#MyVoiceMatters: Emotional Intelligence will ensure my voice is heard!

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and our Young Mental Health Ambassadors have been getting involved in sharing playlists, blogs, drawings, and more that they feel represents ‘My Voice Matters’ to them. Gemma, one of our YMHA and Research Ambassadors explores emotional intelligence and communication.

The term emotional intelligence was first popularised in the mid-90s by journalist Daniel Goleman’s book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ’ but it continues to be a prominent discussion point and is crucial to ensuring children and young people can make their voice and feelings heard.

So, what really is emotional intelligence? In a nutshell, it’s the ability to control, interpret, evaluate and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others. It’s being able to express how you’re feeling and control the emotions while also understanding and appropriately responding to the emotions of others. There are 5 key elements to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence can identify how they’re feeling, understand what those emotions mean, communicate it effectively and see how those emotions impact themselves and others.

Emotional intelligence is developed over time with multiple parts of your brain getting involved, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, frontal cortex, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. Developing emotional intelligence can be split into three different stages, firstly a person is introduced to a stimulus through which they are supposed to understand the emotional reference being attached, and the person uses their brain to figure out what the emotion is. Different emotions are understood through the use of different media. Next, the second stage is understanding different attitudes and patterns that help you analyse what emotions are driven from them. You’re able to use the emotions that you have understood, this part of the development enables individuals to perceive emotions and apply them. They are able to figure out the patterns and attitudes that relate to different emotions and thus can identify how to put them into use. This enables them to alter their behaviours and use their emotions wisely. The final stage is to be able to manage different types of emotions. Once you can understand your and others’ emotions, you’re able to manage them better. This way, you can easily communicate with people and have a positive vibe, no matter what the situation is. Individuals can assess different emotions and manage them accurately without being confused as to how to go about handling certain situations.

Some experts consider emotional intelligence to be more important than IQ as it has so many benefits. Firstly, children with high emotional intelligence tend to have higher IQs and perform better on standardised tests. Those with high emotional intelligence normally have better relationships in their personal and professional life as emotional intelligence skills allow individuals to manage conflict well, develop deeper friendships and navigate emotional conflict simply. Higher emotional intelligence is related to improved mental health and reduced likelihood of experiencing depression or other mental illnesses. These are just a few of the benefits of high emotional intelligence, with others including active listening, extensive vocabulary, self-awareness, being empathetic and self-regulation.

Children with high emotional intelligence are shown to have higher success in adulthood, with studies showing a child’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten may predict lifelong success, children who were able to share, cooperate, and follow directions at age 5 were more likely to obtain college degrees and to begin working full-time jobs by age 25.1.

But why is this so important? If we want the next generations to be successful, have strong mental health and be able to communicate their emotions effectively surely emotional intelligence is crucial, their voice matters and we need to equip them with the skills to communicate their feelings!

Teaching emotional intelligence has grown in recent years but there’s still some distance to go. Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs have become a standard part of the curriculum for many schools and aim to not only improve health and well-being, but also help students succeed academically and prevent bullying. Teaching children emotional intelligence from a young age should be encouraged and has been shown effective in a range of countries and cultures across the world. Although, the benefits of interventions don’t stop at children, with studies showing it’s possible to improve levels of emotional intelligence in university students in turn improving their graduate opportunities and within adolescent males who reported significantly lower levels of verbal aggression, anger and hostility.

If children and young people are able to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions they’ll have the ability to articulate themselves and make sure others listen to them! As well as show their personality, state their preferences, and communicate their safety. Therefore, teaching children emotional intelligence from a young age at school and at home is critical to ensure future generations have the skills to make their voices heard.

Further Reading.

Gemma Wood, Ambassador.

About The Author

Gemma Wood is a final year undergraduate psychology student in her final term studying online. She’s passionate about academic research, with interests in adolescent/young adult mental health, educational psychology, and pedagogy. She has recently secured a place to undertake a Master of Science in September 2024. She’s been a Young Mental Health Ambassador with Healthwatch Essex for several years and recently joined our Research Ambassador Network. You can find Gemma on X here: @GemmaWood00.