardest thing to do. If you’d like support for this, visit our website by clicking here for more tips, resources, and support.

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