“Our feelings are not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to be engaged and expressed with imagination and intelligence.” — T.K. ColemanHave you noticed that most job applications require “absolutely NO ego”? Today, more than ever, people crave relationships with those who have high levels of emotional intelligence. Why? Well, to put it simply: less drama, ease of communication, and it provides more opportunities for growth within a relationship. After reading this article you’ll see how your levels of emotional intelligence (or EQ) will shape the trajectory of your life. More importantly, you’ll walk away from this article with a good understanding of what emotional intelligence is, and steps you can take right now to improve your EQ. As with all areas of improvement, the key to growth is understanding the topic at hand, uncovering your weak points, revealing why the weak points exist, and then taking the initiative to improve where you can. So, let’s get started…
A simple definition of emotional intelligence (EQ)Interestingly, scientists don’t entirely agree with the details of what emotional intelligence is. There are countless books, articles, and podcasts about the topic, but to briefly reign it all in for you, I’ll define the common theme below: Emotional intelligence is your ability to use your natural emotional responses to work for you and not against you. The book about EQ that resonates with me the most is Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and many of the references in this article are accredited to this book.
EQ is taking over…We are living in such a special time in society right now and the business world is experiencing a monumental shift to go with it. Within corporate organizations, walls have turned to open floor concepts, and open floor concepts have shifted to long tables shared as desks. Along with your work environment shifting, the internet has shifted how we interact with one another as well. Our ability to immediately share our emotions and feelings has caused us to either learn to deal with them more effectively or push them far down where no one can see them. For example, the times of people sharing every emotion on Facebook have evolved to (most) people obsessively fixing their photos and words before sharing a post… People spend the time to share their Instagram caption with all their friends before posting a photo! These new close quarters through the internet and in the workplace are consequentially forcing the bar to be set much higher for all of us in life and in work. Your bosses are going to see your Instagram and Twitter accounts, and your coworkers will feel if you’re in a bad mood- especially if you’re accustomed to reacting to your emotions. The ability to effectively work with others and manage your reactions are directly related to your EQ levels, and it will undoubtedly make or break the trajectory of your career as well as shaping the quality of your life. Studies show that:
- 90% of top performers function with a high level of EQ
- EQ levels are directly correlated to monetary compensation
- EQ levels are directly related to happiness in life and health in relationships
Science behind EQOur mind was designed to keep us safe from harmful predators and life-threatening events. Emotional feelings cause our egos to feel threatened, causing our brain to assume that there is a threat to our environment that it needs to keep us safe from. Without practicing awareness of our thoughts, the mind will naturally react to emotional feelings that arise throughout the day. The reason for this is because the neural signals in our brains pass through the limbic system (emotional center) before the signals reach our pre-frontal cortex (logic center). Without awareness of our emotional triggers, we will continuously react emotionally to situations instead of considering all options and acting on the best decision possible. It’s important to note that emotions shouldn’t be ignored. They are connected to our instincts and can be a valuable guiding light through tough times. The key is to not fight the emotion or push it down. Let the emotion be there, observe it, and hold off on taking action until a clear state of mind is present. Practice letting the emotion flow through you instead of letting it control you.
Where are we now that our mind isn’t saving us from predators?Our minds are no longer used to look for food for survival or to keep us safe from predators. This leaves us with too much time to worry about what our friend said about us or a weird look our boss gave us that morning. We are now left with a mind that has naturally evolved to look for ‘what’s wrong’ so it can keep us safe from pain. Letting our mind run amok with its natural tendencies will lead to a tortured existence. It will leave us on guard, always looking for what’s next. I need you to know that you don’t need to live this way. You can train your brain to handle this relatively new environment. You can teach your thoughts to pass through you, rather than feeling an emotional attachment to them that derails your state of mind. (Here is a great video by Deepak Chopra on letting go. I meditate on this when stuck with an uncomfortable thought or experience.)
