By Naairah Aftab – Campaigns Officer, FOSIS Scotland (as part of the #LifeHacks series)
Aisha reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, kindness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it.” [Sahih Muslim]
How many times have you lashed out at a family member or friend, simply because you had a stressful day? How often have you found yourself giving up in the face of adversities? Do you have the tendency to criticise and gossip about others? Do you experience difficulty when working with a team or leading one? Too often, we are not the masters of our emotions, but rather, allow our emotions to take control over us.
In life, we are continuously shuffling between multiple responsibilities – as a family member, friend, student, professional, etc. This constant juggling around of different roles presents us with a variety of challenges to overcome on a daily basis, however, the only way we can successfully triumph over these challenges is through exhibiting emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
According to the findings of Psychology Professors John Mayer and Peter Salovey, Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.
In this blog, I will provide practical tips on how to develop emotional intelligence and further beautify your character and conduct… so continue reading!
Tip 1 – Understand & Manage Your Emotions
Accept that you are in full control of your emotions
A big portion of the problems that we face as individuals can be avoided if we regulate our emotions in a more intelligent manner!
The first step in developing strong emotional intelligence is understanding the fact that humans have been created with complex emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, and Islam respects all the different components of the human being equally. It is incorrect to neglect the emotional component of Islam. In doing so, we may also end up undervaluing the emotional intelligence of the Prophet (pbuh) and overlook the impact of his character, perhaps even reducing him to a man of rules and regulations, devoid of any feelings at all. What made him (pbuh) an exceptional Prophet and human being was his ability to cater especially to the emotional needs of his people. He (pbuh) knew that this would, in turn, impact their ability to practice the faith and better connect with Allah, and each other.
However, Islam also teaches balance. Therefore, we must acknowledge the fact that we are in full control of our emotions. Even though unexpected events and external triggers play a significant role, at the end of the day, the manner in which we react to inconvenient scenarios does shape who we are and even the impact we may have on those around us.
Identify what triggers your emotional outbursts
It is vital that we closely analyse our lifestyle and identify what habits may be having a negative impact on our mood so that we can control our reactions more effectively.
Perhaps it is the love of this temporary world? Again, it all comes back to balance, however, we should constantly be mindful of our emotional attachments (be it people or material possessions) and also endeavour to avoid overindulgence.
In addition, we must also re-evaluate our eating habits and sleeping routine. Are we consuming nutritious and healthy food? Are we sleeping on time? Both hunger and lack of sleep have been proven to induce stress, which consequently results in agitation and emotional imbalance. If we want to improve our emotional well-being, then we must also strive to take care of our physical well-being – both go hand in hand!
Bonus tip – Daily journaling is a great habit to do regularly as a means of building long-term self-reflection and emotional wellness.
Tip 2 – Recognise the Emotions of Others
“None of you will have faith till he wishes for his brother what he likes for himself.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Empathy consists of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. We feel close to the person who is empathetic towards us, find it easy to share our thoughts with them and approach them when we face problems. Each of us has a natural sense of empathy through which we connect to others.
Exhibiting empathy will completely transform one’s relationships as it will help provide a deeper understanding of issues and conflicts that others face. It is a key trait to becoming a better Muslim and will prove to be extremely beneficial as we carry out the different roles in our lives (as a sibling, friend, parent, spouse, co-worker, etc).
Remember: when somebody is experiencing emotional trauma, they will naturally feel vulnerable and perhaps hesitant to open up for fear of being misunderstood or further emotionally abused. By showing empathy, you will provide them with the confidence that allows them to open up, and in turn, gives you enough room to navigate through their problems and comfort them to the best of your ability.
“A bad wound heals, but a bad word doesn’t.” – Persian Proverb.
In a state of irritation, anger, or even carelessness, we may utter something that we perhaps don’t mean; however, we need to remember that words can indeed scar someone and destroy relationships.
It is of great importance to not simply be mindful of the words that we utter, but also to keep an eye on the tone that we use when communicating with others. Islam encourages one to speak softly. When something is going wrong, voice it out to the people around you intelligently and politely, so they are aware of how you feel. An indicator of emotional intelligence is being able to maintain correct etiquette in a stressful situation, even if the person you are communicating with is not speaking in the best of manners. The Prophet (pbuh) was known for expressing compassion to everyone, even with those who did not treat him well.
Furthermore, just like the tone of our voice, our body language can do much to indicate where our intention truly lies during a conversation. Turn your full face and body towards the person that is speaking to you. Give them your undivided attention and listen to what they have to say. If they feel valued and as though they are truly being heard, they are more likely to trust you and accept your advice. As humans, this is one of our most foremost social needs.
Tip 3 – Improve Your Spiritual State
Abu Hurayrah reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The son of Adam does not act with anything better than prayer, reconciliation between people, and good character.”[Sahih Muslim]
Learn from the best of examples
The Prophet (pbuh) was able to understand the problems of others before they even verbalised them, deal with a variety of people differently according to their own personality and nature, and use tact when giving advice. If we want to possess emotional intelligence to a level that is similar to the Prophet (pbuh), we must study the Seerah and learn from his example. You will find countless stories and examples of an amazing display of balancing emotions in his Seerah!
The best way to come to terms with past experiences and become the master of our emotions is to let go and endeavour to move forward. As difficult as it is to do so, forgive those who have wronged you and pray for their happiness. Allah will, in turn, forgive your sins and grant you happiness too. If our hearts are filled with grudges and ill feelings, how will we make space for empathy and love?
Feed your soul
We should also be constantly working hard to improve our worship – e.g. praying our Salah on time and with more concentration, reading Qur’an on a daily basis, seeking knowledge, giving charity, engaging in Dhikr, etc. When our connection with Allah is strong, our connection with our own souls becomes stronger as a result. If we are strong, confident and emotionally stable within ourselves, then we are better placed to help and inspire those around us.
Remember that remaining patient during times of difficulty and maintaining good character and conduct are also forms of worship!
May Allah (swt) help us embody the beautiful character and conduct of the Prophet (pbuh) and grant us the best in this world and the next – Ameen.
I want to hear from you!
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have any of your own tips on how to maintain strong emotional intelligence and improve on our character and conduct? Scroll down and leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!