Want to know one of the best ways to build your emotional intelligence?
People who have high emotional intelligence don’t have to have a happy outcome, or one that feels good, in every situation. They’re ok with setting aside their feelings as needed to make progress in their goals, and thus, life.
This can be especially applicable in the face of criticism. Is all negative feedback warranted? No way. But when it is, you and I must be willing to hear it or we’ll never grow.
As an author, I’ve received several negative and downright harsh reviews of my books. If you’re wondering, yes, they hurt. Writing a book is an incredibly personal and revealing experience. Putting one’s book out in the world is like putting pieces of your heart out there—and they’re all subject to the sometimes brash whims of a cruel reader. But they’re mainly there to inspire and entertain my ideal audience, which is for whom I write. My ideal audience is kind, and when not satisfied with a story, they express their views reasonably and share what could have been better or what they didn’t particularly care for.
It’s that kind of criticism to which we should all be paying attention.
To exercise emotional intelligence is to recognize that much can be learned from this criticism.
Even in the worst criticism, we should be asking ourselves what we can learn from it.
The answer typically isn’t, “Well I guess everyone in the world is a jerk.” Letting yourself become jaded from constructive, or even nonconstructive, feedback isn’t a way to grow emotional intelligence. Instead, look for slivers of truth in their review.
One review that has hurt me the most was one about my book Celeste, where a reader said I completely copied another series. I of course did not do that in the slightest. However, the reviewer laid out her reasons for thinking so and I have to admit that she had some good points, even if the way she made them was snarky. I didn’t see the overlaps with my story and the other one until that review. That revelation allowed me to better express the vision for my story in this latest round of revisions.
People who score high in emotional intelligence also have a heightened ability to spot the emotions of others and understand the reasoning behind those feelings.
Embracing criticism requires this ability. Most of the time, people aren’t giving you or I negative feedback just for the sake of being mean or to tear us down. Oftentimes they’re trying to help, and our own defensive emotions get in the way of seeing that. Sometimes we can be so quick to throw up our defenses rather than ask why this person might have this particular perspective.
If your boss tells you that you’re unreliable, are they just being mean or should you examine your track record? Do you finish your projects on time and do what you commit to, or do a good number of your responsibilities fall by the wayside?
In the example of book reviews, although some can be upsetting with a level of harshness that’s completely uncalled for, they can still contain truth. In the one that most upset me, I can see the truth to it and perhaps that’s why it’s so upsetting. I had no intention of mirroring another series and the similarities are embarrassing—but having that insight helps me avoid repeating the mistake.
By no means is exercising emotional intelligence always easy. Sometimes when people are screaming at us (either in real life or online), we want to scream back at them. We want to defend ourselves as emphatically as they’re criticizing us. But who does that serve? It doesn’t help with your goals, it doesn’t help the person criticizing (if anything they’ll get even meaner), and it certainly doesn’t help this world. As the old saying goes, kill ‘em with kindness. If everyone would actively work on raising their level of emotional intelligence just a little, our world would be a much happier and more loving place.
Have you recently received feedback that you thought was unwarranted so you brushed it off? After reading this article, do you think if you reflected a little longer on that feedback, you could find some slivers of truth within it that would benefit you to learn from? We all want to grow as people, and learning from and implementing changes after feedback is one of the best ways to do so! (It’s free advice!)
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