Emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize your emotions as well as the emotions of those around you, and your ability to use those emotions to develop your behavior and relationships. Unlike traits such as IQ or personality, you can develop EQ through practice and persistence.
Reason #1: EQ helps you process your emotions. Your brain is designed to prioritize emotions. Therefore, before you can have a rational thought, you have to process your feelings. Though many of your emotional responses may seem minor, they’re important because these reactions develop patterns of behavior.
Reason #2: EQ helps you manage triggers. Triggers are events that produce a significant emotional response. Triggers can cloud your judgment and prevent your rational brain from informing your decisions. High EQ skills allow you to recognize your triggers and avoid or effectively handle them.
Reason #3: EQ helps you control your thoughts and develop healthy habits. You don’t have direct control over your emotions, especially when something triggers them. However, you do have control over your thoughts. You can calm yourself down and handle your emotions by thinking about perspective, timing, and other EQ skills.
Reason #4: EQ helps you succeed. High EQ develops skills that directly correlate to success, such as navigating complex situations and keeping calm under pressure. One study found that:
You can develop a high EQ by developing the four pillars of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Self-awareness is your ability to identify your emotions as they occur and recognize your tendencies during different scenarios.
People with high levels of self-awareness:
Tactic #2: Find the reason behind your emotion. Emotions act as a guide, pointing out things in your psyche or surroundings that you may not recognize otherwise. Assess why you're feeling what you're feeling. This helps you resolve any problems or tensions that are causing unwanted feelings.
For example, you feel unfulfilled in your career but don’t want to deal with that emotion, so you try to push your feelings away by relying on constant external validation to provide you with fulfillment. Though this validation may give you a temporary reprieve, it doesn’t get to the core of why you feel the way you do. It essentially puts a band-aid over a deeper emotional wound that you need to eventually deal with.
Tactic #4: Don’t identify your emotions as “good” or “bad.” Emotions aren’t “good” or “bad.” Judging a feeling only puts more emotions (such as shame or pride) on top of that feeling. This keeps your original emotion from developing and muddies your current emotional state.
Tactic #5: Know your triggers. Everyone has people and behaviors that push their buttons. Knowing what triggers you allows you to strategize for those situations. Be specific when noting your triggers. Identify people, activities, and environments that irk you. Then, mentally prepare yourself for the situation.
Tactic #6: Be specific about the message you send to the world. The clothes you wear, your physical demeanor, and your facial expressions all send specific messages and usually reflect your internal emotions. Understand the message your demeanor and appearance sends. This will help you understand why people interact with you the way that they do.
For example, if you go to work wearing dirty clothes and unkempt hair, people may assume that you don’t take your job seriously. For another example, if you don’t talk to anyone in your office throughout the workday, people may assume that you don’t want to be there.
Tactic #7: Invite feedback. When it comes to examining your behavior, you're inherently biased. Reach out to other people to get a truly objective picture of yourself and the ways you respond to certain situations or people.
After you’ve strengthened your self-awareness skills, you can begin to develop self-management. Self-management is the ability to use your self-awareness to manage your emotions and stay in control of your behavior.
People with high-levels of self-management:
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Human beings possess three defining characteristics: cognitive intelligence (IQ), personality, and emotional intelligence (EQ):
For many years, people have correlated cognitive intelligence (IQ) with success in the workplace. However, workers with the highest IQs rarely outperform their colleagues with average IQs. In fact, people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs 70% of the time. If IQ is not a determining factor of success in the workplace, what is? Research now points to EQ.
Reason #1: EQ helps you process your emotions. You have emotional responses to almost everything you experience in your day-to-day life. Though many of your responses may seem minor, they’re important because your reactions develop into patterns of behavior.
Your brain is designed...
The first step to developing personal competence is self-awareness. Self-awareness is your ability to identify your emotions as they occur and recognize your tendencies during different scenarios.
People with high levels of self-awareness:
|When Self-Awareness is Present
|When Self-Awareness is Absent
|You put your emotions into perspective, leading to increased satisfaction.
|Without perspective, emotions get overwhelming, leading to high levels of...
Understanding how your body responds to emotions allows you to identify your feelings as they emerge. Use this exercise to explore the ways your body responds to different emotional stimuli.
Close your eyes for a minute or two and begin to observe the sensations throughout your body. Are you breathing deeply or shallowly? Are you tense? If so, where? How fast is your heart beating? List the physical sensations you're experiencing. Be specific.
Knowing your core values allows you to make rational decisions based upon your beliefs rather than in-the-moment reactions. Use this exercise to solidify your core values and identify behaviors that go against your beliefs.
What are the core values that guide you? Examples of core values include: showing compassion, being a dependable colleague, putting your family first, fighting for your friends, pursuing your passion, and so on. List 2-5 of your core values.
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After you’ve strengthened your self-awareness skills, you can begin to develop the second step of personal competence: self-management. Self-management is the ability to use your self-awareness to manage your emotions and stay in control of your behavior.
People with high-levels of self-management:
|When Self-Management is Present
|When Self-Management is Absent
|You remain calm during adversarial or heated situations regardless of your personal feelings.
|You allow your emotions to get the best of you and say insensitive or offensive things in the heat of the moment.
|You take time to...
Differentiating between your emotional and rational brain will help you discover the best route forward when faced with a difficult situation. Use this exercise to make the distinction and clarify your decision-making process.
Think of an issue you're currently experiencing that requires you to make a decision. Describe it.
Visualizing yourself managing a situation well allows your brain to develop EQ skills before difficult situations arise.
Think of a situation in which you have previously had trouble managing your emotions. Describe it.
Once you have developed personal competence, you can begin to build your social competence. Reminder: social competence is your ability to interact with people effectively.
The first step to social competence is social awareness. Social awareness is the ability to identify emotions in other people and understand the reasons behind them.
People with high levels of social awareness:
|When Social Awareness is Present
|When Social Awareness is Absent
|You put yourself into the shoes of other people and try to understand their...
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A crucial aspect of social awareness is an ability to live in the moment. If you allow distractions to pull your focus, you won’t catch critical information.
Think of a recent conversation that you had in which you felt disconnected. Describe it.
Having a plan for social gatherings allows you to get out of your head and be more socially aware.
Think of a recent social event where you felt overwhelmed. In what ways did you feel overwhelmed? (Did your conversations feel stilted? Did you forget things? Did you feel uncomfortable?)
The second step to social competence and the fourth and final skill in EQ development is relationship management. Relationship management is your ability to develop relationships with other people.
People with high levels of relationship management:
|When Relationship Management is Present
|When Relationship Management is Absent
|You're able to hold difficult conversations in a constructive and effective manner, even with people you don’t necessarily like or agree with.
|You cannot hold difficult conversations without things becoming heated or personal, especially with people you don’t like...
Good intentions and positive impact don’t always align. Make sure that your intention leads to the desired impact.
Think of a recent situation in which your good intentions ended up worsening a situation. This could be anything from a mistimed joke to an unclear objective. Describe your intention, the action(s) that you took, and the resulting impact.
The way that you handle tense situations reveals a lot about your emotional intelligence. The higher your EQ, the better you are at navigating these situations while maintaining strong relationships.
Think of a recent disagreement with a colleague in which one or both of you began blaming one another for a problem. Describe it.
Emotional intelligence requires that you first develop personal competence. Self-awareness and self-management create the foundation of EQ.
Reflect on a recent time a lack of self-awareness led to a poor decision. Describe it.