“What really matters for success, character, happiness, and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills — your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” — Daniel Goleman
What is Emotional Intelligence?
How we respond to our challenges, express our emotions, and interact with others is more than a gut reaction. Our responses are key skills we can use to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. These skills are often called “emotional intelligence” or "EI." Daniel Goleman, psychologist and best-selling author, defines EI as the ability to recognize and manage our own emotions as well as the ability to identify, understand, and influence the feelings of others.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Having a high level of emotional intelligence allows you to empathize with others, communicate effectively, and be both self and socially aware. How we respond to ourselves and others impacts our home and work environments. Living in this world means interacting with many different types of people, as well as constant change and surprises. Being emotionally intelligent is key to how you respond to what life gives us. It’s also a key component of compassion and understanding the deeper reasons behind other people's actions.
EI is especially important when you are dealing with stressful situations like conflict, change, and obstacles. During these times, it's critical to remember to practice kindness, and being in touch with our emotions can help us do just that.
The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence
Goleman laid out five components that are critical for emotional intelligence.
- Self-Awareness. The ability to recognize what you’re feeling and also understanding how your emotions and actions can affect others.
- Self-Regulation. Being able to regulate and manage the emotions you’re feeling while waiting for the appropriate time and avenue in how to express them.
- Motivation. Emotionally intelligent people are motivated by things beyond money, fame, or success. They’re also able to understand and desire the need to fulfill their own inner needs and goals.
- Empathy. Having a high EQ means being able to understand what others may be feeling and are going through and responding kindly and thoughtfully.
- Social Skills. Social skills are vital to emotional intelligence. When you’re aware of how you’re feeling, what others are feeling, and able to communicate effectively, you’re ready to interact well with others.
Understanding and putting these components into action thoughtfully and intentionally can make a drastic difference in not just your life, but those around you. It will help you become more empathetic towards other people and more aware of your social surroundings.
How do you improve emotional intelligence?
There's excellent news. The way we respond to ourselves and others can be improved. All of us can work toward being more confident, positive, and kind. Here are a few ways:
- Pay attention to yourself. Notice how people respond when you speak. Notice how you react when others speak. Do you rush to judgment? Does your facial express or body language say one thing while your words (or lack of words) express something different? Easy improvements can be made simply by noticing our go-to negative words, expressions, and feelings and making adjustments.
- Use positive language. What we say impacts our thoughts and actions, as well as the feelings of other people. Take charge of your environment by focusing on the positive and using words that move yourself and others forward.
- Keep going. Recognize that everyone has temporary setbacks and struggles. Look for a change in direction to keep going or find energy in a new path.
- Watch your stress level. When things are a bit crazy, negative emotions can rise to the surface much faster and can be harder to control. Make sure to find time to relax; take a break, and do an activity you enjoy or spend 10 minutes taking deep, refreshing breaths.
- Show compassion. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Kindness takes practice. Look for ways to show compassion and empathy to others, even when you feel they don't deserve it. And if you need to ask for forgiveness, do it.
Being emotionally intelligent will make a positive difference in your relationships with friends and coworkers as well as in your personal life.
Other EI Resources:
- Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence Quiz
- 50 tips for improving your emotional intelligence
“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us — how we can take it, what we do with it —- and that is what really counts in the end.” — Joseph Fort Newton