What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI for short) has become an increasingly popular term in today’s world. It was first coined and explored by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer back in the early 1990s who defined emotional intelligence as:
“Emotional intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate your own emotions and those of the people around you. It’s important to understand the two sides of the coin of emotional intelligence:
Firstly is the ability to recognise and understand emotions (both your own and those of others).
Secondly is the ability to manage and use these emotions to make good decisions and to influence people and situations.
Emotional intelligence is so much more than just being able to control your anger. It’s about being able to easily grasp how you’d feel and react in a number of situations while also having a deep understanding of others emotions and reactions. It’s about understanding that we all have different personalities, different wants and needs and different ways of expressing ourselves. Being able to navigate through all this takes a certain level of tact and cleverness.
Some believe that emotional intelligence is just an inborn skill and just comes naturally to others. While this may be true for some people, I strongly believe that just like any other skill, emotional intelligence can be learned and improved upon. This should especially be a priority for those of you that are business leaders.
5 habits that can help you build your emotional intelligence
Try practising these five habits to become a master of your own emotional intelligence:
1. Work on your self-awareness
Self-awareness is the biggest key when it comes to unlocking your emotional intelligence. Being able to reflect on your emotions and how they influence your behaviour and reactions is the essence of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people are intuitive, they are aware of how their own emotions and how they influence the people around them.
If you want to get better at self-awareness, ask yourself these questions:
What are your emotional strengths and weaknesses?
What areas do you need to improve?
Do you tend to react or lose your temper quickly? Or do you avoid confrontation?
Do you make important decisions in the spur of the moment?
Practices such as mindfulness and meditation can also be incredibly helpful when it comes to self-awareness. Don’t run away from your thoughts - take time to get to know yourself and how you think and feel about anything and everything. Journaling can also help build your self-awareness by helping detect and correct unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours.
Self-awareness takes a lot of introspection so do your best to be honest with yourself if you want to understand your own emotional habits.
2. Ask for feedback and take it well
Remember that an important aspect of emotional intelligence is understanding that different people will always see things differently and that’s perfectly normal and okay!
“To Make a Difference, Understand Differences.” ― Syed Sharukh
Differences are a good thing as they push us to expand our perspective and sometimes even make us stand firmer in our beliefs. That’s why it’s essential to discover if the people around you see things the way you do. One of the best ways to you can do this is to simply ask them.
Audit your own self-perception by inquiring from family, friends, colleagues or even managers about your emotional intelligence. Sometimes people are able to point out patterns you yourself may fail to recognise. You can ask:
How do you respond to difficult situations?
How empathetic or adaptable are you?
How do you handle yourself in conflict?
Some of the feedback you get may not always be what you want to hear but what you may need to hear. The reality is that most people don’t know how to deliver criticism well - so don’t focus on the delivery, focus on the message. Don’t take criticism personally but as an opportunity to learn and grow.
3. Respond don’t react
There’s a very subtle but important difference between reacting and responding to a situation.
Reacting can be seen as an unconscious process where you do or say things without thinking first and fail to consider the implications, you just act. In most cases, you experience an emotional trigger and behave in a way that expresses or relieves that emotion. For example, feeling agitated by someones who keeps interrupting you and snapping at them. There’s no filtering process when you’re reacting in a situation, you’re essentially running on auto-pilot.
On the other hand, responding is a much more conscious process where you first notice how you feel before deciding how you want to behave. In our example, rather than snapping at the person who keeps interrupting you, you first explain how you feel, why it isn’t okay to be interrupting you at that time and at what point they can give their input.
Responding is much more thoughtful - you get to explore the various outcomes your response might get even before saying a word. You can assess the pros and cons of your response and choose the best outcome for both yourself and the others in the situation. If you want to become a master of your emotional intelligence, learn to respond rather than react.
4. Practice empathy
Empathy is the ability to be able to step into someone’s shoes with the goal of understanding their feelings and perspective and using that understanding to guide our actions. It can apply to both ourselves and others and is a big sign of emotionally intelligent people.
Being able to empathize with other people’s situations is a trait that demonstrates emotional strength, not weakness. Empathy helps you to relate to others on a basic human level. It allows you to gain mutual respect and understanding with people who may be living vastly different lives than your own.
Empathy comes in handy in both your personal and professional life. Take the time to consider things from the perspective of family, friends, colleagues, clients etc. especially when you feel you’re about to react impulsively. Don’t be so stuck in your own ways that it becomes impossible to understand why others disagree with you.
If you’re in a leadership position, try to understand where others are coming from. Consider how their emotions and motivations align or differ from yours and what mutual ground you can stand on. This will help you in managing people and resolving any workplace disagreements effectively.
Do you reflect on how you interact with others? Here are a few questions that can help you with that:
Do you treat people with respect even when your opinions differ?
Do you listen to others and take their opinions into account?
Do you acknowledge the contributions others have made?
When someone makes a mistake, do you encourage them?
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." (1 Peter 3:8)
5. Maintain positivity
One thing I will always emphasise - don’t underestimate the power of a positive attitude. Taking the time to notice the things that are going well around you and the reasons you feel grateful in your life demonstrates emotional intelligence.
Being emotionally intelligent means having an awareness of the moods of the people around you and being able to influence them. Positive attitudes are infectious and emotionally intelligent people are aware of this. They know what they need to do in order to have an amazing day and maintain a positive outlook. Moreover, they can create a positive environment that not only improves their quality of life but that of those around them. If you want to improve your emotional intelligence, start with improving your attitude.
Having a positive attitude can come in handy in many situations especially instances where you have to diffuse an argument or conflict of some sort. Of course, being emotionally intelligent also means being aware of when it’s appropriate to inject some positivity or humour into a situation.
But generally, positivity can help you foster your emotional intelligence. Don’t where to start? Maybe start with looking at those around you. Here are some of the habits positive people usually have.
I truly believe that emotional intelligence is a skill that you can always keep developing and improving throughout your life. It takes practice but is worth all the effort. Increasing your EQ will not only bring you success in your life and career, but it will also make you a better partner, a better parent, a better leader, a better Christian and a better person all around.
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