Emotional intelligence can take on a number of different meanings. In general, it is the way in which we conduct ourselves and manage our emotions. This is not something we often give much conscious thought to, though it plays a very important role in our everyday lives. Nearly every conversation, transaction, or interaction includes some amount of emotional intelligence. At the very least, we must be aware of our own emotional state and pick up on the emotional state of the people we deal with. This matters to your students and athletes especially, as they continue to grow and mature. What Is Emotional Intelligence? Naturally, emotional intelligence is not just one thing, but a combination of four abilities. The first key ability to emotional intelligence is being aware of yourself and using this awareness to help you make good decisions. This might involve knowing the difference between right and wrong or simply recognizing which decision will best benefit your own personal life. In both respects, emotions help to guide us. The second key is managing yourself and having the capacity to handle upsetting situations or emotions. We all go through difficulties on a regular basis. Emotional intelligence allows us to stay composed during these tough moments as well as to learn from the experiences themselves for the future. Additionally, this aspect of our emotional lives helps us to line up our choices with the things that we care the most about, so that we can get excited about what we do. Empathy is the third key to emotional intelligence. While sympathy allows us to feel sorry for someone in a difficult situation, empathy lets us step into their shoes for a moment. This connects us to them and their own emotions. In turn, we can communicate and interact with people more appropriately and effectively, usually making everyone feel much better in the process. The last step to emotional intelligence is putting all three of the keys together. This is the final and most important part of emotional intelligence. Any one of the three key aspects is important in its own way, but if they stay separate from one another, it makes meaningful relationships and decisions much more difficult. How Emotional Intelligence Matters to Your Athlete As athletes and students, your children have to deal with emotions on a daily basis. One major difference is that they are also learning how to do this on their own. They don’t yet have the breadth of life experience to understand themselves and their emotions as adults do. At school and on the field or court, your athlete runs up against challenges and obstacles. If they have the right tools, they can become aware of themselves, remain calm in trying circumstances, empathize with others, learn from their experiences, and talk with friends and teammates in a positive way. Teenagers’ brains are not fully developed. As they grow up, the brain shapes itself in response to repeated experiences. To do this well takes right tools and a willingness to work at it. Emotional intelligence does not come naturally or easily to everyone. As parents, you can help your athlete to recognize their feelings and reactions and handle their emotions intelligently. When done well, this has effects all across the board, from dealing
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