Fellow music lovers: if you’re like me, it’s difficult to narrow down your favorite songs and bands. But let’s say you’re forced to choose one genre that speaks to you the most. What would it be?
For me, it’s rock – hands down (I still get a little tingly by long-haired guys with electric guitars and leather pants). It’s not just the 80’s and 90’s hair bands that suck me in – it’s the charisma, the intensity, the rawness of the lyrics, the dirty beat, the ‘greatest noise’ ever invented that transcends all types of rock: heavy metal, indy, alternative, and more.
Now, rock isn’t the cheeriest of genres, which may lead you to wonder why I’m equating it with Emotional Intelligence (EQ). It’s simple: because the lyrics make me feel. Music is all about emotions—describing them, expressing them and even coming to terms with them.
In fact, music is known to help us navigate our social worlds by improving our self-perception, self-esteem, self-awareness, and social skills.
Musical taste aside, you surely have some songs that inspire certain memories or give you a certain motivation. But if you’re a rock fan like me, perhaps my Emotional Intelligence Playlist will inspire you too.
(All underlined music links open in a new window)
Being self-aware, feeling good, and finding meaning in life.
- Self Regard. Respecting oneself while understanding & respecting one’s strengths and weaknesses.
Dark Necessities – by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of the reasons I like this band is because of their profound lyrics. “You don’t know my mind” because there’s much more to me than what you see. But it’s all good, because I’ve come to accept the “dark” parts of myself without regrets.
- Self-Actualization. The willingness to persistently try to improve oneself & engage in meaningful objectives.
Over the Hills and Far Away – by Led Zeppelin. “Many times I’ve lied/many times I’ve listened.” Let’s face it: we’ve all lied, and we’ve all listened, but those of us who are striving to self-improve have also, many times, “Wondered how much there is to know.” To me, these are some of Robert Plant’s best lyrics, making the limitations and pursuit of human knowledge as epic as striving for “dreams and a pocket full of gold.”
- Emotional Self-Awareness. Recognizing & understanding one’s own emotions and the impact they have.
Rebellion – by Arcade Fire. Although some people take this song literally, I think it’s about “waking up” to the world we live in. When we’re “free”, we can see the world – and our own emotional impact on it – for what it really is.
Being open and communicative while being aware of boundaries.
- Emotional Expression. Openly expressing one’s feelings.
Just a Girl – by Gwen Stefani. If you’re “just a girl”, there may be a lot of injustice in the world, but you can use this catchy melody to let out your frustration!
- Assertiveness. Communicating feelings, beliefs, and thoughts openly & defending values in a non-offensive manner.
Get Up, Stand Up – by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Though there are several different interpretations of this song, I like the simple “Get Up Stand Up/ Stand Up For Your Rights” refrain. After all, to be assertive is to understand that everyone has basic human rights that need to be respected and upheld.
- Independence. Ability to be self-directed and free from emotional dependency.
Long Time – by Cake. This song is about the honeymoon being over. Whether that’s a relationship, a vacation, or a job – it’s very easy to feel stuck. This song is my reminder that it’s ok for me to pay attention to my own needs and be my own person.
Understanding, interacting with, and relating well with others
- Interpersonal Relationships. Giving and receiving trust and compassion; establishing and maintaining mutually satisfying personal relationships.
We’re Going to be Friends – by The White Stripes. I adore this song, which brings back memories of how simple and innocent childhood friendships were. Listening to the lyrics, I can’t help but value my adult relationships just as much.
- Empathy. Taking notice of and being sensitive toward other peoples’ needs and feelings.
What It’s Like – by Everlast. Simply put, you don’t know what someone else is going through until “you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
- Social Responsibility. Cooperating and contributing to the welfare of a larger social system; acting with social consciousness and showing concern for the greater community.
Human – by The Killers. I love both the melody and poetic lyrics of this song. “Are we human/or are we dancers?” Though some may have a different interpretation, I’m taking ‘dancers’ here to mean ‘dancing’ to something greater than ourselves – contributing to this “stage” called Earth.
Grasping problems and devising effective solutions; dealing realistically with situations, and manage impulses that may disrupt effective decision making.
- Problem Solving. Ability to solve problems that involve emotions and to use emotions as an effective problem solving tool.
Landslide – by Stevie Nicks. This song speaks to several different aspects of EQ, but to me, it’s most about coming to terms with life’s inevitable changes and being able to cope effectively with them.
- Reality Testing. Assessing the here-and-now reality of any given moment or situation; what’s actually going on?
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – by the Rolling Stones. Life is a negotiation between desire and necessity, but keep striving toward your goals, and life will give you “what you need.”
- Impulse Control. Resisting or delaying temptations to do or say something impulsively.
You’ve Got Time – by Regina Spektor. “Taking steps is easy / Standing still is hard.” This may be true, and it’s what can land you in prison. This is, after all, the theme song from “Orange is the New Black”, and therefore this is the perfect song for this EQ element.
Behaving in a calm, adaptable, and positive manner – even under pressure
- Flexibility. Adjusting your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to changing situations and conditions.
Changes – by David Bowie. An absolutely wonderful, timeless song. Change doesn’t have to be negative, and youth doesn’t have to be wasted on the young. “Turn and face the strange”, and with it, the allure of freedom.
- Stress Tolerance. Functioning well in the midst of challenging and stressful situations.
Livin’ on a Prayer – by Bon Jovi. This one is pretty obvious. Two people are in love and struggling financially, but they’re ok because they have each other. “Hold on- ready or not” because life is bound to throw you a few curve balls.
- Optimism. Looking at the brighter side of life; maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity.
What I Got – by Sublime. Instead of focusing on being broke, the singer – Brad Nowell- takes stock of all the great things he has in life. This song became more poignant when Nowell died of a drug overdose in 1996. “Take a small example – a tip from me” and be grateful.
Overall feelings of contentment and satisfaction.
- Happiness. Feeling joy and satisfaction with life.
Groove is in the Heart – by Dee -Lite. Sorry Pharrell, but I’m going back to my 80’s roots on this one. No, it’s not rock, but it is a feel-good tune, and arguably, the greatest one-hit wonder of all time. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
And there you have it!
What music/songs inspire YOUR Emotional Intelligence?
Inquiring minds want to know!