Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence – How EQ is the new IQ.
We are raised to worship IQ. We are trained to be ‘smart’. Many of us study to the point where it adversely impacts other areas of our lives in striving for good grades. In the workplace, we are continually learning and accumulating more factual knowledge.
But there often seems to be a paradox. Perhaps you are very intelligent, or even highly intelligent, as determined by the factors that govern IQ.
Yet, how often do you feel that in spite of your ‘native’ intelligence, and all your acquired knowledge, that others seem to get ahead so easily in so many areas, yet it is sometimes such a struggle for you?
It can seem grossly unfair that you have put effort all your life into gaining knowledge, becoming more than competent in your fields of expertise, but others seem to be able to earn more and live seemingly happier and more complete lives.
Worse, they are often the ones who were the academic ‘slackers’ at school.
You are not the only one to puzzle on this. Research increasingly supports the fact that ‘getting ahead’ in life, in all its facets, including wealth, happiness, life partner, friends and experiences is far more determined by a person’s emotional intelligence than it is by their IQ.
This guide can help you understand what emotional intelligence is, and how it could be the missing piece of life’s puzzle for you and many others. You can also learn the factors that contribute to emotional intelligence, and most importantly, how you can develop them to make your life happier and more successful.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient refers to a person’s ability to identify and manage their emotions, and the emotions of others.
Being able to correctly identify the emotions of other people is a prerequisite for competent social skills, and enables beneficial and appropriate behaviors such as empathy.
It also enables a person to manage or influence the emotions of others. This implies an understanding of the power of emotion in terms of influencing behaviors, and consequently learning how to manage our own and other people’s emotions in response to particular life situations.
Many moments in our lives, often high-pressure ones, call for the ability to manage emotions well to deal and handle life situations better. Some of these moments are:
In the highly interdependent society that we live in today, our successes no longer solely depend on our own physical efforts. A huge part of it is largely determined by our ability to manage and tackle our own emotions, read other people’s signals, and respond to them appropriately.
According to renowned author Daniel Goleman, there are five key components of Emotional Intelligence. A person’s ability to manage all of these areas determines emotional quotient level or emotional intelligence. To further understand emotional intelligence, we need to look at these five key areas.
This refers to the ability to identify a particular emotion as it happens. You need to be attuned to your true feelings to recognize this, which is also key to EQ. You can manage them better by evaluating your own emotions.
Self-awareness itself is made up of two elements - emotional awareness and self-confidence.
The emotions are very powerful, and it takes a load of effort to control them. But it is not impossible. The ability to regulate emotions is a key to emotional intelligence. There are helpful techniques to help alleviate the impact of negative emotions such as anger and anxiety.
Taking long walks, meditation, prayer, and writing in a journal are just some of these. The major elements of self-regulation are: self-control, conscientiousness, trustworthiness, innovation, and adaptability.
Most of us are predisposed either towards a positive or a negative attitude. However, with more practice and effort, a person can learn to think more positively, which is key to motivation. Being able to motivate oneself is a key component of emotional intelligence.
As with any kind of achievement, the presence of clear goals and a positive attitude are very important in hurdling challenges. Motivation entails commitment, the drive to achieve, initiative, and a positive mindset.
This refers to a person’s ability to understand the emotions of other people. Empathy is a key component of emotional quotient, as this enables a person to discern the impact of their signals on other people.
This then makes it easier to control the signals they send out with some degree of knowledge over how they may be affecting others, or how other people are influenced by certain actions and behaviors.
An empathetic person is naturally proficient at understanding other people, meeting the needs of others, developing people, thriving in diversity, and sensing the emotional currents and political dynamics of a certain group. Your ability to place yourself in other people’s shoes is a key factor of emotional intelligence.
The ability to build rapport and maintain good relationships with other people is a major component of emotional intelligence. Social skills encompass a person’s ability to help others manage their emotions.
This is done by developing and using your own emotional maturity and awareness to a level where you can build and maintain good quality relationships.
Social skills or people skills nowadays is vital to a person’s life and career success. Developing better social skills entails good communication, sense of leadership, influence, ability to manage and initiate change, building rapport, conflict management, collaboration, and the capacity to work with a team.
How Emotional Intelligence Reduces Stress
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient refers to a person’s ability to understand his or her emotions, express those emotions thoughtfully, and handle interpersonal relationships with empathy.
