The Power of Emotional Awareness & 3 Ways to Build It

James Logie

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Do you have trouble connecting to others?

We all can struggle with this, and it’s why emotional awareness is so important. Without it, you lack the capacity to be aware of how others feel.

Emotional awareness — or emotional intelligence — is crucial for making better connections. When you can empathize with another person: you build genuine intimacy.

When you can better understand emotional awareness, you improve your ability to understand others.

But this emotional intelligence also helps you to understand yourself.

Here’s why emotional intelligence is so important, and how you can build it.

What is Emotional Intelligence/Awareness?

Your significant other, friends, work colleagues, or family can create a lot of stress in life.

Many relationship problems happen because people don’t have the emotional intelligence to sort through the emotions created by relationships.

Emotional awareness is about being more conscious of how you feel, and the feelings of others.

It helps us address relationship problems with better insight, patience, and problem-solving. Emotional intelligence also helps you learn how to control your emotions instead of lashing out.

Interesting work has been done regarding emotional awareness at the University of Rijeka in Croatia, and its importance was a key focus at the first international Positive Psychology Summit.

Their findings showed that emotional intelligence has a significantly positive role in many important aspects of human functioning, including:

  • sensitivity for others
  • sensitivity for one’s own emotions
  • coping with stress
  • maintaining a positive mood
  • emotional self-concept
  • openness with yourself and others

Emotional awareness lets you see the struggles and pain of other people.

It allows you to see the deep down hurt in a person, even though they appear to be acting fine.

Emotional awareness is the intrinsic ability to identify what causes a person to act a certain way — and that includes yourself.

This is a genuine form of intelligence. We normally associate intelligence with IQ or cognitive function — but it’s also connected to emotion.

Emotional intelligence enables us to navigate through emotional life challenges with precision and skill.

What Benefits Come From Improved Emotional Awareness?

When you build emotional awareness, it makes public situations easier to handle. It allows you to build more self-esteem, which helps in other key areas of your life, such as work and success.

Improved emotional awareness can help lower levels of depression.

Studies from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne suggest that the inability to control negative emotions leave individuals vulnerable to stress.

When you improve your relationships through better emotional awareness, you enrich your life, which further helps to combat depression and anxiety.

Those who lack emotional intelligence often find life frustrating. The lack of emotional awareness gives them no control over their feelings and actions.

They lash out at others, push loved ones away, and feel constant anxiety. Many broken relationships happen because of the lack of emotional awareness by both people.

We may dismiss those with no emotional intelligence as bitter and angry, but the emotionally intelligent person sees what causes this anger behind the scenes.

Emotional awareness allows you to identify sorrow being masked by anger, humor, or denial.

When you improve your emotional awareness, you become a better teacher, mentor, or leader. Emotionally aware people are the type that draws others to them and improves the lives of everyone around them.

So how do you develop more emotional awareness?

1. Examine the Past Events in Your Life

Some of your most significant memories have powerful emotions attached to them. You may have felt joy, sadness, anger, or frustration.

The negative moments made you feel negative emotions — but they teach us valuable lessons.

You need to look at these events and understand why it created that emotional response in you.

Was there a specific event or person who caused this response?

Did the moment have a different outcome than you expected?

And could you have avoided the negative outcome and feelings that came with it?

The University of Scotland has examined this and shares that it’s helpful to draw your own personal timeline. This is useful to plot out what happened and when in your past.

It helps to identify those moments that created a certain response in you. On this timeline, you can record how you felt about those experiences, what you learned from them, and how they helped shape you as a person.

They found that the timeline was important to create a graphic picture of your life. It identifies the difficulties and reveals any patterns or recurring themes, you may not have been aware of.

Examine the past events in your life to build emotional awareness and learn to recognize what can trigger specific emotions in you.

2. Increase Your Emotional Vocabulary

A frustrated child acts that way because they can’t share how they feel. They lack the emotional intelligence to articulate and put into words what they are experiencing.

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning says this is a critical skill to develop in children to improve their emotional awareness as they grow up.

This same issue happens in adults with low emotional awareness. But it’s never too late to improve your emotional vocabulary.

Finding the right words goes a long way to enhance relationships with others and yourself.

With an improved emotional vocabulary, you can better express yourself and how you feel.