Power of awarenessIt takes practice, but the more you take a step back and place awareness on an uncomfortable thought, the less power the thought has over your emotions and actions. I was on the other side of this more recently than I’d like to admit. My mood would go up and down with my emotions, feeling extreme highs and low lows with little control over when or why. It wasn’t too evident, but those who were in close quarters with me regularly KNEW when I was in a mood… This is because I would push down and ignore past painful experiences, causing me to feel intense emotions when a situation arose that (even slightly) resembled past feelings. It led me to hold on to uncomfortable thoughts and then spend time ‘rationalizing’ why it’s okay to feel how I feel, rather than practicing moving past the emotional trigger. Instead of talking to trusted friends with the intention to overcome the feeling and let it go, I talked with the intention to be understood, and therefore further fed the emotion. This is a tricky trap that’s incredibly easy to fall into if you’re not cognizant of it. When there is a lack of awareness about your emotional triggers, you’ll waste all your energy on rationalizing why it’s okay for you to feel an emotion, rather than getting to the bottom of what triggered it. Getting to the root of the problem, and then placing awareness on the trigger, is what allows you to stop the trigger’s power over your emotions and actions. After you read the foundation of what emotional intelligence is (below), you’ll start to see how EQ levels affect everything around you, including you and your day-to-day experiences.
EQ dictates every momentIf you take a moment to look back at your week, you will quickly see how EQ runs your day as certain words, tonalities, and events trigger pain points and derail your ability to calmly/clearly focus. You can see it in the emails from leaders of organizations, whose emotions pour through their words. You can see it in parents running a family. When a parent runs their home demonstrating a low EQ, then any distasteful news or event can shift the comfortability of an entire home. You can see it in employees who are toxic to organizations. These employees act on their emotional triggers and destroy the morale within a functioning team or organization. To authentically connect to others and work well in a team, it is necessary to manage your EQ levels and commit to filling in the gaps in areas that are lacking. This practice calls for radical honestly with the true state of your EQ. We tend to have a hard time facing the reality of how we handle things emotionally. And that’s completely normal. Unfortunately, we aren’t yet taught this in (most) schools. And it’s difficult to backtrack and change emotional habits as an adult. But please don’t let that cause you to give up. The power and peace you’ll feel on the other side is worth powering through the discomfort of facing yourself.
Diving deeper into EQYour emotional intelligence is your ability to understand your emotions and the emotions of those around you. It also includes your capability to manage your responses to external events. The key to improving our EQ is to practice patience while feeling pain. We must allow the uncomfortable feeling to pass through the emotional center in our brain and give it time to travel to the logic center of our brain. When the emotion is in the logic center, you will have the power to calm yourself and see a situation clearly before reacting in a regrettable manner. After studying my personal EQ and implementing the given strategies, I’ve seen beautiful advances in my relationships. Some of my favorite perks of improving EQ is the ability to now see clearly in professional transactions, as well as seeing clearly during difficult personal conversations. I can now distinctly see variables in situations that my emotions made me blind to before. It’s a game changer. After you work on your emotional intelligence for a couple of months, you’ll come out the other side wondering how you got this far in life with an emotional cloud over your head.
Categories of emotional intelligenceEmotional intelligence is broken down into two main categories, with four total subcategories. Study the categories, and take a moment to imagine different experiences you’ve had that could have been improved by working on one of the below subcategories.
Category one: Personal Competence
- Subcategory 1: Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen. This includes keeping on top of how you tend to respond to specific situations and certain people.
- Subcategory 2: Self-management is the ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior. This means managing your emotional reactions to all situations and people.
Category two: Social Competence
- Subcategory 3: Social awareness is the ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and get what is really going on. This often means understanding what other people are thinking and feeling, even if you don’t feel the same way. The only way to succeed in social awareness is to quiet the narrative in your mind so you can be fully present in the moment while practicing compassion for other points of view.
- Subcategory 4: Relationship management is the ability to use awareness of your emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully. Relationship management is your ability to use emotional awareness to guide clear communication and effective handling of conflicts.
4 recommended practices to improve EQ:
- Identify your specific areas for improvement
- Study the above areas, then rank each area from strongest to weakest. Focus on improving the weakest area first
- Improve 1 EQ area at a time, and apply 3 strategies in that ONE area
- Choose someone to reflect your EQ journey with
- this person should have the ability to give you direct and unbiased feedback
- Measure and track your progress
- If you get the EQ book or audiobook below you’re able to retake the EQ test to track your improvements