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Emotional Intelligence: An Antidote to Emotional Abuse

These days, you can hardly go more than 24 hours without hearing reports of sexual misconduct by some of our nation’s political leaders and celebrities, yet the authorities tell us that we can’t believe the news. In this current climate, where reality is in question, it is not surprising that abuse is at the forefront of the media.

What happened to people living by the golden rule? Have we forgotten that our survival is dependent upon having healthy relationships?  Think about it. If you are like most of us–from the time you wake up in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night–you are in relationship with someone in your home, on the phone, social media, or email, at the coffee bar, the train station, in school, or the workplace.

Ask yourself this question: Are your relationships bringing out the best in you? Are you bringing out the best in others? Decades of research reveal that emotions drive our relationships. A mere eye roll can completely derail a conversation and end a relationship. A genuine smile can encourage an unexpected bond. Emotions are signals. They tell us to approach or avoid; does she look open to talking right now, does he seem like he needs support.

Relationships where positive emotions flow freely lift you up. Respectful, authentic, and caring relationships meet our basic human needs to feel seen, heard and understood. In these relationships people thrive. Relationships where one person, especially a person in power, causes someone to experience strong, negative emotions are highly destructive to the person with less power, creating feelings of fear, anxiety, and even helplessness.  Unfortunately, we hear about these kinds of dysfunctional relationships and abuse of power all too frequently, from the school yard to the boardroom. Our nation’s current ‘emotional climate’ is replete with anger and fear.

But there is hope. At the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, we are pushing for an Emotion Revolution. Our mission is to use the power of emotions–and the skills of emotional intelligence–to create a healthier and more equitable, compassionate, and productive society. Our research confirms what common sense would dictate, but our education system and workforce has yet to teach explicitly: people who are skilled in recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating their emotions are healthier, have more empathic and successful relationships, and are less likely to engage in or accept abuse.

In order for change to happen, we need to fill the media and equip children and adults with the knowledge and skills of emotional intelligence. We need to create policies that ensure a culture of civility and compassion, a culture that decries relational hostility, gaslighting, and all forms of bullying and abuse. The social context in which we live must change from a place where abuse is normalized to one in which compassionate and mutually respectful relationships are the norm. The future of our society depends on it.