Emotional Intelligence has become a topic of interest lately but isn’t a new idea. I studied this in my Psych courses 20 years ago, but now there seems to be a renewed interest and almost a greater weight placed on a person’s emotional understanding of others.
Did you know that high scores on Emotional Intelligence inventories are a better predictor of success than IQ scores or standardized intelligence markers?
In this article, I’d like to create a better understanding of Emotional Intelligence and how we might foster the skills that define emotional intelligence.
What is it?
Psychology Today categorizes Emotional Intelligence as a group of skills that include “emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.”
“Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.”
Therefore Emotional Intelligence is the ability to monitor, discriminate and label our own emotions as well as the emotions of others. (To be clear, Emotional Quotient (EQ) is often used interchangeably with Emotional Intelligence (EI), but while EI is a person’s ability in this area, EQ refers to a testing measurement of that ability. For the purposes of this article, I will use the two interchangeably.)
An emotionally aware person, or emotionally intelligent person, is thought to display the following characteristics:
- The ability to recognize one’s own emotions
- The ability to relate to others’ emotions
- The ability to actively listen to others
- The ability to actively participate in interpersonal communication and understand the nonverbal cues of behavior
- The ability to control one’s thoughts and feelings
- The ability to effectively manage emotions and express them in a socially acceptable way
- The ability to receive criticisms positively and benefit from them
- The power to forgive, forget, and move on rationally
While this gives an overall understanding of the basics of emotional awareness, there are 5 criteria that are the goalposts for emotional intelligence.
Components of Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness describes the individual’s ability to recognize and understand their own personal moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and humility. Self-awareness depends on one’s ability to monitor one’s own emotional state and to correctly identify and name one’s own emotions.
Self-regulation refers to the individual’s ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and their ability to suspend judgment and to think before acting. It is the ability to understand and manage your behaviour and your reactions to feelings and things happening around you. Hallmarks include regulation of strong emotions like anger and embarrassment and the ability to calm yourself after something exciting or upsetting and attend to a task.
Many people are motivated by external forces: Competition, money, status, etc. Internal motivation reflects a passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status, such as a higher purpose or inner vision of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, or the flow that comes with being immersed in an activity. Someone who is internally motivated displays stamina in the pursuit of goals with a specific feeling of energy and persistence.
Empathy reflects our ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. It is the capacity to understand or ‘feel’ what the other person is experiencing and the ability to place one’s self in another person’s position.
Social skills reflect our personal proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. It is our ability to find common ground and build rapport, facilitate change, be persuasive, and lead teams while maintaining healthy relationship boundaries.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?
The bottom line is that the more emotionally intelligent a person is, the better able they are to build and maintain relationships. It is this ability to create and sustain a relaitonship that translates into higher levels of success both personally and professionally.
Personally, an individual who possesses higher EQ will hold a greater understanding of their partner, be aware and able to manage their own emotions and have higher degrees of success in navigating challenges within the relationship.
Professionally higher levels of EI correspond to effective leadership, better teamwork and more positive work culture. Leaders with higher levels of emotional intelligence have more dedicated teams, a culture of feeling cared about and heard and understood which are reflected in productivity and employee retention.
So if personally and professionally Emotional Intelligence predicts greater levels of success, how can we foster or learn EI?
How Can I Change My Level Of Emotional Intelligence?
The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. Here are some strategies to help you cultivate your EI.
When you lack self-awareness, trying to manage your emotions is like trying to cross the ocean with no sail on your sailboat. Becoming self-aware means that you understand yourself and your behaviour. You understand what you’re doing and your feelings around it, but you also are working towards understanding what you DON’T know about yourself.
We move away from self-awareness by distracting ourselves with TV, work, social media and a host of other things that take our minds off of who we are and why we do/say/behave the way that we do. So set aside some time each day to think about how you’re feeling. Journal, meditate or just reflect on who you are and lean into a better understanding of yourself.
Don’t judge the emotions that arise when you start to dissect this, just allow them to be and don’t make yourself wrong for feeling them.
The last part of this is to see where you have some emotional BS happening. I actually shut down emotionally when I’m cut off or interrupted. It makes me feel disrespected and unimportant. It’s important to recognize where you struggle and understand that it’s a part of your history and has nothing to do with the present. So see it, own it, and try to do better.
Process Your Emotions
There’s no such thing as a good or bad emotion – they’re just feelings we have based around our experiences. The ‘good’ or ‘bad’ comes into play based on how we react to our emotions.
Give yourself the space to process emotions, especially negative ones. Anger is just another emotion until you lash out at someone at work, then it’s a problem. Find a healthy way to process your anger so that you give it a voice without impacting others.
Manage your emotions by recognizing what you’re feeling and then evaluating the appropriateness of that emotion. Then act accordingly.
Learn to be Intrinsically Motivated
For many of us, historically we have been motivated by a casual “good job” and “well done” from an interested teacher, leader or parent. But this external motivation will never be as compelling as the motivation that exists WITHIN you.
Intrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that is driven by internal rewards or that the motivation to engage in that behaviour arises from within the person because it is naturally satisfying to you.
For example, you might read this article because you’re interested in understanding more about emotional intelligence. Or you might be reading this article because you are writing a paper and want a good grade. These represent two very distinct types of motivation.
Focus more on internal motivation. What compels you to do something? Find that source within you that motivates your behaviour and nurture that.
Respect Another’s Emotional Needs
Developing emotional intelligence is about fostering healthier relationships in your life, and healthy relationships begin with an understanding of the other person’s emotional needs.
We build this respect by connecting and empathizing with others and by sharing of ourselves honestly, with authenticity and a measure of vulnerability.
Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean that we completely understand the other person, but it does represent that we accept them as they are and can recognize their needs.
Connect Your Emotions With Your Values
Emotional intelligence means nothing without a clear connection to the things that we value. You can seem to have a high EI but if you sell products made by children in another country, your degree of emotional intelligence is irrelevant.
We are always making choices based on what we value, whether we know it or not. Linking our emotions to those things that we value will serve us in fostering our emotional intelligence, so get really clear on what it is you value and where you want your emotional energy to be directed.
As well as working on your skills in the five areas above, use these strategies:
Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in the other person’s position and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.
Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it doesn’t mean that you’re shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put the focus on them, and don’t worry too much about getting praise for yourself.
Do a self-evaluation. What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you’re not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better person? Have the courage to look at yourself honestly – it can change your life.
Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every time there’s a delay or something doesn’t happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even when it’s not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued – in the business world and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when things go wrong.
Take ownership over your actions. If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize directly – don’t ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right.
Examine how your actions will affect others – before you take those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help others deal with the effects?
If you’re wondering about your level of Emotional Intelligence, Psychology Today has created an assessment designed to shed light on this particular aspect.
Emotional Intelligence is not fixed. It is learned, grown, cultivated and can be fostered by clearly focusing on the strategies named above.
If you’d like support in becoming more emotionally intelligent, or feel that advancing your EI could help you as a leader, let’s connect for a call.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.