Emotional Intelligence (also called EQ) is a hot-button topic right now. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to empathize with others, read the room, and also be in touch with your own emotions. I’m going to talk about why Emotional Intelligence is so important, and how you can improve your EQ to be more successful.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
When you walk into a room, can you “read” the room? Can you pick up on social cues from others? Are you observant? Can you imagine what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes (empathize)? Do you understand what emotions you feel and why? If you can answer yes to these questions, you probably have high EQ.
EQ is the ability to understand and perceive others’ feelings and emotions. It’s also the ability to understand and express your own feelings. It’s the ability to see what people are communicating to you, even if they don’t verbalize it. It’s being able to cooperatively work with many different types of people, because you can relate to them on different levels.
There are 5 different categories of Emotional Intelligence:
- Self-awareness-When you experience emotions, can you recognize what you feel and why?
- Self-regulation-When you experience an emotion, do you know how to regulate it? Are you experienced in using coping mechanisms to help deal with your emotions?
- Motivation-Do you have ambition to achieve your goals? When you experience negative thoughts or emotions can you re-frame them into something more positive?
- Empathy-Can you put yourself in other’s shoes? Do you understand non-verbal cues?
- Social skills-Do you have good “people skills”? Are you good at communication, collaborating, connecting, and conflict resolution?
Why is it Important?
Research shows that your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important than your actual IQ. Why is this? Your IQ is a set number. The intelligence you are born with, is probably what you will have for the remainder of your life. According to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Intelligence is your ability to learn, and it’s the same at age 15 as it is at age 50.” On the other hand, EQ can be taught and you can work towards improvement. Studies show that individuals with high EQ outperform those with high IQ consistently.
EQ has a direct link to success both personally and professionally. The more Emotionally Intelligent you are, the more successful you may be. This is because you understand people and relationships. Some of the most successful CEO’s many not be the smartest person at the company, but rather the one with the highest EQ. According to TalentSmart, 90% of top performers in the workplace have high EQ.
EQ is also incredibly important in personal relationships. When looking at a marriage or romantic relationship, it’s important for both individuals to communicate, empathize, and validate. When one or both partners struggle with EQ, it can cause a lot of miscommunication, needs going unmet, and invalidation of feelings.
EQ can also be important in friendships and work relationships. Think about some of your closest friends and why you enjoy having them in your life. Is it because they have awareness of how you are and what you need? Also, think about some of your favorite co-workers. Are they good at maintaining positive relationships with most people in the company? It’s probably because they have good EQ.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
There are many ways to improve EQ. First of all, it’s important for you to be able to reflect on your own emotions. A few times a day, check in with yourself and ask “How am I feeling?” From there, it’s important to see if you can trace your steps back to determine why you feel that way. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, it may be because you were in bad traffic on your way to work. Maybe you feel sad because a friend is going through a rough time. You might be excited about a dinner date this evening. Maybe you’re angry because of a meeting with your boss that didn’t go well.
Another way to improve EQ is to learn ways to cope with your emotions. If you struggle to self-soothe or utilize positive self-talk, it’s easy for your emotions to control you. Learn some coping strategies, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or relaxation techniques.
Re-framing negative thoughts is another way to increase EQ. When you experience something negative, it’s important to use positive self-talk and work to approach it differently. People who have a lot of negative self-talk may struggle with motivation and follow-through.
Another way to increase EQ is to work on empathy. When you hear that someone is going through a tough time, can you imagine how they feel? Sometimes it’s helpful to apply their situation to your life, in order to gain insight. For example, let’s say a friend loses their job and they are stressed. Imagine how it might feel if you lost your job. You might feel overwhelmed, money stress, pressure, and anxious. You might feel inadequate or a like a failure. Maybe you feel worried about the future and hurried to find another job. You now know what your friend is probably going through. When they share with you, you will be able to validate how they feel, and encourage them.
Finally, it’s important to work on your “people skills” in order to improve EQ. Simple things like remembering others’ birthdays, calling someone by their first name, or knowing their favorite candy bar goes a long way. Work on increasing communication and doing it well. In the workplace, it’s important to work well with others and be a team player. If there is conflict, you need to work to find a resolution and/or compromise with the others involved. Also, observe people and their behavior. You can learn a lot by watching and listening to others.
If you are interested in learning more about Emotional Intelligence, I would recommend reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry, or Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
If you feel your Emotional Intelligence may be holding you back both personally and professionally, please reach out for help! Therapy can help you assess areas you are struggling with and set goals for growth.
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.
Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.