Foto: Udell Jiménez

Are you an extrovert? No. Are you friendly? Not at all. Were you a victim of bullying? Yes. When he was a child, Marc Brackett faced many hardships at school. “When I was in a lot of pain, my parents didn’t know how to help me. They did love me, but didn’t know how to support me,” says the director and founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

You can learn how to manage your emotions. This is one of the motivations that encouraged Brackett to dedicate his life to analyzing the skills that help us understand our feelings better. For 25 years, this doctor of psychology has focused on emotions being at the heart of social relationships and learning.

Over this time, he created the RULER program (running in 2,000 schools in different countries) a scientific approximation that consists of understanding the value of feelings, developing emotional intelligence skills, and creating and maintaining a positive school environment, because mishandling translates into learning difficulties, bullying, and burnout that can occur throughout people’s lives.

His aim is to continue teaching “emotional literacy”, as he says that teaching us how to manage our feelings is an ongoing process and is the basis for building healthy relationships.

What’s an emotionally healthy school like?

It can be measured in many ways. One of these is the relationship between teachers and students. In the extensive research we’ve performed, we discovered that when you ask certain teachers how they feel, unfortunately they reply: “I’m frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed.” When we ask junior high and high school students, they say they’re tired, bored, and stressed. Those aren’t the best emotions for learning and building relationships. So, the big issue lies creating a bridge that helps us go from frustrated and overwhelmed to having appropriate emotions that make them feel inspired, energized, loved…

How does emotional intelligence influence professional development?

How you feel at work is very similar to what you experience at school or at home. Despite that, company leaders or directors don’t pay attention to how their employees feel. People who feel negative emotions at work spend more time missing their objectives, i.e. they’re not doing their jobs. They have burnout, they lack job satisfaction, and they’re less creative. When they’re in an organization or a company where the leader has better emotional intelligence, the opposite occurs. People experience more positive emotions, they have less burnout, more satisfaction. The work lies in taking emotional intelligence very seriously.

Can the government deal with emotions as a public health problem?

Children grow up in different contexts: the family, the school, and the community, which is within a state that in turn has a government. Everything around them has to be involved with emotional intelligence. In Mexico, the ideal scenario would be for the Ministry of Education to consider emotional intelligence as critical to the wellbeing of students and ensure that every school had the appropriate system for developing the skills of teachers, leaders, and students.

5 keys to emotional intelligence

  1. Recognize feelings: both yours and those of others in order to deal with them properly.
  2. Understand causes and consequences to work on a personal strategy of how to act in those situations that cause negative feelings.
  3. Label differences. If we can name what we’re feeling properly, it’s easier to work on what’s bothering us.
  4. Express your emotions. The rules for expressing feelings are different in each country or community. Understanding them helps to know how to demonstrate them.
  5. Regulate them effectively. Having strategies for regulating the whole range of emotions is hard work that requires effort, because each individual experiences emotions differently.

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