Our emotional intelligence measures our ability to understand ourselves and others. This helps us to know and regulate our emotions. These abilities can even predict our success with our careers and relationships because our empathy guides how we respond in social situations.
We can break emotional intelligence down into learnable bites of information. Understanding what motivates people’s actions helps us to predict behaviour. One important part of this is understanding what empathy is and why its important.
If you’re ready to make improvements to your social skills take a look at our helpful guide to empathy!
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to how someone else is feeling. When we see our friend is upset with their recent breakup, we share some of their sadness. Part of this process is controlled by biology. In our brains we have cells called ‘mirror neurons’. They help us to mirror the feelings of others. When we see someone smiling at us, mirror neurons fire in our brains, this releases a chemical known as serotonin and this makes us feel happier.
Weirdly it also means we end up mimicking their actions – we smile back. This ‘facial feedback’ happens because particular chemicals influence certain expressions. Hence why laughter and yawning are contagious. Our mirror neurons fire turning us into copycats.
This process helps us to be able to relate to others. The power of this empathy can form attachments and makes many of our social interactions possible. Likewise this process can be used in reverse. Through smiling you can cause your brain to release serotonin and make yourself feel a little brighter.