Increase Your EQ: The Secret Skills of Emotional Intelligence

“If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, 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

What is Emotional Intelligence? The Oxford dictionary says it is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

Many know it as “common sense” or an easy going ability to relate to others and to apply those skills to everyday tasks. The important bit is that having emotional intelligence matters. The authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, did their own research on the effects of emotional intelligence (which they dub EQ) on success in the workplace. They found people with high EQ scores made an average of $29,000 more each year and they also attributed EQ to having a 58% influence over job performance.

Scientists have also weighed in on the effects of EQ.  In fact, Yale has a Center for Emotional Intelligence and provides an overview of the field in their publication, The Science of Emotional Intelligence. While there are some personality traits seen among those with EQ -- including “openess to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism” --  the Yale scientists found that it’s more so a set of skills than a set of personality traits.  Those skills are: “a set of four related abilities: perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions.”

Take perceiving. In context, this means a more granular level of self awareness about your own emotions, such as “I am angry and guilty, but mostly because I am sad,” versus, “I feel bad.” Furthermore, that level of granularity can then be applied towards perceiving the emotions and behavior of others, such as “Maybe she yelled today because her dog died last week. I bet she’s sad and stressed.”

But what most people want to know, when they hear that EQ can improve their lives, is whether or not emotional intelligence is innate or learned. So, can you improve your emotional intelligence? The Harvard Business Review asks and answers this question in this article, and the answer is as one might expect -- you can improve it, but will you really? Afterall, those not interested in emotional intelligence may be the same folks not giving emotional awareness much thought.

Luckily it does improve naturally as we get older and see and learn more about life. And for those truly committed, EQ coaching does show a positive result. A study out of Belgium found, “Results reveal that the level of emotional competencies increased significantly in the intervention group in contrast with the control group. This increase resulted in lower cortisol secretion, enhanced subjective and physical well-being, as well as improved quality of social and marital relationships in the intervention group.”

So what are the basic tenets of EQ coaching? There are lots of exercises and training tips, but at it’s core the coaching works to build these 5 skills:

Self Awareness: You must learn to understand your feelings and subsequent behaviors. Why do you do what you do? Why do you care about the things you value? What are your core beliefs and how do they influence your negative and positive emotions?

Self Control: Once aware, you must learn mastery over the behaviors emotions cause. For example, when you experience a negative emotion, do you let it all hang out or do you have the ability to hold an emotion and process it.  Say, if you are anxious or angry about something, must you immediately “vent” to feel better and move on in your day? Or can you work through it on your own and talk about it later with a less immediate need or perspective?

Empathy: Now you have to move these skills beyond you. Can you perceive how other’s feel?  It’s about walking their shoes, which ultimately means applying a self awareness about your own values onto others and imagining their viewpoint. It is both a cognitive and an emotional connection.  It means asking and understanding, “What do they value and how is that affecting their emotions and behaviors in any given circumstance?”

Social Bonding: If you have the perception, awareness, empathy and control, then you can use these skills to better connect with others. Once you can genuinely express and understand emotion, you will be better at managing conflict, engaging in leadership, building personal relationships and social networks.

Vision: This is where EQ really hits the jackpot. If each of the above areas is whirring along nicely, then it’s easier to have and enact a vision of your place in the world. Otherwise known as goal setting and accomplishment, many of the above skills are key in making sure you don’t derail your own efforts and find the social support you need to accomplish your dreams. If you have self awareness of your values, can exercise self control and make friends and influence people, you are well on your way to living a more fulfilling life.  

Rocky Lewis
Rocky Lewis