While the relationship between men and women has always been tricky to navigate, the modern world has not improved the relationship between the sexes. In today’s reality, men are expected to do more than ever in a relationship for things to work out and for men to reap the benefits of true partnership.
Often times, men have trouble opening up, being vulnerable or being in tune with their emotions enough to connect with their friends and romantic partners in meaningful ways. Some professionals believe this due to how men learn to become men, how we speak and relate to each other. We learn the rules and codes of our tribe which is about who’s in charge and what is to be done.
That gap between men and women when it comes to emotion is known as emotional intelligence. Some studies have even suggested that only 35 percent of men are emotionally intelligent. That’s a big issue when it comes to relationships.
Those with low emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) often hear from their partners about how they seem clueless about their feelings, are poor at reading body language and taking hints when it comes to emotion and have trouble forming those essential emotional bonds. They often misread emotions as well, reading a whole different emotion from the one being expressed.
American psychologist Daniel Goleman breaks down emotional intelligence into five different elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.
Let’s take a closer look at each one to better understand them.
Simply put, people with high emotional intelligence think with their heads, not their hearts. While this might sound counter-intuitive, those with higher EQ’s tend to be less impulsive and make fewer careless, poorly thought-out decisions on average.
Having self awareness means they take the time to think before they act. It is the difference between reacting and responding.
This applies to people’s overall control of their emotional impulses. People who have poor self-regulation skills often find themselves leaping headlong into situations without thinking them through, making careless decisions without considering the impact of them. They simply live and breathe their reactions.
Those who are good at self-regulation, for example, are great at maintaining a base line of being content and even-keeled, resisting the temptation to ride an emotional roller coaster.
Those with high emotional intelligence tend to be better motivated, great at setting and accomplishing their goals. They love a challenge and are super productive, frequently cast as the leader in high-pressure situations.
They have a complete, stoic control of themselves and that reflects onto others. Those with lower EQ’s tend to lack that internally-sourced motivation.
This is a vital one when it comes to emotional intelligence. The ability to recognize, identify and understand the wants and needs of others is essential to forming long-term, meaningful intimate and romantic relationships.
5. Social Skills
Those with strong social skills tend to be team players, less focused on their own success and more on the accomplishments of the collective. They’re typically good at managing disputes, great at connecting and building bridges between people and make great leaders when needed.
Plus, social skills come in handy in every aspect of life like work, school, romance and relationships of all kinds.
Developing passable social skills is a key aspect to growing someone’s overall EQ.
Applying These Skills to Romantic Partners
With all of these five keys to EQ in mind, it’s easy to understand why so many men fall short of the mark on an emotional level with their partners. Our tribe doesn’t tend to value these skills or behaviours and so most men are never able to develop them naturally. We have to learn them.
There are some things you can do as a man to get in touch with your own emotions and learn to better communicate and understand where your partner is coming from.
1. Look Inward Often
While it can be difficult to look inward when you’re feeling a negative emotion like sadness or anger, that self-reflection is important to your emotional development.
Instead of lashing out at others when you’re feeling something, really think about where that emotion is coming from and the impact it’s having on you.
For example, studies have shown that school curriculums that encourage children to look inward and focus on their emotions have a longer impact than those that don’t.
“Social-emotional learning programs teach the skills that children need to succeed and thrive in life,” said Eva Oberle, an assistant professor at UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership in the school of population and public health.
While it might not be pleasant, you should think to yourself about WHY you’re feeling the way you feel and try to communicate that with your partner.
2. Respond Rather Than Just React
Once you know how to look inward and focus on where an emotion might be coming from, the next step is addressing why you might have that reaction in the first place.
Taking responsibility for your feelings instead of attacking someone for how you feel about something is being responsive and is a healthier choice; so is learning to focus on actions and behaviours rather than people and their characters.
For example, instead of exploding with anger or feeling resentment when your partner points out something you did wrong around the house, address how them pointing it out made you feel.
This is a deeper, more meaningful way of interacting with your partner that promotes communication and deep connections rather than just superficial or cyclical arguments.
For example, studies have shown that those in long distance relationships can form stronger bonds than those that are strictly face-to-face due to the high level of communication long distance relationships require.
“The long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.” said Crystal Jiang, researcher at City University of Hong Kong.
While developing EQ might seem like a challenge, it is one you should take on as a man. That work is essential to making sure you have the tools and skills needed to successfully navigate intimate romantic relationships. Consider working with a professional coach or therapist to help you find a path to better emotional intelligence and healthier relationships with others.
Remember, no man is an island unto himself.