Cops are often seen as tough, fearless and emotionless – at least you’d like to think you are. But the reality is that we need emotional intelligence (EI) just as much as anyone else ‚ probably even more so.
As you know, being a cop is a demanding and stressful job. Officers who can regulate their emotions and respond effectively to the emotions of others are more likely to be successful both on and off the job.
So what exactly is emotional intelligence? And how can cops use it to their advantage? Keep reading to find out.
What is emotional intelligence?
Many people first heard the term ‚”emotional intelligence‚” in 1995, when Daniel Goleman’s book of the same name was published. Since then, EI has become a commonly used concept in a wide range of fields, including business, education, health care, and of course, law enforcement.
So what is emotional intelligence? Put simply, it is the ability to be aware and understand your own emotions and the emotions of others. It also involves being able to regulate your emotions, respond effectively to emotions in others, and create positive relationships.
Research has shown that emotional intelligence can be a key predictor of success in life. It is especially important in high-stress occupations like law enforcement, where split-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death or becoming a Netflix documentary.
Why is emotional intelligence important for cops?
The ability to effectively manage emotions is crucial for anyone in a high-stress profession, but it is especially important for police officers. The job of a cop is full of potential triggers for negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and fear. If officers can’t manage these emotions effectively, they are more likely to make poor decisions that can lead to use of excessive force or compromising your value system.
That’s why emotional intelligence (EI) is increasingly being recognized as an important skill for police officers.
There is growing evidence that EI can help improve job performance and satisfaction, reduce stress and burnout. In one study in the U.S., those with higher EI scores were less likely to use force on suspects and more likely to believe that force was only justified under specific circumstances allowing for better and more successful deescalation.
Given the importance of EI for police officers, departments should consider incorporating EI training into their culture. Such training can help officers learn how to better understand and manage their emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
Remember: officers who are emotionally intelligent are better at their jobs and more likely to excel in their careers. They’re also less likely to experience burnout or compassion fatigue. And when they do encounter stressful situations, they’re better equipped to handle them in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their safety or the safety of others.
The 5 elements of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be defined as‚ ”a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use and manage emotions.” That’s a big deal and kinda important to really understand. There are 5 elements of emotional intelligence and we’ve outlined them below.
The 5 elements of emotional intelligence are:
- Self-awareness: The ability to understand your own emotions and how they impact your thoughts and behaviors.
- Self-regulation: The ability to control your emotions and respond in a constructive way, even in difficult situations.
- Social skills: The ability to build strong relationships, communicate effectively, and show empathy for others.
- Emotional intelligence: The ability to effectively manage emotions, both your own and those of others.
- Stress management: The ability to effectively manage stress and use coping strategies to deal with difficult situations.
Emotional intelligence tips
Most people think of emotional intelligence as something we use in our personal lives to get along with others, handle our emotions, and navigate relationships. But EI is just as important in the workplace‚ perhaps even more so. After all, our jobs are where we spend the majority of our waking hours, and they can be a source of great satisfaction or tremendous stress.
Some experts believe that emotional intelligence is even more important than IQ in predicting success in life and police departments are now testing for this in the new hire candidate selection process.
And there’s good reason to think that EI may be especially critical for people in ‚”helping‚” professions such as health care, education, and law enforcement, where the ability to interact effectively with others is essential to the job.
Cops face a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing their emotions on the job. We see things that most people fortunately never have to witness: the aftermath of car accidents, violent crimes, and natural disasters. We put our lives on the line every day to protect and keep our communities safe and we see firsthand the very worst that human beings are capable of doing to one another. It’s no wonder that so many of us struggle with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems. (if you need help, we are here for you – 24/7 – just call)
But here’s the good news: emotional intelligence can be learned. And there are specific things cops can do to build their EI skills and reduce stress on the job. Here are some tips:
- Learn to recognize your own emotions: The first step in managing your emotions is being aware of what you’re feeling in the moment. This may seem like a simple task, but it’s not always easy to do‚ especially when you’re dealing with strong emotions like anger or fear. One way to become more attuned to your emotions is to practice mindfulness meditation or another form of mindfulness training.
- Identify your triggers: Once you know what you’re feeling, try to identify what triggered the emotion. This can be helpful in managing your reactions in future situations. For example, if you know that hearing screaming makes you feel anxious, you can try wearing earplugs or headphones when you responding to a call involving a domestic dispute or other loud situation.
- Choose how you will respond: After you’ve identified your triggers and become aware of your emotions in the moment, you can start to make choices about how you will respond. If you’re feeling angry, for example, you might choose to walk away from the situation or take a few deep breaths before speaking. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, you might try some relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or visualization exercises.
So go forth, do good, treat people well and make a difference. The community, your partners, department and family are counting on you to master this important skill and excel.