A negative emotional state can have a serious impact on our health, happiness, and success throughout life. Without understanding our own feelings, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Getting in touch with your feelings is the key to self-awareness, allowing us to push ourselves and become the person that we want to be.
Emotional intelligence is an important part of personal growth. You can better understand your own feelings, giving you a better grasp of your thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. Here, we go over what emotional intelligence is and how it can affect our day-to-day lives.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The term “emotional intelligence was first coined in the 1960s by the professor of psychology and psychiatry Michael Beldoch in the mid-1960s. However, the idea has been around for much longer than just half a century or so. The first mentions of a similar concept known as “social intelligence” began to appear in literature around the 1930s. Since then, the skill has also been referred to as “emotional strength,” “cognitive empathy,” and “emotional empathy.”
No matter how you define it, emotional intelligence is, simply put, the point where your mind and your emotions meet. It allows you to analyze and compartmentalize how you feel at any given point to give you a better sense of self and help you to make sound decisions. Emotional intelligence is behind many crucial life skills, from communication to stress management.
Emotional intelligence isn’t quite as quantifiable as other forms of intelligence. While our knowledge and brainpower are generally measured by an intelligence quotient or IQ, emotional intelligence uses a metric known as an emotional intelligence quotient or EQ. There are multiple tests that measure for EQ, but in general, it’s not easy to come up with a concrete value.
There are many different tests used to look at emotional intelligence, and the most popular options can differ between companies or even countries. EQ is usually measured by evaluating different competencies, including:
- Self-Perception: This includes regard for yourself, awareness of your emotional state, and with some work, self-actualization.
- Self-Expression: Expressing yourself can include artistry, along with assertiveness and independence.
- Interpersonal Skills: Getting along with others can require you to understand your own senses of empathy and social responsibility.
- Decision Making: Problem-solving, impulse control, and reality testing are all an important part of developing a high EQ.
- Stress Management: Emotional intelligence can help you to regulate stress thanks to positive thinking, adaptability, and the ability to handle stress.
A high EQ correlates to improved skills in many areas of life, including communication, conflict resolution, resilience, and much more. Many experts believe it may be a better metric for predicting happiness and success later in life. It helps us understand both ourselves and others, leading to less stress and anxiety. Emotional intelligence gives us all of the tools that we need to overcome the obstacles that life throws at us and end up on top.
EQ isn’t necessarily at odds with our more traditional views on intelligence. A person can have both a high IQ and a high EQ. While both concepts are independent of each other, however, they’re also closely interconnected. Your rational side can help you to get in touch with your emotional side and understand that of others. It gives you the foundation you need to develop a healthy sense of your emotional self.
The Components of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a complex subject that’s not always easy to understand. Before setting out to improve your social-emotional skills, it’s important that you take a few moments to reflect on what makes up you and your psyche.
While it may seem a simple enough idea, for many of us, self-awareness doesn’t come easy. We don’t want to acknowledge our own shortcomings, much less deal with them. However, being self-aware is a key part of developing a sense of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness involves being able to recognize our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can tell us why we talk or behave in a certain way, even if we’re not consciously aware at the time. Being self-aware can also help you to focus more on the positive, avoiding emotions such as fear and anxiety.
Understanding our emotional state is the only way that we can work on changing it. By building self-awareness, you can root out persistent negative thoughts and work towards a better, more productive outlook on life.
While self-awareness helps us to understand our emotions, self-management can be used to change behavior. It helps us to control our feelings and avoid acting out on a raw impulse. Instead, self-management encourages us to sit back and reflect on our current situation. It allows us to evaluate a personal issue from every angle, including that of a third-party observer.
Our ability to regulate our base emotions is largely determined by our self-management skills. When you’re feeling angry, self-regulation is what helps you to stop, calm down, and deal with the situation using a more rational approach. Similarly, self-management can help you to avoid making rash decisions or promises when you’re feeling overly optimistic.
By mastering your self-management skills, you can help yourself to avoid conflict and make better decisions. It will also make it easier for you to take responsibility and accept the consequences of your actions, both positive and negative.
Motivation isn’t always easy to come by, especially when it comes from within. Many of us rely on external motivating factors to push us in life, such as societal expectations and material compensation. However, to take real steps towards self-improvement, you need to be able to find motivation within yourself, even on your darkest days.
As opposed to concentrating on praise and rewards from others, you should focus on motivating yourself through internal goals and self-gratification. This can give you the drive to follow your dreams regardless of whether you have access to outside help or not.