Emotions bring a variety of feelings to us, in different degrees of intensity. Emotions can override our objective judgment in situations, affecting the quality and objectivity of our thoughts and influencing major aspects of our life.
When emotions are not in the positive spectrum, and our negative energy brings about irrational thoughts, they become a hindrance to us. This is when emotions can hold us back from success and propel us into bad relationships, stress, anxiety, and depression.
The good news is that unlike IQ (intelligence quotient) which is often a genetically influenced trait, EQ can be further developed by almost anyone. Of the two, EQ has a higher impact on a person’s personal success, because EQ determines leadership abilities, interpersonal skills, and most importantly, it reduces stress and brings about a better quality of life.
Research has shown that people with high emotional intelligence experience less anxiety, have better moods, and generally feel less worried in times of tension and stress. These individuals have developed an enhanced ability to engage their emotions alongside rational thinking.
As a result, people with higher EQ have grown more comfortable with challenges and have a more composed reaction to stressful situations. A team of Belgian researchers who studied emotional intelligence uncovered two primary reasons why a high EQ better deals with stress.
Emotionally Intelligent People See Their Environment Differently
People with higher EQ behave differently because they appear to evaluate their environment differently as well. Given similar challenges to deal with, they have a greater tendency to look at the brighter side of things. Their resilience and trust in self and others mean they expect that any situation can be resolved, one way or another.
This mindset acts as a barrier to despair. As a way of dealing with and countering any negative state, they are able to invoke pleasant thoughts and memories. They’re better at focusing more on thinking of deliberate steps (action) to take, and they put things into perspective to better deal with the situation.
It’s unlikely for high EQ individuals to wallow in their emotions, or lose precious time and energy catastrophizing the issue.
In that way, they’re able to deal with a challenge positively and come up with better solutions. In summary, emotionally intelligent individuals are more positive, proactive and resourceful about finding solutions.
By maintaining perspective and objectivity, they don’t get sidetracked by emotion, enabling focus on what is important in the middle of a highly tense and stressful situation.
Emotional intelligence allows you to choose a problem-focused coping strategy in the middle of a challenge.
Another common theme amongst emotionally intelligent individuals is that they do not run away from the issue at hand. Many people tend to avoid their problems by ignoring them, hoping that time, or something, will bring a solution to the problem. Behind this behavior is a fear of, or unreadiness to face the challenge.
The truth is that most people are unprepared when they have a new difficulty or challenge thrown at them. What sets emotionally intelligent individuals apart is that they deliberately elect to address the problem head-on. The approach of solving problems directly and facing challenges head-on works positively for everyone, with rare exceptions.
As people actively solve their problems by facing them and not avoiding them, stressful feelings are also dramatically reduced. This is because the act of coming up with a strategy, and taking necessary action makes them feel more in control of the situation.
Avoiding problems and challenges doesn’t make them go away. When you have an awareness of a problematic situation, there will always be a lurking, burdensome feeling behind it that something is unresolved. This contributes to negative emotions of anxiety, fear, and worry.
The bad feelings get amplified and ultimately become another source of stress. This doubles the stress – the problem itself and the stress you are experiencing from avoiding it. Emotionally intelligent individuals further avoid this type of anxiety and limit stress by going with a solution-focused approach.
Telltale Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence (Low EQ)
Several research findings indicate that people with average IQs beat people with the highest IQs at least 70% of the time. For a long time, this has been a seeming anomaly in a world that glorified IQ, believing it to be almost the sole determining factor for success.
Recent decades of study indicate that the key ingredient to success, and that which sets exceptional talents apart from the rest of the pack, is emotional intelligence – the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s emotions and influence the emotions of others.
Fortunately, EQ can be improved and developed. Measuring IQ appears to be more feasible than measuring EQ. There is still no standardized test available today that can quantify EQ as precisely as IQ.
Though quantifying one’s level of EQ is still unlike IQ, it is possible to recognize a person’s level of emotional intelligence through their behavioral tendencies and traits.
Here are telltale signs of how a person with low emotional intelligence tends to react and behave.
They’re Easily Stressed Out
A person with low emotional intelligence tends to bottle up feelings and avoid tackling them until they explode. If you’re easily stressed out over almost anything and everything, it might be a sign that you’re not managing your emotions effectively by resolving them one by one.
As a result, you constantly feel stressed and generally overwhelmed. Stress is an inevitable part of life, but we often need to coexist with it in the healthiest way possible. Increased emotional intelligence is key to doing that.
