The ability to perceive emotions is something we learn in childhood. When my son was about 9, he went through a phase of about two months where he would regularly ask me if I was feeling angry.
He would say: “Are you angry?” after an interaction. I always paused to think about it to ensure I was giving him a congruent answer. Most of the time my real answer was “no”, then I would pause to explore what I WAS feeling, because he was feeling something in me that he was mistaking regularly for anger.
Upon reflection, it was mostly happening when I was thinking about my ‘to do’ list. So, I would share honestly:
“I’m not angry, I am thinking about my ‘to do’ list and it is making me feel a little anxious. Did I sound or look angry?”
“Yes, it was something in your eyebrows that made you look angry”
“Ah, thanks for letting me know – those cheeky eyebrows. Would you like a hug?”
“Yes – that would be nice!”
After a few months he stopped asking and he seemed to be resolved. This is how children learn emotional intelligence. They take the nuances of facial expression, voice tone and body movements to interpret what the other person is feeling. I was so happy he felt safe enough to check it out with me! It was an important part of us getting to know one another more deeply and for him to build his EQ.
When these kinds of interactions have not happened in childhood and when there has been chaos and a lack of safety, the natural development of EQ could have been disturbed. Research shows that EQ is something that can be learned as an adult.
We will be looking into EQ more this week as something that improves relationship satisfaction.