Self-gratification isn’t always a good thing, however. In fact, the ability to delay gratification is one of the most significant indicators of future success. Strong emotional intelligence skills can help you to turn self-gratification from a short-term reward into a long-term motivation strategy.
Driving yourself using internal factors is an important part of achieving your goals in life. Even when things don’t immediately go your way, you can find the strength to stay positive and persevere. For many successful individuals, a sense of self-motivation was key to helping them climb to where they are today.
In addition to understanding our own emotions, we also need to be able to understand the feelings of others at any other given point in time. Empathy is the ability to place yourself in another’s shoes so that you can understand and relate to them on an emotional level.
When you understand how others feel, you also understand how to communicate and respond in social situations. We all want our thoughts and opinions to be heard, considered, and above all, valued. Becoming familiar with other points of view can help you to form a deeper and more lasting connection with others, even if you don’t share the same beliefs or ideologies.
You can gain a keen grasp on the overall dynamic of any relationship by understanding how the other person feels about you, themselves, and life in general. By considering those feelings, you can avoid causing unnecessary conflict or strife in daily conversation. You can also strengthen relationships by letting your loved ones know that you understand and appreciate what they have to say.
Empathy is also a good tool for helping us predict how our actions will affect others. It gives us a reason to sit back and reflect before jumping headfirst into an emotional situation. By immersing ourselves in the world of those around us, we can bring more compassion into our lives and improve our relationship with everybody around us.
While empathy is important to developing a healthy relationship, it isn’t everything. Social skills go beyond the simple understanding of emotions, helping us to communicate and connect with others on a deeper level. Social skills are essential to every facet of life, from hanging out with the family to going to work each morning.
Social skills refer not only to our ability to understand emotions, but also to influence them. These skills encompass active listening, verbal and nonverbal communication, and much more. Using our own emotional self-regulation tools, we can help others to process their feelings and avoid acting on impulse.
Strong social skills also help in negotiation. It isn’t always easy to come up with a viable compromise for all parties in a dispute, especially if each side refuses to understand the other. When you know how another person thinks, you’re more equipped to offer compromises and solutions that work for everybody involved.
The Development of Emotional Intelligence
While many of us think of emotional intelligence as being innate, nobody is born with this skill. Anyone who’s dealt with children can tell you that they don’t yet possess the mechanisms they need to understand their own feelings, let alone those of another child.
Most of us build our EQ as children. At home, we first learn to comprehend our own feelings. Learning a language is a large part of this process, as it helps us to express and internalize what we’re thinking.
As we grow, we are exposed to more and more social situations. While they aren’t always comfortable, each hurdle that we cross teaches us an important lesson. The more we learn about life, the better equipped we are to handle complex emotional situations.
Emotional development often extends beyond our years in the schoolyard. Even teens can have a difficult time processing their feelings. It’s up to parents, teachers, and other mentors to lead the way.
Even those who never had the chance to develop a strong foundation of emotional intelligence can learn later in life. With time, work, and dedication, it’s possible for anyone to understand the complex landscape of human emotion, no matter what their age. Some of the best ways to develop your emotional intelligence skills include:
- Take the time to reflect on yourself and your behaviors
- Reconnect with nature
- Embrace your artistic side
- Spend quality time with your loved ones
- Meet new people who share your interests
- Engage in a work function
- Try something outside of your comfort zone
- Read emotionally charged material
No matter how you get in touch with your emotional self, it can help you to improve all aspects of your life. Whether you’re still in school or starting your career, it’s a good idea to build a strong foundation of emotional intelligence to help set the stage for the rest of your life.
The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence
While many people focus on traditional IQ when it comes to intelligence metrics, EQ can be equally, if not more, important. It’s the key to a balanced, stress-free life. While mastering your feelings might not be an easy task, doing so can help you to take control of your life on multiple levels.
Our mental and physical states are closely intertwined. When your body suffers, your mind does as well. Many times, stress is the main cause. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc on both your mind and body, leading to symptoms such as:
- Gaining excessive weight
- Acne as a teen or adult
- Rosacea flare-ups and flushing
- Thinner skin leading to lines and wrinkles
- Slow healing, including easy bruising
- Weakness and fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Irritability and difficulty concentrating
In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, many of us feel high levels of stress due to factors such as job, family, and socioeconomic status. With the ability to regulate your emotional state, you can work to stave off stress and keep yourself feeling at your best.
