Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) describes how an individual responds emotionally to situations – unlike IQ, which measures one’s cognitive learning abilities. Therefore emotional intelligence is characterized by the level of empathy and understanding an individual may exhibit, not by their educational excellence. How important is EQ to navigating life?
Emotional intelligence is vital to forming and maintaining close, healthy personal relationships. While our cognitive intelligence remains essentially the same throughout our lifetime, EQ can – and does – increase with our desire to pursue emotional growth. Characteristics of high EQ individuals may include:
Independence – they are self-controlled and self-directed.
Self-actualization – they reach for their true potential.
Self Awareness – they recognize their own emotions and the effects of their reactions on others.
Impulse control – they resist negative impulses and desires to act inappropriately.
Flexibility – they adapt their emotions to changing situations.
Resilience – they look at life optimistically and keep a positive outlook in adverse circumstances.
Social responsibility – they cooperate and contribute to society while maintaining responsibility, honesty, and integrity.
Empathy – they understand and exhibit awareness of the feelings of others.
Stress Tolerance – they withstand adverse events without “falling apart.”
Problem Solving – they identify problems and implement effective solutions.
Assertiveness – they confidently communicate beliefs, emotions, and thoughts in a non-destructive manner.
How to Increase Emotional Intelligence
As emotionally intelligent people have more success navigating life, coping with stress, and maintaining life-giving relationships, achieving a higher EQ is desirable for all of us.
Here are some tips to do just that:
Minimize Negative Emotions: People cannot change their reactions unless they change their emotions and perspective. This is done primarily by avoiding jumping to conclusions and considering alternative explanations for a given situation. For instance, instead of feeling rejected because someone didn’t return your text, remind yourself that they are likely otherwise engaged and will answer when they can. Individuals can also avoid feelings of rejection by expanding their alternatives. For example, instead of relying on one job opportunity, apply for a wide range of jobs that interest you.
Stay Cool in the Face of Stress: How someone copes with stress determines if they will be calm and poised – or lose their cool. Those who wish to raise EQ should work to dissipate their nervous emotions when they feel stressed – perhaps by stopping to pray, taking a walk outside, or listening to an upbeat song. More intense physical activity may be warranted if the situation inspires fear or depression. A famous adage states that “motion dictates emotion.” The more physically active an individual is, the more confidence they have in stressful situations.
Express Tough Emotions: Everyone needs to set appropriate boundaries, which includes advocating for their right to disagree, saying “no” without guilt, setting personal priorities, and protecting themselves from harm. Individuals can achieve this by learning to express themselves using the XYZ technique. The idea is to express themselves by stating, “I feel X when you do Y in situation Z. ” Practically speaking, this may sound like
“I feel disappointed when you don’t do what you promised you would do.”
“I feel taken advantage of when you ask me to do something without giving me any notice.”
“I feel dismissed when you refuse to listen to my opinion.”
People should avoid “you” language that may make the listener defensive when expressing themselves, i.e., “You never follow through on a promise.”
Remain Proactive, Not Reactive: Everyone has unreasonable people in their work or personal life, and all too often, they let them ruin their mood or, worse – their entire day. People with a high EQ take a proactive approach to interactions with these people, taking a deep breath and waiting before responding to let the immediate reaction pass. Another method to dealing with difficult people is to learn more about what may be causing them to be so unpleasant – to feel empathy for them rather than annoyance. For instance, if they are a caregiver for a sick parent or have recently lost a spouse, you can better understand the source of their anger and frustration. While empathy does not excuse their bad behavior, it reminds us that the issue resides with them and does not originate with the target of their emotions.
Show Resilience in Adversity: Everyone faces adversity to one degree or another, but those with a high EQ have learned to think, feel, and act in such a way that they experience hope instead of despair, optimism instead of pessimism, and victory versus defeat. They react to a difficult situation with the question, “How can I learn from this experience?” rather than “Why do these things always happen to me?” The quality of the questions that we ask dictates our outcome. Constructive questions prioritize learning and perspective rather than victimhood and distress.
Express Intimate Emotions: The ability and willingness to both express and validate loving emotions is vital to cultivating close relationships. Sharing intimate feelings in a healthy and constructive manner – and responding affirmatively to the other party’s expression of the same – results from high EQ development. Loving words and actions can manifest in a million ways, all of which relate that the parties to the relationship care about each other and value the other’s presence in their life.
At the root of all EQ growth is the acknowledgment of one’s own emotions and the willingness to learn to master their reactions to people and circumstances. Building emotional intelligence skills can benefit anyone who seeks better emotional stability and more authentic relationships.
Private coaching may be your answer if you want to take your personal growth to the next level. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified coach and mental health counselor seeing clients in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch. Click here to schedule your free 30-minute consultation to learn more.