When we’re around the people we’re most comfortable with, we don’t always utilise our emotional and social skills to their full potential.  

Around the Christmas period, as we often spend more time with families, it can bring about both positive and negative experiences! 

Here are a couple of tips for using Emotional Intelligence to survive Christmas. 

  1. Recognise your emotions. 

When you’re more aware of how you’re feeling, you can better choose how you would like to process and react to those emotions. For example, if you’re feeling stressed but don’t fully realise it, you may snap at someone without meaning to. If you’re aware of feeling stressed, you can begin to work on identifying how to manage and mitigate it.   

Try to put a label on what you’re feeling. If you can’t find the words, you could think about your energy level, and how pleasant your mood is. Give your ‘energy’ a score on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being highly energised. Then give your ‘pleasantness’ a score from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely pleasant.  

  • High energy, high pleasantness: Excited, joyful  
  • High energy, low pleasantness: Anger, anxiety  
  • Low energy, high pleasantness: Content, calm  
  • Low energy, low pleasantness: Sadness, despair  

Once you’re aware, you can work on changing your mood if you want to (e.g., if you’re feeling angry but want to calm down, you could decide to go for a walk to use up that high energy).  

  1. Give yourself more space to respond. 

The usual sequence of events (especially when we’re at home with people we’re comfortable with) is that something happens, and we respond instantly. Your young child spills something, you rush to clean it up before someone slips on it. A family member makes a point you don’t agree with, you dive into an argument with them.  

Try creating more space for yourself between the stimulus and the response. This will allow you time to choose how you want to behave, rather than how your emotions and impulses want you to behave. 

  1. Listen

‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ as Steven Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) put it. People will respond differently to you when you listen to them first and show some acknowledgement or appreciation for what they are expressing.  

When we don’t feel heard, we’re more likely to react with frustration and impatience. When we feel listened to, we’re generally more open to compromise and cooperation. Give someone that gift of your full attention, listening to understand rather than to respond.   

  1. Call out what you’re noticing 

On this point, I don’t mean shouting, “you’re getting hysterical!” at your partner.  

But it can sometimes be helpful to calmly state what you’re noticing about a situation, especially from your own point of view.  

For example, rather than saying “you always criticise me”, you might say, “I’m finding myself getting defensive, is there another way you could re-phrase your message?”  

If an argument is emerging with your stubborn relative, you might ask, “Are you interested in having a two-way discussion, or do you just want to say your piece?” This may help you decide when you would like to enter into an engaging debate, or when to pick your battles and avoid unnecessary conflict.  


Next steps

If you’re interested in developing Emotional Intelligence to improve your personal and professional relationships and achieve more with others, get in touch! We have a self-paced learning program which can be completed in your own time. You also can avail of 1:1 support with a work psychologist.

Email julie@jigsawbb.ie to discuss options for developing your emotional and social skills.

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