What Is Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a gauge of someone’s ability to regulate their emotions. Just as we measure cognitive intelligence, or IQ, through certain aptitude tests, emotional intelligence, or EQ, provides a sense of emotional skill and resilience. According to some research, EQ may actually be a greater predictor of success than IQ, with studies finding a correlation between emotional intelligence and academic performance. EQ has also been linked to professional success, greater well-being, better health, and a higher quality of relationships. And to make it even better, emotional intelligence is something that can be learned and developed.
What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent
Emotional intelligence is understood according to a number of factors such as emotional awareness and understanding, perception and expression, access and generation, and regulation. Think of somebody who is quick to anger at a level that is disproportionate to the situation, is unable to express their anger in a healthy way, and demonstrates little awareness of how this reactivity impacts them and those around them. This is an example of low emotional intelligence. Someone with a higher level of EQ would be less reactive overall, and able to identify when they do begin to feel emotionally activated. They would be more able to witness their response and keep it in check until an appropriate time to resolve and take responsibility for their feelings. It’s important to note that managing emotions is not about suppressing them, but accepting that these feelings are a healthy part of human life. As such, emotional intelligence is also about perceiving the emotions of others and responding with compassion and empathy.
How to increase emotional intelligence
Building EQ begins with expanding emotional self-awareness. Instead of judging or shaming your emotional responses, be a curious witness about the patterns you experience. What feelings are more familiar to you – is it sadness or anxiety? And which emotions are less familiar – perhaps anger or trust. Using Plutchik’s emotion wheel is a useful way to expand emotional vocabulary. With more self-awareness comes more opportunity to regulate. If you can notice your emotional activations at an earlier stage, you can take measures to dissipate them before you reach the point of overwhelm. This might look like going for a walk when feelings of anxiety begin to bubble up, so that you can calm your nervous system before reaching a state of panic, for instance. Once you’re familiar with your own emotional landscape, you can develop more sensitivity to others’. This can help you connect more deeply with other people as well as yourself, and also see situations more objectively. For example, if a colleague is uncharacteristically short with you, but you realize that they are feeling worried and afraid for a sick family member, you’ll be more compassionate towards them and able to let it go, instead of feeling offended and taking their behavior personally.
Emotional intelligence for life
Being emotionally intelligent comes hand-in-hand with a healthy level of self-esteem. The thought “I am feeling quite sad today” is very different from “I am such a miserable person”. When we’re judging ourselves, we’re more likely to get emotions stuck in the system instead of allowing them to flow through and be released. Having a good cry or squaring up to a punchbag can feel so good once we know that’s what we need. Tuning in to know ourselves better helps us work that emotional muscle and become smarter in our responses. It also helps us be less affected by the emotions of those around us. If we can read people objectively without muddying the energy with our own needs and insecurities, we can better support and influence them. Emotional intelligence helps us be better friends, partners, parents, team members and leaders, because we are more able to observe, empathize with, and respect the experience of those we are in a relationship with. It can help us establish and uphold our boundaries, make more aligned decisions, strengthen active listening, improve patience and tolerance, and be happier overall.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Emotional Intelligence As A Predictor Of Academic And/Or Professional Success; The Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence And Happiness In Medical Students; Emotional Intelligence And Organizational Effectiveness.
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