Components of Emotional Intelligence (EI): Information to Increase Social Skills for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

A man sitting on a bench in a park

Good news: I will not be asking you to take a quiz that will quantify your emotional intelligence. Nope, not a chance. I only wish to open your eyes (and mine) to understand our own emotions, to understand how others feel and operate, and to understand a healthy exchange of emotions in relationships, specifically workplace relationships. That’s the premise behind emotional intelligence.

I think the idea of identifying and exchanging emotions in relationships is especially important for those with blindness or a visual impairment. If you are unable to account for others’ facial expressions and body language, you must be more in tune with how you or circumstances affect others’ emotions; you must be more sensitive to hearing and sharing feelings in vocal expression; and you must be more intentional with choosing your facial expressions and body language. That is, you must be more aware of and proactive in obtaining and utilizing emotional intelligence if you wish to connect with others in a language they understand.

According to Achieving Emotional Literacy: A Personal Program to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence, a book by Dr. Claude Steiner, emotional intelligence has three components:

  1. The ability to understand your own emotions.
  2. The ability to listen to others and empathize with their emotions.
  3. The ability to express emotions productively.

Consider an emotionally charged incident that may occur on the job. Perhaps an individual you supervise insults your ability with a cutting remark. An emotionally illiterate, and all too common, response would either be verbally attacking the individual, or it would be feeling cold, numb, and response-less.

An emotionally literate response, again according to Dr. Steiner’s book, would be to:

  1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. What was said about you offended you, frustrated you, hurt you, angered you, embarrassed you, or made you feel like you couldn’t trust the individual. Whatever combination you feel, identify and allow it. This response is one of awareness instead of reaction; you are aware of your current emotions and you understand how others would feel in similar situations.
  2. Survey the emotional landscape. Think about what the individual was feeling that led him to say such a cutting remark. How has the individual been treated? What have your past interactions been with each other? Could he be overwhelmed with his personal life or other unknown factor? In essence, what has been the groundwork for this explosion of emotion?
  3. Take responsibility for your portion. If there is some truth to the individual’s criticism (there almost always is), admit it, apologize, and decide how to change the course. At the same time, do share your feelings with the individual regarding how his outburst made you feel. Your words should be assertive, and your body language/ facial expression should demonstrate your emotions. Your response is your responsibility.

Finally, I’d like to give recommendations to help on your journey of increasing emotional intelligence. First, practice identifying your emotions instead of suppressing them. Second, intentionally rehearse empathy. Third, work on your assertive communication, including I-statements. Fourth, become fluent in expressing nonverbal communication and expressing/ identifying emotions in tones of voices.

Those who instruct students or consumers with visual impairments, please utilize the Assertiveness Training and Social Skills lesson series when providing related training.