Emotional Intelligence of the Black Male

As we enter the year of 2017, many Black people are wondering what will happen once President Obama leaves office. Many have displayed ideas of fear, confusion, frustration, and hopelessness. For Black people, this is understandable; We have been dealing with a significant amount of stress and confusion for many years. Recently however, more overt forms of oppression and trauma have seemed to increase significantly.

We know what issues the Black community struggles with. We have been fighting the same struggle for over a century now. Our existence in the Western hemisphere has been a continuous struggle. However, the solutions seem to be more difficult to identify and apply. Many people suggest the need to “unify” or “come together”. However, this is a more difficult task to accomplish than it is to state. The trauma we continue to endure leaves us stuck and unable to “come together” with the force needed to make a significant impact.

Our culture as Black Americans is infected with significant amounts of trauma; Trauma that highlights our ability to cope with shortcomings and keep moving forward with collective genius. Our resilience as a people is impeccable, and we are slowly making strides to achieve collective prosperity.

The cycles of dysfunction and pain can be reduced and eliminated by adopting a code of conduct to address these in a serious manner. However, we cannot make collective improvements without first making constructive strides individually. One concept many African American males are not familiar with is emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ). This is the ability to recognize your own emotions, and those of the people around you.

Trauma is a huge deterrent in developing quality emotional intelligence skills. Once trauma is introduced into someone’s life (especially during childhood) it distorts a person’s ability to develop this crucial skill. This is why it is essential to address the intergenerational trauma we experience when we engage in discussion about community empowerment.

The following are four competencies Black men can develop to achieve emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-Awareness: We must be able to recognize and understand our own moods, emotions, and drives. You may be surprised how often men state “I don’t know” to simple questions about how we are feeling. If you don’t know yourself, you are lost in life. There is no need to not be informed in today’s world when most of us literally have a digital library in our pockets at all times. Opportunities for self-discovery are at our fingertips.
  2. Self-Management: Once we understand ourselves, we must develop the ability to control and/or redirect impulses, attitudes, and behaviors. Developing proactive strategies and tactics will prepare you better than having reactive ones.
  3. Social Awareness: The key to this area is attention. Black men must be aware of how other people are reacting, and anticipate how they are likely to respond. We must acknowledge the level of anti-blackness we endure socially on a daily basis and adapt as constructively as possible. Once we develop the ability to perceive how others react, we can be more effective in crafting our own narratives.
  4. Relationship Skills: As technology brings the world closer, it is vital for Black men to be proficient in managing relationships and building networks. Many other ethnic groups are demonstrating global citizenship and preparing their children to be global citizens. We must follow suit in order to have a respected presence in local, national, and global spaces.

Improving on these areas individually will have a significant impact on our collective. This is not the answer to all of the problems that Black people (particularly Black men) endure on a consistent basis.

No, this is just a piece of the puzzle that will get us closer to completing a picture of justice, peace, and equilibrium. The work is on us! Keep pushing!

By Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones brings a down-to-earth and compassionate attitude to mental health, and is a practicing psychotherapist. He specializes in male development, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Historical and Intergenerational trauma, Social/Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Leadership, and Youth Justice. Born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Brandon has survived living in a home of domestic violence and various other forms of trauma. Brandon holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, a Masters in Community Psychology from Metropolitan State University, and a Masters in Psychotherapy (MFT) from Adler Graduate School. Brandon is also a 2013 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow and lives by the motto “If you can manage your emotions, you can manage your situation.” Brandon's other projects can be found at Jegna Institute and The Woke Podcast.