Emotional Intelligence involves sharpening our communication skills, particularly in how we listen and respond nonverbally to others. It also pertains to our ability to assess and interpret the body language of others. How we say things is far more communicative than what we are saying, because nonverbal behavior represents two-thirds of overall communication.
Nonverbal signals, or body language, can include hand gestures, the way we sit or stand, the pace in which we speak, how close we stand to the other person, and how much eye contact we make. Our nonverbal communication indicates to others how trustworthy, attentive, and receptive we are, depending on how well our body language matches our verbal message.
When we learn to approach life less seriously, we increase our chances of successfully navigating through tough situations and of bouncing back from disappointment more quickly and easily. If we can release our grip on habitual ways of thinking, we can act with independence, confidence, and positivity.
Laughter energizes us and elevates our mood by relieving pent-up emotions: in fact, research has shown that when we smile, the mood-boosting chemicals serotonin and dopamine are released into the brain. The more regularly and intensely we laugh, the more habitual it becomes; we are then more likely to creatively problem solve and play with various outcomes to challenging situations.
Humor, creativity, and play also improve our communication. When we learn to communicate humorously, playfully, and creatively, our message is often better received, and our relationships do not suffer from negative emotions and outbursts. We are more approachable, more trustworthy, and make better partners and friends.
Not everyone is readily comfortable with play, humor, and creativity, but anyone can befriend and cultivate them in their life. To strengthen your relationship with humor creativity, and play, consider the following exercises:
Identify pleasurable activities: Experiment until you find the activities that relax you and put you in touch with your playful, creative nature. Activities could include touch football tournaments or other sports; board games with friends; coloring books, drawing, and other crafts; or choreographing dance routines to your favorite songs. The activities you choose should be non-work related and unique to your otherwise daily routine.
Seek opportunities to laugh: Actively seek out things, people, and situations that tickle your funny bone. The antics of pets and children provide wonderful ways to induce gut-wrenching laughter. Try volunteering at an animal shelter, for your local library’s story & play time, or make time to visit a friend who has children. You might also consider visiting a comedy club or taking acting class to meet people who share in your desire for laughter.
Schedule playtime: Set aside regular, quality, and appropriate playtime throughout your day and/or week. The more regularly you joke, play, and laugh, the easier it becomes and the more natural it feels. After work is an excellent time to laugh & play, when you are finally able to acknowledge a range of emotions and release exhaustion from a day’s worth of stress. You might also consider keeping a joke book in your car or cubicle to read on breaks at work. Whatever your choice, value your playtime as much as your work.
Always keep in mind the appropriateness of your humor and be aware of the nonverbal cues of others. Remember that taunting and trickery are not good-spirited humor and can instigate a harmful situation, especially when with animals. The more gently playful you are with others, the more receptive you are to your own and other’s experiences. Humor and play expand your communication skills, reduce stress, and strengthen your emotional awareness.