Emotional Intelligence & Etiquette: Self-Awareness

Why we should develop our self-awareness to practice good etiquette:

Self-awareness is being conscious of your thoughts, feelings and actions and being able to describe your feelings, know where they come from, and why you are experiencing them so that you can make the changes you need to in your thought-life to become more emotionally intelligent and respond more eloquently to the people and world around you.

Many of the emotions we feel are based on the experiences and viewpoints we have had over time. They are emotions that are triggered by what people have said or done to us in the past or what we have said and done to ourselves in the past, and they hold sway over the expression of ourselves in the present. This mindset often stops us from being present and listening actively, and being non-judgemental, with ourselves and with others.

It is instructive to know that only about a third of us can actually describe how we are feeling in the present moment and that is why learning how to improve your emotional intelligence is so important. Without the mindfulness you need to reflect on and understand your emotions, which are essentially impulses to act, you cannot change and improve the way you communicate with yourself and with others.

Deep in our limbic brain is a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a site of the brain which holds all our memories and is also a key site used for reasoning. When we experience anything through our five senses our brain sends a message to our hippocampus to compare it with any similar experiences we have had in the past.

 If the conclusion is re-assuring the brain does not send out any alert and the body remains relatively unaffected. If however, we are still unsure about the sight, sound, smell, touch or taste, another coil of circuitry between the amygdala, hippocampus and site of the sensory cortex in our brain from where the stimulus originates, like our visual cortex for example, further heightens uncertainty and fixates our attention. 

If no concrete reassurance comes from the analysis, the amygdala triggers an alarm, activating the hypothalamus, the brain stem and the autonomic nervous system. From the amygdala projections extend to every part of the brain. When the hypothalamus receives a distress signal from the amygdala it secretes the body’s emergency response substance, corticotropin, a releasing hormone which mobilises the fight or flight reaction via a cascade of other hormones.

If similar experiences are triggered in the present which caused this reaction in the past, our brain and body will go through the same process time and again until we consciously intervene. Fortunately, the hippocampus is a part of the brain where new brain cells can be formed, and this neuroplasticity gives us the opportunity to change the stories in our inner library.

Instead of being triggered by the same thing over and over again, we can rewrite the script in our hippocampus and rewire our brains by changing the way we think about ourselves, other people and life events that happened to us in the past.

Developing this consciousness will deepen your understanding of yourself and you will become more aware of your perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions and be able to understand other people in a far more sensitive and intelligent way.

By developing our self-awareness, we improve our social and business performance and present ourselves in a calm, self-assured and well-mannered fashion.

Here are a few ways you can develop your self-awareness:

• Learn how to describe your feelings as you feel them and learn how to describe other people’s feelings
• Replace old ways of thinking with new positive affirmations to rewire your brain
• Become mindful of the way you think, feel and behave so that you can make the changes you need to, to make your personal and social life a joy

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