Fasting, as a means of self-restraint, is key to developing emotional intelligence

The holy month of Ramzan is characterised by fasting, praying, sharing and caring. By observing regular fasts and offering prayers, we can improve our emotional intelligence and empathy. While emotions play a significant role in our decision making ability and maintenance of interpersonal relationships, it is very important for everyone to have good emotional intelligence to make the most out of their relationships at the personal and professional levels.

As defined by Robert K Cooper, emotional intelligence is “the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence.” Studies show that 75 per cent of long term job success depends on people skills and the rest on technical skills. While a bunch of professional degrees and technical expertise will ensure getting a job, it is this ‘emotional intelligence’, which will give us greater success in life in terms of job growth and strengthening human relations.

Fasting during the month of Ramzan demands a great deal of self-control in all aspects of human behaviour. As we fast from dawn to dusk, we are supposed to not take anything, even collected saliva, thereby delaying instant gratification in the expectation of a much more satisfying and fulfilling result, i.e. God’s grace. This insight reminds us of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment on ‘delayed/deferred gratification’. This study conclusively proved that ‘delaying gratification’ to obtain a more rewarding and satisfying result would enable us to develop ‘emotional intelligence’ During Ramzan, it is believed that with every single act of goodness/compassion, one earns 70 virtues. As people exhibit the ability to withstand temptations, ‘emotional intelligence’ is developed.

Empathy is also one of the soft skills, required in our daily communication to make the most out of our relationships. Conversations interspersed with different levels of ‘empathy’ will make others feel understood and valued paving the way for better understanding and interpersonal effectiveness. If our communication is without empathy, we will be missing that connectivity with other human beings, which is essential to create a synergy of sorts. In the words of Henry Ford, “if there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.”

Fasting also fosters empathy as during the process, we also share, care and show compassion with fellow human beings. We feel close to other human beings and the rest of creation as well. One can feel the agony of a starving person who might not get food for longer durations. It enables us to visualise, understand and empathise how the poor are suffering from the pangs of hunger and lack of basic amenities of life.This again leads to the growth of one’s emotional intelligence and its consequent charity.

While developing the quality of empathy allows us to be fully human and gives others permission to do the same, emotional intelligence is much more than intelligence per se, and requires to be developed throughout one’s life to enrich relationships, enhance career prospects and lead a successful life. And all this can also be achieved through fasting.