Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Her teachers always told her parents, “Dena, is so smart! A pleasure to have in class!” At home, Dena enjoyed reading and sewing her own headbands and bags. She got along well with her siblings and was respectful to her parents and grandparents.

Yet, now that Dena had entered the parsha of shidduchim, she had not had a single second date. Her parents could not understand it. Why was Dena failing so miserably at dating when she had always succeeded in school and at home?

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Different Kinds of Smarts

Most people know what an IQ is, but what about an EQ? Let’s start with the easy one. IQ stands for “intelligence quotient” and was first introduced by French psychologist Alfred Binet. At an early age, an educator or learning specialist administers an IQ test and that child is then assigned an IQ, a number that supposedly represents their intelligence. According to the test, IQs are fixed and innate at birth.

Alternatively, in the early 1990s, Daniel Goleman of The New York Times introduced the idea of emotional intelligence or EQ. Unlike the IQ, emotional intelligence is not fixed from birth and individuals can raise their EQ through intervention and education.

But, what exactly is emotional intelligence? In his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Goleman explains his conception of emotional intelligence:

Abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope… And while there are those who argue that IQ cannot be changed much by experience or education, I will show that the crucial emotional competencies can indeed be learned and improved upon by children – if we bother to teach them.

So, why bring up the concept of emotional intelligence when discussing shidduchim? The answer is simple: if a young adult has a low EQ, no matter how smart or accomplished she is, she will never be able to show that to her prospective mate. Therefore, it is essential to help the young adults in our community develop their emotional intelligence. After all, without it, their IQ is irrelevant.

 

Increase Your EQ

 

Nonverbal Communication

An incredibly large part of increasing your emotional intelligence stands in being able to properly utilize and understand nonverbal communication.

Estee Stimler, in her book, The Frum Rules: The Fun, User-Friendly, Definitive Girl’s Guide to Shidduchim, lists Rule #12 as “Be a Good Listener.” This rule is true for both males and females when going out. So, how can you train yourself to be a good listener? In order to determine whether you are a good listener, Stimler suggests a test, “the next time someone talks to you, are you really listening with your entire brain, or are you preparing what you want to say next while they are speaking?” Listening attentively to another person requires eye contact that lets the person know that you are interested in what they are saying.

Aside from eye contact, there are many subtle messages that people send through non-verbal communication. Here are some ways to make sure you are sending the right messages.

Of course, avoid restlessness: Restlessness can be tapping your foot incessantly, moving around silverware, or checking your watch multiple times. Restlessness indicates that you are not interested in what the person in front of you is saying. Therefore, when a young woman fiddles with her napkin, the young man with her might think that he was boring her and consequently might have stopped talking.

Next, Steer clear of closed-in body posture: Crossing your arms, turning your body on an angle away from the person you are speaking to, or leaning away from the table are all signals that you are not comfortable in the situation. Instead, face the other person directly and keep your posture relaxed and at ease.

Another good way to indicate your interest is to not people-watch: Instead of watching everybody else in the lobby of the hotel, stay focused on the person you are there with. Aside from leading to lashon hara, people-watching is distracting and again indicates a lack of interest in your date.

Lastly, there is nothing like a smile to show others you are kind and personable. While smiling seems like a no-brainer when trying to communicate in a positive way, many people forget to smile when they are nervous and in new situations. Ironically, research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that smiling can actually make you less anxious. When you use the muscles in your face to smile, those muscles trigger hormones in your brain that make you more relaxed and happy.

For many of us, nonverbal communication is something we pick up on from a young age and continue to develop as we grow. For others, distinguishing the non-verbal cues of others is quite difficult. For this reason, Dr. Jeanne Segal explains in her book The Language of Emotional Intelligence that it is very important to use perfect nonverbal skills in order to ease conflict and stress.

Here are some tips:

Remain relaxed and focused in tense and intense situations: If you don’t know how to stay centered and in control of yourself, you may become emotionally overwhelmed in challenging situations. Therefore, you might give off the wrong impression.

Read nonverbal cues: Evaluate the person you are speaking to in terms of eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, intensity, timing, and pace. Modify your own behavior in accordance with how you want them to react.

Be playful in tense situations: You can avoid many confrontations and resolve differences by using humor and a playful attitude. Smiling and laughing signal to those around you that you are interested in harmony rather than discord.

Remember, you can learn from the words and silences of those around you.

 

Self-Esteem

Another important element of raising your EQ involves self-awareness and a positive self-concept. In other words, you need to gain self-esteem.

Psychologist Eugene Sagan asserts that everyone has a critical inner voice. This voice criticizes, judges, and attacks you when you do something you consider wrong. Everyone has a critical inner voice, but people with low self-esteem have a more vocal and vicious inner critic. This critic compares you to others and their achievements – and finds you lacking. The critic sets impossible standards of perfection and then beats you up when you make mistakes. And, this critic continually reminds you of all of your petty failures in the past, making you believe that you truly are a failure.

The inner critic is more toxic than any other person’s criticism in your life because it is always with you – judging, blaming, finding fault.

 

Talking Back

There are a few ways of talking back to your inner critic to make the voice quieter and therefore improve your self-esteem:

Choose a mantra: Come up with a line that you say to yourself every time you hear your inner critic begin to speak. You can say: “Get off my back,” “Stop,” or any other line that will effectively subvert the inner critic’s method. If you repeat the mantra whenever you hear the critic’s voice, the attacks will greatly diminish.

Asking the price: Figure out what listening to your inner critic has cost you. Perhaps you have not tried to lose weight or not applied for a position that would have been perfect for you. When you hear the critic’s voice, respond by saying, “I can’t afford this, you’ve cost me…”

Affirmation of worth: This is the hardest form of defense against your inner critic – but is perhaps the most effective. Think about all of the elements of yourself that you like. If you can’t come up with a comprehensive list, use a simple affirmation such as, “Why do I hurt myself? I am trying my best.”

Respond to your critic by stating your positive affirmation. Thereby, rebuilding your sense of worth.

 

Shidduch Coaching and Emotional Intelligence

Clearly, emotional intelligence is integral to creating and maintaining long lasting relationships with others. What relationship should be longer lasting than marriage? That is why I always recommend that young adults work to raise their EQ, not only will they more easily find their bashert, but their lives will be fuller and happier in the process.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at [email protected].