When we think of emotional intelligence and relationships, we tend to think of connection, closeness, and love. However, contradictory emotions within ourselves and resolving differences between people are problematic in many friendships, marriages, and partnerships. Finding peace with yourself is the first step.
Yet, over decades of coaching clients, both personally and in business, I have found the real culprit that consistently presents itself. This one challenge creates many of the disagreements, cut-offs, and fights in relationships, and very few escape its grip. It fuels anger and prevents conflict resolution that could enhance the connection between people.
Contradictory Emotions Guide Us to Different Aspects of Ourselves
The French essayist Michel de Montaigne is quoted as saying, "There is as much difference between us and ourselves as there is between us and others."
One of the more difficult things about being human is the difference between us and ourselves.
Many conflicting feelings and thoughts can be churning within us at any given time. For instance, I’m truly happy for my friend who built her dream home—and I’m inspired to fulfill my own aspirations. However, depending on the day, I might also feel frustrated that we live in a boring, though practical ranch house squished between other houses in a small town.
Finding inner peace in the midst of seemingly contradictory emotions can stump us.
Don't be blown away by the emotional winds within yourself or the many challenges that might greet you!
To grow in self-awareness, emotional mastery, and increase your emotional intelligence, requires tools and practice. Check out our downloadable emotional fitness online course.
Emotional Intelligence: Listening to and Accepting All Parts of Ourselves
Listening and acting on our emotions is harder than most people expect. Another difficulty arises when our spouse or partner says and does something that appears to override an earlier statement or action.
Take a long-time married couple I once worked with from out of state. The husband agreed to go to a formal party and awards ceremony to honor his wife who was receiving recognition. He told her how proud he was of her. He also added that he couldn't wait to stand by her side and support her.
However, a few days later, as the couple was getting dressed for the banquet, he started bemoaning the fact that they had to go and saying how much he despised parties and social events. His wife interpreted his momentary feelings as evidence that he didn’t mean what he had said earlier in the week. The situation ignited a huge argument. But he truly meant what he had said earlier and as an introverted fellow, he also loathes socializing.
One feeling doesn’t invalidate the other; both can be true.
What I’ve found to be very liberating is to accept the entire stew of feelings and contradictions inside of us, observing without judgment.
For example, a past client of mine was making her husband wrong and resenting his travels and adventures. These feelings were tell-tale signs that she needed a break from a demanding job and yearned for the same kind of freedom. After we unpacked her feelings and discussed them together, she made plans for an extended vacation abroad with friends, which he fully supported.
One of the common pitfalls of navigating tough emotions is the tendency to make someone else responsible for what we feel, like the woman above, was doing. Only YOU are responsible for your emotions and how your respond.
Listen to the wisdom of your emotions!
Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"
Self-Acceptance Paves the Way to Compassion
When we truly accept all parts within us, we can better show up for ourselves and participate in life with more aliveness. When we listen to the “difference between us and ourselves,” we can learn to close the gap. Then we can choose to love ourselves more compassionately where we are right now, while also holding the vision more resolutely for the person we want to become and the life we desire.
When we can confidently navigate and modulate our emotions, no matter how much they contradict one another, we are then free to seek to understand others with curiosity and compassion.
Related reading: "Why You Should Care About Emotional Regulation?"
Learn to honor all of yourself and you will transform conflicting emotions and the inner critic to allies on your path of self-discovery.
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