Self-analysis time...Are you irrational & unreasonable? Are you super sensitive and extra emotional? Are you stubborn & unwilling to yield? Are you closed off? Do you fly off the handle easily? What about this - do you hide your feelings or are you timid to speak up? I'm sure we have all heard one or more of these things over the course of our life. As a woman of color woman, navigating relationships can be challenging at times. While we face the same issues that every other woman does, there are unique challenges that come with our skin color. One of the most important skills that we can cultivate to navigate these challenges is emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage one's emotions and the emotions of others. In a relationship, having good EQ is essential for building strong connections with our partners.
One of the challenges that we face is navigating systemic racism and discrimination. Whether it's in the workplace or in our personal lives, we may face situations where we are mistreated or disrespected or overlooked because of the color of our skin, our accent, our hair, just to name a few things. Having good EQ allows us to identify our emotions in these situations, understand them, and manage them in a way that allows us to effectively address the situation without letting our emotions take over.
Another challenge that we face is the stereotype of the "Angry Black Woman." This stereotype suggests that we are overly emotional and prone to outbursts. While this stereotype is false and harmful, it can still impact how we are perceived in our relationships. By cultivating good EQ, we can demonstrate that we are capable of managing our emotions in a healthy way, and that we are not defined by harmful stereotypes.
Good EQ also allows us to empathize with our partners and understand their emotions. In any relationship, it's important to be able to put ourselves in our partner's shoes and understand how they are feeling. Vital is the fact that we have to sometimes get out of our own heads & see where THEY are coming from. How do they feel? What would they do if they were in our shoes in any given situation? Granted, this is no easy task if your own emotions are running high. We cannot control other people's emotions, just our own so we need to take a step back and evaluate before making any emotional outbursts. This is especially important in interracial relationships or relationships where there are cultural differences because our partners may not fully understand the challenges that we face as a black or brown women. By having good EQ, we can help others understand our perspective and build stronger connections with them.
So, how can we cultivate good EQ? Here are a few tips:
1. Practice self-awareness. Take the time to identify your emotions and understand WHY you are feeling them. This can help you manage your emotions in a healthy way. Notice, I said PRACTICE. If you want to be good at something it's going to take time, you are going to mess up at times, you may also fall back into old habits. The same hold true here, use EACH opportunity that comes our way as an opportunity to practice some new skills. Why do I feel this way? What set me off? Am I overreacting? Am I taking myself too seriously? Are my feeling justified? If they are, great...but how can I clearly without being argumentative or defensive convey that in a loving, kind and understanding way? Could I have handled that differently? OK, I messed up, how do I make a mental note to try a different approach next time? You get the point, there is always room for self-improvement, if we want to improve. Be patient with yourself but sure that you are making progress.
2. Learn to manage your emotions. This can include techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or talking to a therapist. If there is indeed a need for you to adjust, don't use the ever so popular excuse, "This is me, this is how I am and they're just going to have to deal with it."It may be true, but it also mat be a cop out. Sometimes it may mean stepping out, walking away, tabling a conversation so that you CAN implement some of these techniques. When we successfully control ourselves don't we feel so much better after? You may actually feel a sense of pride, "Wow, I actually did that!" This in turn gives you motivation to keep doing it.
3. Practice empathy. Try to put yourself in your partner's shoes and understand their perspective. This also means that we have to KNOW the other person an actually CARE about them and/or their feelings. Again, takes time and selflessness. You may be right, but it may not all be about you. Compromise, understanding, thoughtfulness are all closely linked with empathy.
4. Communicate effectively. Use "I" statements to express how you feel, rather than blaming or attacking your partner. We hear this all the time when helping people understand the value or proper communication. What comes off as blame or accusations will almost certainly be met with defense. If walls are up, there will be no progress, no-one will be getting through to anyone.
So, try some of these suggestions out the next time the need arises. By cultivating good EQ, we can build stronger, healthier relationships with our partners. It allows us to navigate the unique challenges that we face with grace and strength, and to build deeper & lasting connections with those we love.
BONUS: Want to find out what your EQ is: Take the test! See if you are who you think you are. :-)