Emotional Intelligence (EI). Dentistry is abuzz throwing this term around like verbal confetti in articles, webinars, and social media content. What is it? Emotional Intelligence is the ability to handle emotions within interpersonal relationships in such a way that is both empathetic and befitting of the circumstances. It is the key to success in professional and personal relationships. Studies suggest when compared to other critical work skill, such as time management and follow-through, emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor in career success.
We’ve all met the intellectually superior individual who lacks people skills. Certainly, your IQ got you into dental school, but it was your EI that helped you navigate the stress of your board exams. Emotional intelligence is attributed to 58% of business success, confirming that high emotional intelligence is critical, regardless of our technical competence. Dentists are on a perpetual journey in pursuit of improved clinical and technical excellence. Many become frustrated when they do not see a return on their investment, while proficient dentists with far less technical competency report higher work satisfaction along with high patient acceptance rates. The difference is high emotional intelligence.
If you are looking to strengthen relationships, create new opportunities, achieve your goals, and succeed personally and professionally, the answer lies in raising your emotional intelligence.
There are four main categories within the study of EI:
The ability to control emotions, impulses, and behaviors in a healthy way while allowing for adaptation to changing circumstances and following through on responsibilities & commitments.
Being distinctly aware of your emotions and how your reactions and responses affect your thoughts and behaviors. This also encompasses acknowledging your strengths and weakness.
Self-confidence to exercise empathy in every circumstance. This includes awareness of others’ emotions and concerns, picking up on emotional indicators, and identifying power dynamics in professional and social settings.
Confidence in your ability to establish and maintain positive relationships while communicating effectively, motivating others, managing teams, and successfully navigating conflict to a productive end.
While the awareness of these main four categories is important, the real-life application can be a bit more complex. As we are aware, there is a difference between knowing and doing. Take for instance CPR. We are required to know the mechanics of how to administer it, but when overcome with the stress of a crisis situation, will you? Could you? The goal of repeated CPR training is that the mechanical repetition of performing CPR becomes so emblazoned in our minds that our muscle memory supersedes the anxiety in a moment of crisis.
The same is true of emotional intelligence. Prioritizing the practice of self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management in our daily lives exercises our emotional muscle memory. When stress occurs, we remain in control of our emotions and react judiciously.
While it sounds simple, managing emotions is complicated. It is a direct reflection of early life experiences. Your ability (or inability) to govern and manage your core emotions: anger, joy, sadness, and fear, is directly connected to the quality of your early life experiences. If in your formative years, your emotional responses were shunned and devalued by your primary caretaker, you may have difficulty executing control over your emotions as an adult. Consequently, you may have distanced yourself from those emotions to disassociate from implicit memories.
However, ownership and connection with past emotions are paramount to understanding current emotions. Ownership will allow you to govern your present-day thoughts and actions. To become emotionally healthy and grow emotional intelligence, we must reconnect to our core emotions, embracing them until a comfort level is achieved.
One of the greatest ways to reconnect with your authentic emotions is to practice mindfulness. Its origination is connected to Buddhism, however its practice has transcended beyond religious observation. Mindfulness is a modern-day means of centering and orienting yourself to live in the present moment. While many of us pride ourselves on being able to multitask, mindfulness shifts our thoughts from preoccupation to embrace the physical and emotional experiences of the present. The result is increased focus and present self-awareness and is accompanied by a deep sense of calm.
Once you’ve achieved calm self-awareness you can shift your perspective to social awareness and the events and people around you. Attentiveness to others helps to grow your emotional intelligence while shedding light on your emotional character.
Her clinical and support team experiences are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to success. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.
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