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Fecha de publicación: 08/06/2017

'Having good Emotional Intelligence is linked to better interpersonal relationships, better health, and superior performance, in addition to greater well-being and satisfaction with life'

Natalia Alonso Alberca has delivered the course titled Emotional Intelligence in Action: Tools for a Better Relationship with Youth in Donostia-San Sebastian

Natalia Alonso Alberca is a professor at the School of Education, Philosophy, and Anthropology of the UPV/EHU, a member of the research group Crime, Marginality, and Social Relations - DMS, where she focuses on analysing the development of Emotional Intelligence and the role it plays in the psychosocial adaptation of people. As an educator, she gives speeches in educational, business and social organisations.

Emotions play a pivotal role in people’s everyday lives and they have been essential for the survival of our species. They inform us that something relevant to us is happening, they help us make decisions and predispose us to act by activating physiological, cognitive, and behavioural changes to respond adequately to what surrounds us. EI is about making wise decisions that take into account what we feel; this requires paying attention to our feelings and to the wealth of information that our emotions provide.

  • What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is defined as a set of skills used to process information that originates in emotions and to use this information to make decisions that promote our adaptation and our well-being. This set of emotional skills begins by addressing what we feel and what other people feel, it continues by analysing the causes and consequences of emotions and feelings, and leads to being able to take advantage of them and handle them in a constructive way.

There are various conceptions or ways of understanding Emotional Intelligence. The renowned Ability Model by Mayer and Salovey (1997) has the greatest scientific endorsement and is the most widely applied method. These authors were the first to consider the existence of a specific type of intelligence related to emotional aspects, and they believe that these emotional skills can be improved throughout life. Thus, today, we have a very large number of contrasting experiences that provide certainty about the possibility of improving our emotional perceptions (our own and those of others), our ability to express what we feel with confidence and in a regulated manner, the skills to realise the causes and consequences of emotional experiences, and our ability to manage emotions that we or other people feel.

  • What can Emotional Intelligence contribute?

The official educational syllabus does not include emotional aspects as one of the basic fields in which people should be competent, but I think it is accurate to say that most people think that it is valuable that people should know how to identify how they feel or how other people around them feel and take that information into consideration as something relevant in the relationship among humans. We also appreciate when our co-workers or our students understand that our performance may be affected if we are anxious or apathetic and, of course, we appreciate it when people can help us to handle those emotions and deal with the situation in the most positive way possible.

Thus, as I have already mentioned, although it has not been included in the official syllabus (it should be noted that in some regions, such as the Canary Islands, it has already been incorporated), society expects the development of emotional competence to be promoted at schools and at other levels of non-formal education. EI brings us closer to this goal; starting by paying more attention to emotions, given that they influence most of the processes we experience each day, such as our relationships with others, learning, job performance … or by practising, training to improve our perception, our understanding of emotions, our ability to generate emotions to promote processes, and our ability to regulate emotions, so that by using these skills we can grow, develop in a positive way and be able to achieve our goals by also contributing to the development of other people.

  • How can this approach based on Emotional Intelligence help us when working with young people and teenagers?

A little more than 25 years after Peter Salovey and John Mayer introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence, we now have sufficient confidence to state that having a good level of EI is linked to better interpersonal relationships, better health, and superior performance, in addition to greater well-being and satisfaction with life. We also know that emotional skills may protect us against emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, one of the major problems of our century according to the WHO, as well as against the risk of disruptive behaviours, aggression, or the use of drugs, among other issues. In particular, teenagers with higher levels of EI present better social relationships, a higher level of confidence and self-esteem, as well as fewer behavioural problems.

People who work with young people and teenagers have access to valuable information about their emotions, which is essential to understand their reality, motivations, their expectations, and how they behave. Connecting with the emotions of young people, understanding them and being able to help them respond to them is a possible and enriching challenge; the challenge of improving our EI and helping them develop theirs. We know that the most effective way to promote this development is to be active examples of emotional competence. It is, therefore, essential that people who work with young people and adolescents know how to identify, understand, and manage emotions and feelings, whether their own or those of the people with whom they work.

It is a necessary and fortunate requirement that we need to improve our own EI so that we can help others to develop theirs by creating emotionally intelligent contexts.

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