No Pain No Gain: Build Your Emotional Intelligence with These 6 Growth Opportunities

no pain no gain emotional intelligence author samantha eklund

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time (especially a year or two ago), then you probably know that the old saying, “no pain, no gain,” is one of my favorites. I love, love, love the notion that overcoming trials and challenges can make us stronger. The oldest religions and traditions of the world all back up this theory as well.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve lost a lot of that wisdom in today’s age. Now most of us want things as easy and convenient as possible, but I’m going to make the case that doing so is a disservice for this world and our collective future.

Instead of shying away from the things that are difficult or uncomfortable, I encourage us all to embrace challenges!

Why? Because it gives us the opportunities to do things that help build our emotional intelligence! A high level of emotional intelligence can be found in many of the world’s most successful people and leaders, so I’m sure you see the appeal in obtaining it (I sure do!).

When we face challenges, they give us the six opportunities listed below. These opportunities not only help us get through trials unscathed, but also to build our emotional intelligence. And like exercising our physical muscles, the more we use our emotional intelligence, the more it grows (i.e. the more challenges we face, the more chances we have to grow!).

Growth Opportunity #1: Dealing with negative emotions and not making knee-jerk decisions based on them.

These negative emotions can come from either yourself or others, but either way it’s good to practice dealing with both. Nothing brings them out like a difficult situation! I’m sure you’ve noticed that in some high-pressure, high-stress situations, some people completely lose their cool and others maintain a calm demeanor. Those who stay calm have likely been through many difficult situations and have learned how to successfully navigate them, while also increasing their emotional intelligence.

Next time you find yourself in a tough situation and feel all of your negative emotions bubbling to the surface—or someone is screaming at you—remember what a golden opportunity this is to stay calm and look past all of the emotions to the facts of the situation, and seek to really understand the whole picture.

Growth Opportunity #2: Expressing difficult feedback.

Again, this is something that I think our culture has become very bad at doing (me included!). I want to be nice to everyone and giving difficult or negative feedback goes against that desire. However, on the path to achieving your dreams or building a business, you’ll inevitably need to deliver difficult feedback. Shoot, even in your personal life you’ll eventually need to tell your kids that they’re grounded or your spouse that they’ve disappointed you in some way (we’re all human!).

Expressing difficult feedback isn’t fun, but doing it well, with kindness and compassion, is a great skill to have.

Growth Opportunity #3: Practicing empathy.

Sometimes challenges come in the form of difficult people, and these situations are the perfect opportunities for us to practice using our empathy muscle. Doing so requires us to try to see life through their eyes and imagine what they might be thinking and feeling.

Where is this person coming from? Are they simply not feeling heard or understood? Have they been in a similar situation to this one where they just got steamrolled? Are they going through a hard time in their life and are simply misplacing their frustrations?

During challenging times, people tend to show their worst sides. If you find yourself interacting with such a person, don’t flip out on them or treat them with disrespect. Take a moment to flex your empathy muscles and imagine what they might be dealing with. You can even ask them to help you understand where they’re coming from (sometimes rectifying the situation is as simple as helping them feel heard).

Growth Opportunity #4: Dealing with stress and performing through it rather than shrinking from it or reacting to it.

Long-term stress can do a number on any one of us, even people with high emotional intelligence. However, when confronted with it head on, they’re able to keep their composure and operate under the pressure.

Any time you’re faced with a high-stress situation, you also have the opportunity to build this skill. When you feel your pulse start to quicken and the desperation setting in, remind yourself to calm down. Let your emotions calm down for a few moments, then take another crack at the situation. Remember to focus on the facts and the areas where you can have an impact; don’t focus on the pressure or all the things that are going wrong.

Growth Opportunity #5: Standing your ground when the heat is on.

Depending on your inherent personality and life experiences, this one can be especially hard to do. However, it is also incredibly valuable and a good skill to have in your arsenal. While you never want to be blatantly stubborn just for the heck of it, emotionally intelligent people have no problem standing their ground when they know they’ve proposed the best solution or have better visibility of the issue than the person debating them.

They don’t worry as much about what the other person might think about them for standing up for their perspective, but care more about influencing the right final outcome. By the same token, if they’re proven wrong and end up not being the person with the best solution, they are more than happy to back down.

Growth Opportunity #6: Expressing positive emotions or appreciation for people.

While many people, especially men, are told it’s best to stay emotionless, we all appreciate when our leaders or colleagues express appreciation for us! Emotionally intelligent people aren’t afraid to tell their team members they’re doing a great job, to thank someone for their help, or to pay a compliment to someone. Although it can feel awkward to say these words (this one is hard for me!), it’s a really good skill to have. Not only does it help you grow as a person, but it helps encourage and build up the people around you. It’s a win-win!

In summary:

As it turns out, the no-pain-no-gain mentality not only works in the gym for our big muscles, but also for our most important one—our brain! When faced with challenging situations, we have the opportunity to take a moment before reacting to them and decide how we want to operate within them. Every time we take the time to do so, rather than knee-jerk reacting, we build emotional intelligence.

Action item:

Either commit these opportunities to memory or write them down somewhere and keep them nearby. Next time you’re in a tough situation, try to read through them and look for places where you can implement a couple of them!

Join the convo! ;-)

Was there one or two that especially resonated with you, or that you’re already familiar with? Or did you have any ah-ha moments? Let us know by leaving a comment below!