Emotional Intelligence: What You Need to Know

Written on by Mindy Haas

The term ‘emotional intelligence’, or EQ for short, has been buzzing around professional blogs and articles recently, and for good reason.  Instead of measuring your brain smarts (or IQ), EQ measures how well you handle your emotions.  Contrary to long held beliefs, studies have found is that EQ is actually more important than IQ for success in life.  It’s also found to be a critical trait in good leaders.    Because of this, we feel it’s important for everyone to 1) understand what emotional intelligence is and 2) know how emotionally intelligent they are.

So, what’s your EQ?

Signs of Emotional Intelligence
This article provides great details on the keys to emotional intelligence, but we’ve taken 5 of the most telltale signs and summarized them here:

Ability to define your emotions.   The first and most important trait of an emotionally intelligent person is their ability to clearly and accurately define the exact emotion they are feeling.  They can pinpoint their feeling with words like “frustrated”, “uneasy”, “sad”, and they know what triggered that feeling.   If you understand the why behind the feeling, you are better equipped to manage your reactions.  A person with low EQ may only be able to describe the feeling vaguely using words such as “bad.”  Because of the limited understanding of their emotions, they don’t know how to manage them, which can lead to unproductive, irrational behavior.

Empathy.  Empathy, defined as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of others,’ is the second highest indicator of EQ.  It shows that you are genuinely curious about others and care about their circumstances.

Self-awareness.  Individuals with high EQ understand their strengths and weakness.  They know to leverage their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses and they are confident in who they are as a person.

Not easily offended.  This coincides with self-awareness.  If a person knows who they are and what they’re about, they are able to accept constructive feedback with grace.  They are able to look at insults with a critical eye and filter out what’s true and what’s not.

Ability to manage conflict.  Emotionally intelligent people do not ‘fly-off-the-handle.’  They not only manage their emotions in tense situations, but they can also diffuse potentially volatile encounters.   Instead of returning anger with anger, they can keep their frustration in check and see the situation from the other person’s vantage point.

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence by Understanding Your Emotions
If you are concerned that you don’t have a high EQ after reviewing the qualities above, don’t be discouraged.  The good thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be improved with practice.  The first step is to have a good grasp on your emotions.  Here’s how you can do that:

Learn emotional terms.   This can be as simple as a Google search for ‘list of emotional terms’ or ‘list of feelings and emotions with definitions’.   Review the emotions and look up definitions of what they mean. This way, when you experience a feeling, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what it is.

Acknowledge your feeling.  I used to push aside negative feelings with the thought that I “shouldn’t” feel a certain way about a situation.   I would rationalize away my feeling without grasping what caused it.  Don’t do this.  Instead, acknowledge the feeling and move onto step 3.

Take the time to understand what you’re feeling. Take time to reflect on what caused it.  Are there other situations you encountered that triggered the same feeling?  Notice your physical reactions, i.e. knots in stomach, sweaty palms.    Free writing is a great way to process your emotions.  Just write without thinking too much about it; let your mind take you where it needs to go.

Take responsibility for your actions.   Oftentimes when people lash out in frustration or anger, they’ll place the blame on the person who causes the feeling.  However, with emotional intelligence, it’s important to recognize that you choose how to react.  Once you accept responsibility for your reaction, you can begin to change how you respond in the face of difficulty.

Practice Your EQ Skills
As you begin to identify and define emotions, you can put your EQ skills to work.   Pause to understand the other person’s perspective before reacting based on your emotions.  Try instead responding in a respectful way.  Dig into the ‘why’ behind your emotion to improve your self-awareness.

Keep in mind, the pursuit of Emotional Intelligence is a lifetime endeavor.  As you continuously practice, you’ll see a big difference in your interactions with others.

Additional Resources
Six Steps to Improve Emotional Intelligence
Ten Ways to Enhance Emotional Intelligence
Seven Ways to Improve Emotional Intelligence
Boost Your Emotional Intelligence
Better Understand Your Emotions

Photo via Pixabay

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