How to Develop your Emotional Intelligence as a Health Professional

Mohamed Aldalou
Published on Feb 18, 2021. Updated on Invalid date.

Emotional intelligence may have once sounded like an odd term, but it’s an absolutely crucial skill to improve, especially in the medical field. Managing your emotional intelligence will help you control and properly express your emotions during high-pressure situations. Learn how to hone your emotional intelligence with these tips from Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Mohamed Aldalou.

Usually when we hear the word ‘intelligence’, we immediately associate and think of it in terms of extensive scientific knowledge and the perusal of topics like physics, logic, and science. But there is another whole aspect of intelligence that is often completely overlooked: emotional intelligence.

Emotions are a very valuable tool to orient your decision-making process. They are stigmatized as being in opposition to rational and objective thinking, which is totally untrue. In fact, emotions are just another way of thinking which our minds have evolved through practice and experience to better adapt to our surroundings.

Being involved in the medical field means experiencing a huge spectrum of emotions on a daily basis, as we are exposed to a whole manner of challenging situations. Sometimes, emotions can even be obstacles to our clinical career, as my fellow OMEF Aylin Canik mentioned in her blog regarding her fear of blood.

Here are the four basic pillars that make up our emotional intelligence. Being aware of them will assist you in controlling and appropriately signaling your emotions in daily life and in your medical career.

Improve your emotional intelligence by practicing Self-Awareness 

Be aware of your emotions and give them the attention they deserve. Better insight into your own emotions can really help you to understand yourself. There are two main components to emotions:

  1.  The psychological component (attitudes, thoughts, beliefs) 

  2. The physical component (bodily sensations as fluttery feeling of the stomach, numbness of the fingers)

When you experience a strong emotion, step back and ask yourself “What am I feeling? What am I thinking of? What are the apparent physical sensations?” Observing the emotion and being self-aware will help you better label it.

Labeling and being aware of your emotional states will help you to manage those feelings. For instance, being able to recognize when you are nervous will help you act accordingly by resting, meditating, or avoiding triggers.

Osmosis table illustrating the two components of emotions.

Improve your emotional intelligence by practicing Self-Regulation

Once you become more aware of your emotions, it’s time to learn how to respond to them. This is easier said than done. You need steady practice and time to be able to truly regulate your response to your emotions. The more emotionally intelligent you become, the better you will be at deciding how to self-regulate and best respond to your emotions.

There is no fixed pattern in this regard. And there are many different strategies to respond to a particular emotion depending on the situation and the personality. Some include:

  • Avoid triggers like people, environments, or situations that provoke your negative emotions.

  • Channel your emotions in a new constructive way, such as running, exercising, reading, or writing.

  • Seek out experiences that have positive impact on your emotional state (music, movies, games) 

  •  Sit and passively observe your emotions.

Now that you know how to get started regulating your emotions, let’s look at the next step: practicing empathy.

Osmosis illustration of a medical student channeling her emotions through a creative activity.

Improve your emotional intelligence by practicing Empathy

To be emotionally intelligent, you need not only to understand your feelings, but to understand the emotions of the others. These two skills improve conjointly, overlapping and intersecting in what we call empathy.

Empathy is the ability to perceive situations from another person’s perspective. When you practice empathy, you’re taking into account another’s emotions and feelings about an experience they have had. You must pay attention to the person’s expressions and the way they communicate verbally and non-verbally to actively learn about their inner thoughts and feelings. It’s basically based on making inferences about people’s internal worlds based on their external actions—you could think of it as a little like “mind reading!”

Always try to ask yourself “What is this person thinking of? What are they feeling? Why are they acting this way?” Or imagine yourself experiencing the situation from the other person’s perspective.

Improve your emotional intelligence by sharpening your Social Skills

When you improve your Social skills, you become an “emotional leader” of sorts. Being socially adept and aware means you know how your actions can affect another’s emotions, and it also means you’re better at responding to them. 

A lot of our emotions are derived from a social context—for example, love, rejection, and embarrassment rarely exist outside the context of our relations with others. Healthy relationships are built on a mutual affinity where people are attuned to each other’s emotions, and are able to respond to them appropriately. 

Actions that elicit negative emotions can directly harm relationships and damage your overall ability to connect with others in a meaningful way. Positive emotions, on the other hand, are the key for forming strong, long-lasting bonds with others, from your friends, to your colleagues, and even with your long-term patients.

At the end of the day, we are all affected by the people's emotions, just as our emotions affect others. Practicing a positive attitude will leave a mark and on those you interact with, which has substantial benefits for both your personal and professional life!

About Mohamed

Mohamed Aldalou is a fifth-year medical student at Al-Azhar University Palestine. A passionate healthcare advocate, he is dedicated to unlocking the potential and the capacity of youth, as he believes this is the best investment for a better future.


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