They Have Difficulty Expressing and Asserting Themselves
Emotional intelligence underpins the ability to balance kindness and empathy with the much-needed ability to assert yourself and establish boundaries with others. A lot like stress, conflict is inevitable and ought to be handled with grace and tact. People who are not highly emotionally intelligent often manage conflict by avoiding it, easily giving in, or becoming passive-aggressive.
They Make Quick Assumptions and Vehemently Defend Them
People with low emotional intelligence tend to make quick assumptions and are very prone to confirmation bias. They only tend to consider information that supports their opinion and can be indifferent to factual evidence that points to the contrary, because they want to be right.
They can argue their opinion passionately in an attempt to prove themselves correct without even processing new information.
They Often Feel Misunderstood
It’s natural for people with low emotional intelligence to often feel misunderstood due to their inability to accurately and clearly communicate what they really mean or how they feel to others.
As a result, miscommunication is common. Even people with high emotional intelligence understand that they do not always communicate an idea as clearly and as accurately, regardless of how well or often they practice.
Their awareness of this lets them remain receptive to people’s feedback and more quickly catch on to whether they’re being understood or not. If people don’t get them, they adjust their approach and re-communicate their idea until everyone is on the same page.
They Have Difficulty Maintaining Friendships
Maintaining quality friendships requires a mutual give and take, constant emotional support, compassion, and sharing of emotions. These concepts may be difficult for someone with a less developed emotional intelligence. People with lower EQ find it a challenge to open themselves up emotionally.
Due to this, it’s also a challenge to keep close friendships. They may rationalize this to themselves by ‘believing’ they do not need other people and they’re very okay being alone.
They Find It Difficult to Deal with Emotionally-Charged Situations
People with low EQ are not able to deal appropriately with highly-emotional situations. They will often walk away from such situations to avoid any further emotional fallout. Despite how intense emotions can get, we all know that they also play a role in driving us to action and they’re helpful in their own way.
Signs of High Emotional Intelligence
No matter how we plan, we have no way of controlling all the events that occur, or how people think of us. Though we are programmed to react to and feel emotions daily, it is how well we manage our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and how we relate with others and influence them that ultimately defines our lives.
According to Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
A person’s capacity to manage their emotions and behavior, which in turn affects how they behave and influence others, is an indicator of their level of emotional intelligence or emotional quotient. EQ is malleable, and anyone can improve and develop it within themselves. Emotionally intelligent people have traits in common. These are the qualities exuded by people with high EQ.
Because there is nothing more constant in life than change, emotionally intelligent individuals understand and embrace the changes that are necessary to go through in life to grow and evolve. Even if change doesn’t pan out well all the time, these individuals don’t hold it against themselves or act towards other people destructively. Instead, they deal with the situation the best way they could and accept what is outside their control.
Not Seeking Perfection
Emotionally intelligent individuals know that to aspire for perfection is futile and instead, focus on making progress their goal. They understand that perfection is elusive and that seeking it will likely result in feelings of inadequacy and negativity, from themselves and others. Instead of focusing on perfection, emotionally intelligent individuals keep moving forward by focusing on action. People are naturally more driven to action when they have a positive mindset.
Ability to Read Non-Verbal Cues or Non-Verbal Communication
Communication is not always made verbally or explicitly written. Sometimes, human behavior is even enigmatic and takes more than words to understand. Emotional intelligence makes itself apparent when people understand others even in the absence of language.
They empathize and understand through non-verbal cues and respond accordingly. The ability to judge the words and actions you deliver to others in response to their non-verbal cues says a great deal about your emotional intelligence.
Good Judge of Character
A great part of emotional intelligence involves dealing with other people, although it doesn’t necessarily equate to being specifically introverted or extroverted. Understanding others is nothing new to emotionally intelligent individuals; in fact, they take pleasure in it.
They have keen social awareness, and their minds are open to other people’s differences, uniqueness, and motivations. They can tell a lot about a person by simply meeting them and being around them. This attunement to others is what allows them to see through other people’s facades, and makes them a good judge of character.
Do Not Take Offense Easily
People with high emotional intelligence do not easily feel offended or harbor ill feelings towards other people without any solid basis. They are sure of themselves and do not impulsively react to jokes and lighthearted fun in a negative way. They do not easily feel hurt by the words of others, but if they recognize something is off, they’ll clear it up before the issue gets too huge to handle.
