People are people, and it is within our nature to hear or see things and automatically assume we understand the intent behind them.

Next, we do something very common. We react!

  • Al was hurt by something Christina said. Al lashes out at Christina.

  • Melanie was angered by something Max did. Melanie goes silent with Max.

Does it matter that Christina and Max had no ill intent? Not according to Al and Melanie. The impact on them was fierce and their reactions followed suit. In the emotional intelligence space, we call this going from reality testing to emotional expression--this is not healthy.

Reality testing, as you learned in previous parts of this course, is our ability to distinguish facts from stories we tell ourselves.

In the examples above, Al and Melanie would feel very justified in their reactions from a fact based perspective. Al heard what Christina said and he reacted to what Christina said. Unfortunately, Alan heard with his ears but did not listen with his head or his heart. By the time Al got to emotional expression, the damage was already done.

The steps Al should take instead are:

1. Reality Testing - Focus on Christina's words, not the story he creates from her words.

2. Impulse Control - W.A.I.T. (What Am I Thinking, Why Am I Talking?) before reacting.

3. Self-Actualization - What, if anything, did I contribute to this? Or, I heard what I heard in words but am I investigating the intent behind it or am I simply allowing myself to react?

4. Empathy - Why did Christina say what she said? What is she going through that I may not be thinking about? Am I misreading her intentions?

5. Flexibility - Based on the steps (1-4) I've taken so far, are there other ways to respond or address this interaction that has concerned me?

6. Problem Solving - What is the best way to respond based on all of the information I have now taken in?

7. Emotional Expression - How will I express myself based on what I now know and how I now feel?

If we are going to be emotionally intelligent lovers, we must be able to separate impact from intent. Although something may have landed on us in a negative way, it is quite possible that the intent of our partner was not to hurt us. This is not to say that our partner could not have handled it in a better manner but that is a conversation we should have with them, after we've gone through the necessary steps.