Most people are familiar with the term IQ which stands for “intelligence quotient”. It is a way to measure how intelligent a person is. In 1990, two research psychologists coined the term “emotional intelligence”. They argued that it was not one’s cognitive intelligence (IQ) that guaranteed success in life and career, but instead it was one’s emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotionally intelligent people are described as those with four characteristics:
- They are good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness)
- They are good at managing their emotions (self-management)
- They are empathetic to the emotions of other people (social awareness)
- They are good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills)
If you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
An individual’s current emotional intelligence tends to be a reflection of his/her early life emotional experience. Our ability to experience feelings like anger, sadness, fear, and joy most often depends on the quality and consistency of our early life emotional experiences. So if emotional experiences were affirmed and encouraged early in life, emotions became valuable assets later in life, and the individual would have a higher EQ. But if emotional experiences were confusing, threatening, or painful, an individual would do his best to suppress or hide his emotions, and his EQ would be lower.
We do not confront the past for the purpose of blaming others or making excuses for ourselves; we explore past experiences and messages to uncover the lies that are misleading us and to enter more fully into the truth. Only then can we be free of self-absorption and self-deprecation and give to God and others from the fullness that He intends. Ruth Haley Barton, Longing For More
The good news is that most of emotional intelligence is learned. This learning can take place at any time in life, meaning that EQ is something we can all develop and improve throughout our lives. This is important because our EQ affects our school/work performance; our physical health; our mental health; and our relationships.
If we are seeking to focus on following the Lord’s commandments – to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves – having our EQ increase will be a natural by-product. The following are some practical things I have found helpful as I seek to improve my EQ. Perhaps some will be helpful to you too:
- being intentional about listening to others, instead of thinking about what I want to say next; asking good questions and not being critical or judgmental of the answers; trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes and imagining how I would feel in the same situation
- realizing what I’m good at and what I still have to learn; working on not allowing my weaknesses to hold me back; learning what environments are best for me to function in
- choosing to learn from my mistakes and not become discouraged by them (I am a recovering perfectionist)
- making a conscious effort to consider my words carefully instead of just blurting out what I’m thinking; filtering thoughts/comments; saying things kindly and constructively
- figuring out what triggers my stress (which creates negative emotions) and what helps to relieve stress
- seeking a healthy balance in my life by eating healthy; exercising regularly; getting enough sleep; and having interests and healthy relationships outside work. I am not Superwoman and I’m not supposed to be!
- choosing to not be afraid of change, but instead adapting to changes as they come, realizing that they are a necessary part of life; being more flexible in my approach to things (“there’s more than one way to skin a cat” instead of “my way or the highway!”)
- choosing to be grateful and thankful for the good things in life and not focusing on the hard things; choosing to be happy and joyful, not allowing toxic or critical people to bring me down