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Mindfulness Meditation and Emotional Intelligence

These days, more and more experts are pointing to EQ rather than IQ as the most important factor that will determine a person’s success. EQ, also known as emotional intelligence or EI, is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. It isn’t restricted to understanding one’s own emotions but also those of others around us.

Mindfulness is at the root of emotional intelligence. It is a practice that helps to improve our awareness of our own emotions and those of others. It makes us consciously pay attention to our sensations, our thoughts, and our environment. In other words, mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. It’s in a state of mindlessness that we can get caught in an endless loop of negative thoughts, worry, and anxiety.

Based on the definition from these two university professors – Salovey (Yale University) and Mayer (University of New Hampshire) – Emotional Intelligence is the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.


Mindfulness Meditation

It’s through mindfulness meditation that people can work towards becoming more present in their daily lives. The meditation involves being attentive to the thoughts, emotions, and sensations in that particular moment. It teaches how to meet each of these with compassion and without passing judgment.

Through practicing mindfulness meditation, you will cultivate the ability to notice when your attention wanders and how to gently guide it back to the present experience, no matter if it is pleasant or not.

Why is it important to pay attention to sensations, thoughts, and emotions? It’s often in physical sensations that feelings first manifest themselves. If you recognize a physical sensation or disruption early, you can connect that to what you are feeling emotionally and address it before it escalates into your thoughts and comes out in unwanted behavior.

Our emotions inform our thoughts and vice versa. And thoughts and emotions influence our behavior. Being aware helps to manage both.


Behaviors of People with a High EQ

There are several telltale behaviors most people who are emotionally intelligent share. They include:


Spending time thinking about feelings

Awareness of self and others is a foundational characteristic of EQ. Self awareness is defined as knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions.

One must be able to identify and name their own emotions (and those of others) and recognize their impact. It requires some self-examination to understand how one’s current emotional state affects thoughts, decisions, and conversations. People with high EQ take time to do that self examination.



Emotional intelligence includes the ability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. As opposed to judging, they show an understanding of and consideration for the opinions and feelings of others, thus building deeper connections and stronger relationships with those they interact with.

Some people argue that empathy weakens people, clouds decisions, and even creates emotional distress as they take other’s pain as their own. As we practice mindfulness, we cultivate compassion, which is about having empathy for others but with a clear distinction between the feelings of the self and others. This includes being able to make difficult decisions and communications with that compassion.


Pause Before Reacting

People with a high EQ will often pause before acting or speaking, particularly when faced with a difficult situation. The pause permits them to avoid making a decision with permanent or hurtful implications based on a passing emotion.

Ability to pause and slow down before reacting allows us not to react to a situation based on emotion, but to observe the situation as a mater-of-fact, and respond to the situation with clarity. We often distinct these as “Reaction vs. Response”, or “Autopilot vs. Conscious choice.”


Practicing Forgiveness

Holding onto a grudge for others, not only prevents us from moving forward in a positive way in our own lives, but also holds us emotionally hostage. It keeps us living in the past.

Forgiveness is a liberation of ourselves. It’s not for the other person, it is for yourself. You don’t have to like the other person, you don’t have to justify the other person’s conduct or behavior. And forgiving doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to their behavior again.

You simply acknowledge what happened, understand that it cannot be undone, and accept letting go of the past in order to live in the present.


Controlling Attention

Emotions arise as a reaction to our circumstance. This could be a tiger charging you in the wild or your boss yelling at you in the workplace. This brings up related thoughts that can trigger reactive actions based on our habits or even fight or flight responses when the emotion perceives the circumstance as threatening.

Emotional thoughts and reactions are instinctive reactions. A person with high EQ can develop the ability to override that instinct and control their attention to the facts at hand, the real problem, not the emotions the problem is producing. This attention control ultimately helps them make the better decisions.


How Mindfulness Meditations Improves EQ

The myriad ways that mindfulness meditation helps to develop your emotional intelligence include:


The ability to recognize the state of mind, mood, and emotions of self and others

Mindfulness meditation first and foremost helps to develop self-awareness of your own state of mind, mood and emotions. Once you developed your practice to be able to tune into yourself, you can begin to start to recognize what is going on with others on your team.


Control over negative thinking

Through mindful leadership practices, we learn to observe our own thoughts with openness and clarity. So, when the thought of a past failure comes to mind during meditation, for example, we witness it, acknowledge it, and let it go without getting caught up in it.

The exercise helps us when negative thoughts arise in our daily lives to prevent unwanted emotions such as anxiety and worry.


Approaching every new situation objectively

Everybody has an accumulation of experiences, established thought patterns, and emotional baggage coloring how we perceive and react to things in the present. A person may say something to us that brings to mind the actions of someone else, and suddenly, this new person is painted by the same brush in your mind.

Through mindfulness practices, we cultivate emotional awareness and emotional management capacity. This allows us to pause, and observe our emotions and thoughts with openness and curiosity, then respond to the situation with clarity for the best possible outcome.

These skills are all central to the concept of emotional intelligence. To learn more about how Emotional Intelligence and Mindful Leadership training work together, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation today.

Visit our Mindful Leadership Guide for more articles like this one.


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