What is Emotional Intelligence?
A friend of mine went for a job with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games organising team. Would you believe they asked him to do an online IQ test? What does an IQ test actually tell you about someone – except that they are good at maths and understanding the lay-out of dots in obtuse patterns? I am a firm believer in Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is a term coined by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Hayer, but it was a science reporter from The New York Times, Daniel Goleman, who introduced the term to the world when he published his book by the same name. According to Psychology Today, Emotional Intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others”.
It has three components: 1. Emotional awareness; 2. the ability to harness your emotions and apply them to tasks and; 3. the ability to manage emotions, which includes controlling your own emotions and managing other people’s emotions, ie calming them down or motivating them.
Emotional Intelligence is the key to forming and maintaining personal relationships. Our Emotional Intelligence can grow and change over our life time, and there are ways to improve your Emotional Intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent people know themselves. They know the strength and weaknesses of their character. They understand their emotions and to some extent they can step outside themselves and objectively see how they react. They don’t let their feelings rule them. Next time you find yourself getting emotional try this exercise. Close your eyes and try to imagine your spirit or psyche physically stepping outside of your body. Try to ‘see’ yourself as another person would. Now look objectively at the situation. You are emotional, is the person you are dealing with also upset? What needs to be done to calm the situation? Now step back into your body and take control of this situation.
Secrets to improving Emotional Intelligence
To improve your Emotional Intelligence, spend a week observing how you react to people and take notes. Are you open to new ideas? Are you often harried and angry? Do you have a forced cheerfulness? In a diary write notes on significant interactions with people. Re-visit these notes in a few days. Ask yourself how you could have handled the situation better if you’d responded with pure logic and not emotion? Pay careful attention to how you react in stressful situations. Do you become upset easily? Do you lash out at other people when times get tough? The ability to stay calm and not crack in tough situations is highly valued in the workplace.
If you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, then you can keep your emotions in check. Emotionally intelligent people can control their impulses and feelings. They don’t allow anger or jealousy to take over. They are thoughtful of others and don’t fear change.
Self-awareness is the first step on the road to growing your Emotional Intelligence. People with Emotional Intelligence are good operators at work because they work towards long-term goals, not immediate gratification. People with personality disorders, including sociopaths and narcissists, never feel good about themselves, so are constantly seeking short-term endorsements or rewards. They can struggle to work towards long-term goals, because they are always seeking a hit of excitement and endorsement. Meanwhile emotionally intelligent people embrace long-term challenge. They don’t need to chase pleasure today because they already feel good about themselves.
Another exercise in growing your Emotional Intelligence is to examine how you behave at work. Do you spend a lot of time complaining about others or do you accept responsibility for your shortcomings? Are you focussed on your goals or do you feel adrift? Emotionally intelligent people usually have clear life goals.
People with Emotional Intelligence understand emotions – their own and other people’s emotions. They can read other people’s needs and wants. They can put themselves in the shoes of others and appreciate their viewpoints. They try not to be too judgemental but live their lives in an honest, open way. They take responsibility for their feelings. An emotionally intelligent person will never say, “You hurt my feelings” but rather “I let you hurt my feelings”. They know that when it comes to emotions, the buck stops with them. Emotionally intelligent people are good at assessing the strengths and weaknesses of others and so are careful in choosing true friends. Yes, of course they make mistakes and get hurt from time to time, but they either realise that the other person has behaved badly and out of character or they acknowledge that they misjudged the person and perhaps that individual was never worthy of their friendship. But they always take responsibility for their feelings and don’t blame other people for making them sad, mad, glad, etc.
Emotional Intelligence can make the difference between circumstances becoming either a good or bad situation – it always comes down to your reaction! You can over-react and become distressed or you can handle difficult circumstances with good humour and just get on with cleaning up the mess. People who lack Emotional Intelligence are more likely to just get emotional, without giving themselves time to properly assess the situation and ascertain the best response. Next time you find yourself in a tough spot, STOP, just stop and refuse to respond in either a negative or positive way. Now think carefully as to what would be the ideal response. Now respond appropriately.
People who can’t control their feelings often struggle socially and may be prone to depression. People with Emotional Intelligence have strong social skills, can easily talk to people and enjoy working in teams. Unlike narcissists and sociopaths they don’t need to focus on their own success, but can help others reach their potential. And because emotionally intelligent people can “read” others, they are good at managing disputes and solving problems at work.
Associate Professor in Quantitative Psychology, University of Nevada, Kim Barchard believes emotionally intelligent people refuse to be defeated and embrace difficult situations as ‘challenges’. If an emotionally intelligent person is made redundant they will mourn the loss of their job and acknowledge they feel sad and then they will realise it is time for action – time to revamp their CV and look for a new job. A person who lacks Emotional Intelligence might descend into grief and conclude that the world is against them and that they are unemployable.
IQ versus Emotional Intelligence
In the 1970s and ’80s, psychologists were convinced that success in life was mainly influenced by a person’s IQ. The truth is that there are a lot of brilliant people in the world who have not made a success of their life – they are poor, alone or stuck in difficult relationships. You don’t have to be a mathematical or creative genius to have high Emotional Intelligence, but Emotional Intelligence can determine whether you succeed or fail in this life. To improve your Emotional Intelligence you have to be on an eternal quest to better understand yourself and other people, while also refusing to be beaten by life’s ups and downs.