We hear the term ‘emotional intelligence’, or ‘EI’, frequently these days. But what exactly is emotional intelligence and how do we know if we have it?
The general definition is given as, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
So much importance is given to emotional intelligence that companies often hire staff based on the results of an EI test. One organization found its sales increased significantly and staff turnover decreased, as employees with high EI scores tend to be ambitious and, at the same time, satisfied with their career progress. As a result, they are more loyal and hard-working.
You’re thinking, “Well, I am emotionally intelligent as all that applies to me.” And that may be so, however, we’re not all as EI as we’d like to think we are. Psycologist, Daniel Goleman, in this Ted Talk, tells of a study that was carried out on a group of divinity students at Princeton Theological Seminary – they were asked to prepare a sermon to be delivered to an audience. Half of them were given the topic of the Good Samaritan; the other half were allocated random biblical topics. They were told that they’d have to give their talks at a nearby building and their ‘congregation’ would be waiting for them. Individually they made their way from class to the other building. Each of them encountered a man bent over, moaning and clutching his abdomen as if in pain. You would think that the students who’d worked on the Good Samaritan sermon in particular would all stop to offer help, wouldn’t you? No. Only about half of all the students bothered to inquire if the man needed assistance. The rest continued on their way.
Apparently, many of us will go out of our way to offer help… but if we are running late, we won’t. Another factor in whether we help another is if we even notice them in the first place. We are often so engrossed in our own inner world, or our smart phones, that we don’t see other people. We make ourselves into small fortresses. A willingness to engage and interact with others is a major marker of emotional intelligence.
The Emotional Intelligence Framework
Goleman lists five markers of emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness. Emotionally intelligent people know themselves well. They are aware when they are responding emotionally and therefore are able to control those emotions. They also understand their own strengths and weaknesses. EI people can accept criticism and learn from it.
- Self-regulation. This follows on from self-awareness. Self-regulation means that the EI person doesn’t act on impulse or on feeling alone. They take the time to weigh up their course of action. This means they are able to make calm, considered decisions. They have the capacity to say ‘no’.
- Motivation. People with high EI are self-motivated. They don’t look for immediate gratification. They know that good things come to those who have the patience to wait. They operate with an eye on the future and are willing to work hard for success.
- Empathy. This quality is key to emotional intelligence. Empathic people are able to put themselves in the shoes of others. They listen rather than judge. They give the benefit of the doubt. They connect with the other person on an emotional level.
- Social skills. An emotionally intelligent person gives their full attention to the one they are with. They know when to be silent, when to listen and when to speak. They instinctively understand when the other person wants advice and when they just need someone to listen.
These five qualities make it easy to like an emotionally intelligent person. They are relaxing to be around because they think before they speak and act. They do not try to manipulate others. They seem to understand what their companions need from a friend. They move calmly through chaos.
Is Emotional Intelligence Linked to IQ?
Not in the least. Many serial killers, sociopaths and very successful people are high on IQ but low on emotional intelligence. Some would argue that emotional intelligence is a hindrance to certain kinds of success.
Emotional Intelligence and Relationships
It’s not surprising that people with high EI are successful in their personal relationships. Their ability to pay attention, to listen and empathize make them ideal partners. Occasionally they may struggle with someone who values spontaneity and emotional drama above calm reassurance.
Emotional Intelligence and Intuition
Psychics and empaths are more effective when they employ their emotional intelligence. They are able to know what a client needs from them. It’s easy to deliver a message, but it makes sense to be willing to learn how to present it in a way that benefits the seeker and causes the least amount of distress. An emotionally intelligent psychic reader will allow space and time for their client to assimilate what they are hearing.
Can Emotional Intelligence be Learned?
It is certainly possible to increase your emotional intelligence. It requires conscious effort to do so. Explore the five qualities of EI listed above in depth then apply the following strategies:
- Self-observation. Use a journal to make notes of your responses to other people. Note whether you paid attention to what they said. Can you remember what they spoke about? Ask yourself if you reacted to people from your own perspective, or whether you attempted to understand the situation from their viewpoint.
- Observe others. Listen to the tone of their voice and watch their body language. An important aspect of EI is to observe facial expressions, especially the fleeting ones. A person’s face gives away a lot just before they compose their expression.
- Put the focus on others. Let other people speak. Offer praise where it’s due. Don’t try to steal the limelight.
- Do an honest self-evaluation. You know you are not perfect, so list your weakness. Own them. If you are able to look your faults full in the face, you will begin to adjust your behavior and attitudes.
- Become mindful. People who embrace mindfulness and live in the moment are far likely to have a higher level of emotional intelligence.
- Notice when you fly off the handle. What can you do to calm yourself A. when in the throws of an anger tantrum and B. before it happens? Do the same for stress and anxiety.
- Take responsibility for your actions. If you are willing to be accountable for your decisions and behavior, you will be able to accept criticism and make improvements.