Overall, some degree of emotional self-awareness is crucial to emotional intelligence. Therefore, strive to be aware of your emotions during difficult situations, as well as during your daily activities.

Imagine for a moment that you’re trapped with several other people in the elevator of a 50-story skyscraper. The alarm is bellowing as the elevator occasionally jerks and bounces, unsettling its passengers. What would be your most likely response to the situation just described?

Would you…

  • frantically begin to search the elevator for possible escape routes?
  • read a book or engage in a conversation with another passenger while waiting for help?
  • thoroughly read the safety instructions posted in the elevator or provided by the emergency phone?

Your response to intense emotional experiences identifies your preferred emotional stance to stress and duress. Generally, there are three distinctive styles people use for dealing with their emotions. These are:

1. Feeling engulfed

People who are engulfed by their emotions often feel as if they have no control over their moods. They let their emotions “run wild,” and are prone to overreacting and thinking the worst. People engulfed by their emotions are the ones “freaking out,” frantically searching for an escape from a stuck elevator before evaluating options.

2. Being accepting

Individuals who are accepting of their emotions do little to change how they feel. These people are aware of their feelings, but don’t believe they can or aren’t willing to do anything about them. One type of “acceptor” is the person who is always in a good mood, and therefore has no need or motivation to change.

The other type is the person who is always in a bad mood, accepts it, and does nothing about it. This is the type of person who might read a book during a crisis, knowing there is nothing else he or she can do.

3. Being self-aware

The third style of dealing with emotions is to be self-aware. Individuals who are self-aware have conscious thoughts about their moods as they experience them. There’s a difference, for example, between acting frustrated with someone and just thinking, “I’m really feeling frustrated.” When trapped in an elevator, the self-aware person recognizes his fear and begins to explore the options available. That might include reading safety instructions.

Being self-aware is a basic emotional competency that enables individuals to step back from an experience and observe what’s happening, as opposed to being totally immersed in it. Self-awareness is the first step in gaining some control over a situation.

You’re not only aware of your mood, but also aware of your thoughts about that mood. This leads to good psychological health and an overall positive outlook on life.

Overall, some degree of emotional self-awareness is crucial to emotional intelligence. Therefore, strive to be aware of your emotions during difficult situations, as well as during your daily activities. Being aware of your emotions is the first step to improving your overall emotional health.