How are you feeling?

Examining the importance of emotional awareness in a world that does not recognize it as an intelligence

How+are+you+feeling%3F

The word “intelligence” is often synonymous with academic achievement or problem solving ability. However, a different kind of intelligence that is just as important is emotional intelligence.

According to Paly Communications teacher Melissa Laptalo, the better someone’s ability to understand and manage emotions is, the better their communication skills.

“A lot of interviews ask you to describe a challenge you faced and how you responded to it,” Laptalo said. “The higher your emotional intelligence, the more comfortable you are identifying those moments in your life and talking about them.”

When you have a greater awareness of your own emotions, where they come from and why you’re reacting that way, you can manage them better.”

— Melissa Laptalo

But what is the big deal with emotional intelligence anyway? According to Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, being able to read others emotionally can improve relationships and social interactions.

“When you have a greater awareness of your own emotions, where they come from and why you’re reacting that way, you can manage them better,” Laptalo said. “If you can’t manage your emotions, it’s not only uncomfortable for you but for the people around you.”

The benefits of emotional intelligence apply to interpersonal communication across many domains, from sports to volunteering to work.

Zander Darby, a senior on the Paly varsity baseball team, cites emotional intelligence as an important factor in developing trust and team chemistry.

“A leader with good emotional intelligence knows the right time to talk to their teammates or let them cool off,” Darby added. “Staying calm and in control during stressful situations helps improve performance.”

A leader with good emotional intelligence knows the right time to talk to their teammates or let them cool off.”

— Zander Darby

Communications student Hyunah Roh has tutored younger students in the past and believes her experience helped improve her emotional intelligence.

“We can relate to them more because we’ve been in their shoes and they look at us as role models,” Roh said. “We can give them advice so that they can avoid any obstacles we faced.”

Roh has also found interpersonal skills useful for communication with customers at her job.

“When I’m working, I’m thinking about what the customer would think or how the customer would react,” she said. “You need to know what to say when they’re not in a good mood. I always tell them ‘Thank you for waiting’ when they come in and their facial expressions lighten up.”

Learning about emotional intelligence is especially important for the younger generations growing up around technology.

“Generation Z is getting less and less comfortable with interpersonal communication,” Laptalo said. “Young people prefer communicating via technology because there’s an option to edit.”

Roh also emphasizes the value of face-to-face interaction.

“When you’re talking with someone in person, you always want to give them your full attention, like not being on your phone or making eye contact.” she said. “You have to show that you are listening to the person who’s talking, because if you’re not listening, they feel like they’re talking to a wall.”

When you’re talking with someone in person, you always want to give them your full attention, like not being on your phone or making eye contact.”

— Hyunah Roh

The good news is, emotional intelligence is not fixed and can be developed over time with practice.

“The first step would be getting more comfortable thinking about how you’re feeling, identifying why you’re feeling like that and having names for your emotions,” Laptalo said.

Roh suggests keeping a journal. “It definitely takes a lot of practice, but you start to learn what you should do when you’re feeling a certain way,” Roh said.

With such a surge in technology and online communication, there have been increasingly fewer opportunities for students to brush up on their emotional awareness, and they struggle when they are required to self-reflect.

We don’t normally live our lives with a mirror in front of us, so a lot of young people tend to be very neutral in their facial expressions.”

— Melissa Laptalo

“A lot of seniors who work on their college application essays get really flustered,” Laptalo said. “They’ve never really had to write about themselves or be so introspective, and it feels overwhelming because they feel like they don’t practice that very often.”

Similarly, as teenagers move beyond high school, they will face more situations where emotional intelligence will be necessary.

“When you go to college, you’re going to lose touch with a lot of the people you spend your time with every day,” Laptalo said. “You can stay connected digitally, but there’s a lot of emotional intelligence involved in having to make new friends at your job or in college.”

As we head into the screen-filled future, Laptalo hopes that students can connect with others more through live conversations.

“We don’t normally live our lives with a mirror in front of us, so a lot of young people tend to be very neutral in their facial expressions,” Laptalo said. “I would encourage Paly students to practice using their face more, and that’s something I think Zoom offers as a benefit.”

• Art by Faustine Wang