Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

We all know about IQ, but what is EQ? As it turns out, it seems to be an even more important indicator of success in life than IQ. In his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence (often referred to as EQ, or EI), as the "capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.” It is the ability to understand ourselves and others, and to make “conscious” decisions about how to manage our emotions and our relationships, rather than just blindly reacting. Emotional intelligence allows us to have healthy relationships with others, to successfully resolve conflict, and to handle the inevitable difficulties that arise, without withdrawing, whining, or blaming others. Emotions such as anger, anxiety, happiness and optimism are important, and we can learn to control and work with them.

EQ is generally considered to consist of several areas of ability.

  1. Self awareness and control: This means being aware of our emotions, and having the ability to manage them. It is choosing how and when to express both positive and negative emotions, rather than being controlled by our emotions. It is the ability to think before we act, to delay gratification to achieve goals, and to have the resiliency to bounce back from setbacks.
  2. Empathy: This is the ability to sense what others are feeling. It is being able to see the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It just means being able to see where they’re coming from. What’s important to them, how they view a situation, whether it’s similar to our own perspective or not. Being able to see the other person’s side allows us to engage in conversation in a respectful way even when we disagree. (The world could sure use more of that!). When we can see each other’s point of view, we can work toward solutions that achieve the most benefit for all, rather than the adversarial, “me against you, us against them” stance.
  3. Motivation: This is having awareness of what is important to you, and the ability to pursue goals energetically and with passion. It is the ability to set a direction for oneself, and the resilience and strength to overcome the inevitable obstacles in the path of life and success. It includes knowing ourselves and what is important to us.
  4. Social skills: This is the ability to accurately interpret social relationships and interactions, and to find common ground, build rapport, work together and promote cooperation. It is the ability to build healthy relationships with others, both personal and business. It is the ability to have and show caring, concern and support for others. And it is the ability to resolve conflicts without compromising our beliefs or values.

What can you do to increase your Emotional Intelligence?

Here are some ways you can develop better self awareness.

  • Ask yourself questions like: “What am I feeling? How am I acting? What do I want? What assumptions am I making? (this last is a big one!).
  • With people you feel comfortable with, ask for feedback about your actions and behaviors.
  • Tune in to how other people are reacting to you as a possible clue to your own behavior.
  • Think about situations when you have felt successful or unsuccessful and analyze your behaviors, looking for possible patterns.
  • Sounds funny, but if possible, notice your reflection in a mirror, or listen to yourself on tape - you may be surprised to find you are coming across differently than you thought.
  • Impulse control is an important aspect of EQ. When upset, take two slow abdominal breaths. Work on developing a more helpful internal dialog. For example: What am I thinking and feeling? What negative thoughts am I having? What would be a way to rephrase any negative thoughts to more helpful thoughts? What assumptions am I making? Are there any alternative ways of viewing the situation? What is the positive outcome I want? What would be a constructive behavior right now? ”What are one or two practical steps I can take to achieve that outcome?
  • You can greatly improve your social skills by remembering, whenever possible, to look for “You win, I win” as your outcome.
  • Think of someone you know and admire as a good role model for emotional intelligence. Ask yourself, “How would my role model respond in this situation?”

Developing improved emotionally intelligent behavior involves practice, thoughtfulness, and gradual “hard wiring” of new behaviors. Look for opportunities to practice better EQ thinking and behavior. Practice improves performance. It is well worth the effort - you’ll be happier and have better relationships, at home and at work.

© Catherine Aisner 2010

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