Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ or EI, is a common term you have heard of or read at least once in your life. It is a term that we all vaguely know but would struggle to define if asked to do so. In this blog we will examine what the popular term means and where it originated from, why it is important to know about and tips on how to begin applying it to your own life in a realistic manner.
So, what exactly is emotional intelligence?
While the term began with John Mayer and Peter Salovey, it is often associated with psychologist Daniel Goleman as he was the one who popularised it. Emotional intelligence consists of different elements that make it a complex term. However, to put it simply, it can be defined as:
This can mean that individuals who possess a high EQ are great active listeners and excel at forming different types of relationships, whether those are friendships, romantic partners, or colleagues.
As implied in the definition, they tend to be self-aware of their own emotions which requires an ongoing self-reflection of how and why they feel certain emotions, how they affect others and how to manage them appropriately in specific contexts; this also makes them great at resolving conflict.
To dig deeper into the term for a more useful understanding, five elements proposed by Daniel Goleman will be considered: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills.
As briefly mentioned above, self-awareness involves the understanding of one’s emotions as well as the impact on those around them. This means that an individual with high EQ will not just pinpoint what they are feeling but will also seek to understand how those emotions are triggered to be able to see the full picture. Once this is achieved, better decision-making can take place, as high EQ individuals will not be clouded by unresolved or impulsive emotions.
This element of emotional intelligence can be seen as the continuation of self-awareness. Once the emotions are recognised – whether positive or negative – an active effort needs to be made to regulate them. For example, this may involve meditation and/or other methods of calming oneself, such as taking a step back to breathe deeply.
Positive thinking and taking initiative are key aspects of being more emotionally intelligent. This means that rather than staying stagnant, becoming motivated by setting ambitious standards and constantly working on your goals is a necessary part of the process.
While being self-aware involves a general understanding of others’ feelings, empathy encourages us to respond to them appropriately, regardless of the differences or similarities we encounter. A level of critical thinking and reflexivity is needed here, as an empathetic individual must be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes and view the world from their perspective before responding to them. Being able to do this has a positive influence on diversity and inclusion, making it a particularly useful approach in the workplace.
Being a good listener, a team player and a source of positive influence are all social skills that an emotionally intelligent individual will possess. People with these tend to be great leaders, as they use their social skills in combination with the elements above to understand, inspire and motivate others.
Why is emotional intelligence important?
Emotional intelligence has useful implications in a variety of contexts, particularly in the workspace as shown by a multitude of studies.
As Daniel Goleman states, “CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise – and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence.”
In other words, while IQ and skill are useful in the ability to get a job, it is EQ that will ensure longevity and even the chance to climb up the ladder; it is especially useful in management and leadership positions. A survey by CareerBuilder showed that 71% of employers value EQ over IQ, and employers with high EQ are seen as better at resolving conflict and being empathetic to other colleagues.
Similarly, DDI (a global leadership development firm) ranked empathy as the top most important leadership skill. Here it was found that those with high EQ perform 40% better in decision-making, engagement, and motivation of co-workers.
Applying the five elements of emotional intelligence in a leadership role will not just improve an individual’s chances of successfully doing their job, but it will boost the productivity and morale of the entire work group. For instance, a self-aware leader knows their strengths but is also open to negative feedback that will motivate him or her to improve. This means that through empathetic and active listening, an emotionally intelligent leader will hear the needs of their colleagues and will respond accordingly, making themselves a trustworthy and motivational leader. This is extremely important as authors Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves call EQ “the single biggest predictor of success in the workplace.” They note that EQ accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs.
How can I start becoming more emotionally intelligent?
After learning more about EQ and how it can have big impacts, here’s how to start applying it in your own life!
Follow these five simple tips on how to begin:
Observe your emotions
Focus on the types of emotions you experience daily. Are they positive or negative? What triggers them?
Observe your behavior
How do you act upon your emotions? Are you impulsive? Are you calculated? Are you aware of others’ emotions before you act? Does your behavior affect you or others negatively?
Take responsibility for your emotions and actions
Turn a negative into a positive! Being emotionally intelligent means that you can take criticism and use it for your own self-improvement.
Praise your positive traits
While being self-reflective of your negative traits is important, being kind to yourself by celebrating your strong characteristics is equally important. Not only will this be a confidence booster, but it will also motivate you to constantly work on yourself to continue feeling the same thrill!
Being emotionally intelligent is a lot of work, but it isn’t all work! Taking a deep breath and appreciating your progress is one of the most important steps. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re doing great!
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