We often use elementary vocabulary to express our feelings with words like ‘sad,’ ‘happy,’ ‘angry,’ etc.

Words like ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ are not what we genuinely feel. They are secondary words that come from deeper emotions. ‘Mad,’ or ‘angry’ is often the result of frustration, disappointment, or even loss.

Emotional intelligence is being able to relay how you truly feel — and you need a broader vocabulary to do it.

The word ‘sad’ is a good example. The word doesn’t reveal the underlying condition. You need to progress the word ‘sad’ to narrow down how you really feel, and what you’re experiencing.

Sadness can come from despair, and despair can leave you feeling powerless. It’s the lack of power or control in your life which is making you sad.

Now, you can dig deeper into why you feel powerless — and you can start to improve that. You can also more clearly share how you feel with others.

It’s the same thing with feeling happy. Happiness is often just the end result of how you really feel — and it’s worth taking a deeper look at this to improve your emotional intelligence and vocabulary.

Happiness can come when you feel proud of yourself, and that comes from confidence.

You feel happy, but deep down it’s the confidence you’ve built in yourself — and your abilities — that have allowed you to improve your life.

It’s simple, but now you can better identify why you feel the way you do — and use the right words to explain it. This creates more emotional awareness.

Use some of these better word choices for yourself, and to help others uncover how they really feel:

  • devastated
  • hopeful
  • downtrodden
  • lost
  • hesitant
  • hopeless
  • disillusioned
  • frustrated
  • anxious
  • fulfilled
  • irritable

Use this list and add some of your own words to it. Keep a journal or note in your phone and add in a new word every time you hear one that resonates with the way you feel.

Get as specific as possible with the words you use as this builds emotional awareness and intelligence.

The more specific the word, the better you can narrow down how you feel. And the larger your emotional vocabulary becomes, the more emotional awareness you’ll create.

3. Always Use the Power of the Pause

When you take a pause before you speak, you give your brain a breather.

Give space to your thoughts by taking a pause. This is important for a few reasons: the first is it helps you avoid an instant reaction, and the second is it gives you a moment to consider different options.

It will also help you to avoid rambling, which won’t allow you to share how you really feel.

When you’re confronted with emotion — create a pause in your mind. The normal response is to react right away when we experience a feeling.

This is often when you get that simplistic emotional response of anger, sadness, or even lashing out physically.

These instant reactions will not help you and reveal a lack of emotional intelligence.

Take a pause after you experience an emotion to create better emotional awareness and better control of your response.

How often have you immediately regretted an immediate reaction to a situation when you didn’t take a moment to think about it first?

It’s not that you’re preventing yourself from feeling a powerful emotion — you’re learning to observe it and not let it control you.

This is an important point to become more emotionally aware. There is strength in observation and this lets you become better in tune with yourself and how you feel.

Emotions are always in flux; how you feel in one moment differs from another. When you observe, pause, and see your feelings from an outside perspective, you improve your emotional awareness.

My Own Experience With This

This is one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn over the years, and I found out how powerful the pause can be.

I’ve always been quick to react — and immediately regret what I’ve said or done. I wondered why this was causing strains in my relationships — and I realized it was my fault.

If you find yourself in the same position; realize that this change does not happen overnight.

After talking to a counselor, I learned how important it is to take that pause and not react right away. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath or counting slowly in your mind.

I learned that this momentary pause lets you collect your thoughts — and not say something you’ll immediately regret. Sometimes, it can just mean walking away.

Again, walking away is another hard thing for me to do, but removing yourself from an explosive situation is often the best move.

I still have those moments where I speak without thinking, but it helps to reinforce how important it is to not be so reactive and blurt out something hurtful.

These days, when I’m faced with a situation where I feel an immediate emotion coming on, I remind myself of how awful it feels saying something reactive, instead of processing the moment first.

You may think you are being smart and witty in the moment, but trust me: you just come across as a jackass — and hurt the people you care about.

Use the power of the pause.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence doesn’t develop overnight. It takes work just like any other skill.

It comes naturally to some people, while others have to constantly work on it. The important thing is — it can develop and grow.

Increased emotional intelligence builds more emotional strength. The more emotional strength you have, the better you will be to connect with others, inspire them, and grow yourself.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.

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