They Balance Life and Work by Taking Time Off
Working consistently hard and non-stop makes anybody subject to unneeded stress. To balance life and work, people always need some time off to unwind, live in the present, allow the mind to relax and the body to recharge. Even machines require a scheduled downtime.
Certainly, people need to set some time off to rebuild themselves. Being able to put aside work during a scheduled vacation is a sign of high EQ. It means that you understand what your mind and body need. When people take the necessary time off, and mindfully enjoy the break, they can get back to work more energized and perform better.
Effective Ways to Improve Emotional Intelligence
More often than not, emotions drive us to action. Yet, we sometimes put emotions behind everything else, thinking that to succeed and to make the best and most logical decisions, emotions need to take a back seat.
But emotions are inevitable, and correctly interpreted, can be excellent feedback. There is a right way to address and manage them so they will help achieve better outcomes. The area that’s responsible for making that happen is emotional intelligence.
One benefit of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions within yourself and other people, and to use this awareness to guide your behavior and actions to improve your relationship with others. Emotional intelligence includes various aspects such as self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Here are helpful steps to develop and improve your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence exists within yourself. You can become more self-aware by beginning to practice mindfulness. Becoming self-aware makes it much easier to be aware and mindful of others feelings and emotions. To practice mindfulness, try meditation, yoga, or keep a journal to record your daily thoughts and feelings.
Everything you log in there will eventually make more sense to you and give you a deeper awareness of your own emotions, and how these affect and are affected by, the events of your life.
Be Positive - See The ‘Glass Half-Full’
Positive people are better able to fight adversity and enhance their own self-growth. To improve EQ, you need to learn to appreciate small successes, which will help to motivate you towards making even more progress. Ultimately, being positive enables you to deal with situations more effectively, with less emotional damage to yourself or others.
Don’t Ignore Negative Emotions
Acknowledge negative emotions and the negative situations that you want to address. Don’t keep them inside or to yourself. Sometimes you need to process negative feelings on your own first, but make sure to communicate it as soon as you’ve made sense of and understood your emotions. You need this to make some changes in life.
Identify potential triggers that lead you to certain feelings or reactions. Don’t deny yourself the chance to feel your emotions, even negative ones. Accepting and coping is a much healthier response than avoidance and denial. Thwarted emotions reappear through some other (often destructive) way, so they are still unhealthy. Be familiar enough with your triggers to know what to anticipate when you’re next caught up in a similar situation.
Set Personal Goals
How do you motivate yourself? The easiest way to do that is to set some goals. Set personal goals to achieve for yourself, and make sure they are realistic enough to motivate you constantly to work towards them. Sometimes people set goals with no path to achieving them, and this makes them feel overwhelmed and stressed, rather than inspired and motivated.
When setting big goals, cut them into small short-term goals that you can regularly achieve until you get closer to the big achievement. Staying realistic and workable when you’ve set big goals grounds you and motivates you to continually work toward achieving something you have the power to make happen. When you’ve finally achieved what you’ve set out to do, this boosts your self-confidence and even more so, your ability to progress and make things happen.
Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eating well might be basic, but it is still key to your emotional health. Try to maintain a balanced diet, along with taking care of your whole wellbeing to be in the best state you can possibly be in physically, emotionally and mentally.
Meet Like-Minded People
Lastly, it’s time to network with other people. A great way to deepen your interest in something and to meet like-minded people like yourself is through networking. Meeting new people and sharing your interests with others improves your social awareness and social skills. These are major aspects of a well-developed emotional intelligence.
A person who is emotionally intelligent is well-rounded emotionally. They are not a continual ego trip. They are not thin-skinned. They are not continually seeking the reassurances of other people to salve tender emotions that are so readily affected by external events and uncaring people.
They are not thick-skinned either. They are not insensitive to the emotions of other people, and they make allowances for other’s failings. An emotionally intelligent person recognizes that not everyone has attained the same level of understanding that they have.
Without being smug, they also recognize the huge advantages this gives them in dealing with other people. When it comes down to it, our success in any area will almost always involve interaction with other people.
In regard to personal relationships, that is not only the way, it is the end result.
The starting point to improving your emotional intelligence, and reaping all its rewards, is fully accepting just how plastic our personalities are. Don’t doom yourself to Groundhog Day by saying “I am not that kind of person”.
You can be the person you want to be, if you are prepared to put in the personal effort.