One of the best ways to look after yourself is to adopt healthy eating practices. Many of us eat too many processed foods, including processed sugars and carbohydrates. Things such as sugary sodas and junk food can end up stifling both your mental and physical growth.
When it comes to diet, it’s best to stick with lean proteins and whole grains. Fish and seafood are particularly good to include in your meal plan, as they contain the omega-3 fatty acids that we need for brain and spinal development.
Whole grains are also better to eat than carbs such as white rice and processed bread. If possible, it’s better to opt for whole-grain options. When it comes to rice, brown is always a better option than white.
Currently, one of the best meal plans is the Mediterranean diet. It emulates the diets of areas such as Spain and Greece, emphasizing healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals over-processed foods. The Mediterranean diet also promotes eating plenty of greens to get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you need to function at your peak.
In addition to eating right, it’s also important that you stay active. Many of us today lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, and this can take a toll on both physical and mental health. To lead an emotionally healthy lifestyle, we must be able to keep ourselves in peak physical function.
Most experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. This can include anything from swimming to house or garden work. For some, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity can help promote a strong mind and body. This can include anything from jogging to team sports.
Emotional intelligence can help to give us the strength that we need to care for ourselves. By taking the time to understand our own mental state, we learn how to adapt to new situations and live our best lives. It helps to cut back on the stress that can constantly undermine our efforts to succeed.
It can be a challenge to build a strong, healthy, and long-lasting relationship if you don’t know how to regulate your own feelings. Emotional intelligence can help us to strengthen our connection with others by giving us an insight into how those around us are feeling.
By better understanding and managing our emotions, we are better able to communicate our feelings in a more constructive way. We can understand the thoughts, concerns, and frustrations of others. By gaining a keener grasp on human emotion, we can improve our communication skills and build both new and long-lasting relations.
It isn’t always easy to work in a relational environment, however. You need to work to be consciously aware of the others around you. It also takes some practice to improve the communication skills that you need to understand, respond to, and negotiate with the feelings of others in your life.
A significant part of building successful relationships is knowing how to manage conflict. When dealing with other ideals and belief systems, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up head-to-head with another at some point in our lives.
We need to understand both our own feelings and those of others if we want to resolve conflict in a productive way. Emotional intelligence can help us to gain a deeper understanding of different points of view, even if we don’t agree with the mentality.
When you can place yourself in your opponent’s shoes, you can understand what it is that they want. Armed with this knowledge, it’s easier to come up with a compromise that will satisfy everyone. A strong sense of emotional intelligence is the key to productive and effective negotiation.
Developing a sense of emotional intelligence can help you to set reasonable goals and motivate yourself to achieve them. By embracing an internal source of motivation, you can avoid the temptation to procrastinate and focus on your dreams.
Self-motivation can also help to increase self-confidence. When you don’t believe in your own abilities, it’s difficult to act with courage and determination. By knowing what you want out of life, you can work towards being more decisive and believing in yourself.
Believing in yourself can also work wonders towards improving your self-esteem. Emotional intelligence can help you to recognize your strengths and act accordingly. Similarly, it also helps you to acknowledge your weaknesses and work towards making yourself a more well-rounded individual.
Learning to Lead
People tend to follow leaders who show an understanding of and respect for their individual beliefs. Such leaders typically exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence. They embrace diversity, acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and are able to inspire those around them.
What’s more, those with a high EQ are better equipped to handle conflict no matter where they find it. Knowing how to understand your own feelings and those of others can help to deescalate a potentially stressful argument, or even avoid it altogether.
A strong sense of emotional intelligence can also build stronger relationships in all areas of life, including managers and coworkers. By being able to understand and communicate with those around you, you can build the foundation of trust and mutual respect that’s crucial for a leader to succeed.
Adapting to Change
Whether it may be positive or negative, many of us balk in the face of change. We’re unwilling to upturn the status quo in favor of the unknown. While this may be beneficial in some circumstances, many times, resisting change just leads to stress.
Emotional intelligence can help you to take a step back and look at changes objectively. Instead of acting on a gut reaction, it allows you to think rationally about a new situation. This can help you to overcome obstacles without stress and maintain a more positive outlook on life.
Learning how to adapt to change can also make you more resilient. This means that even when you’re at your lowest point, you’re still able to pull yourself back up and succeed. Resilience is the key to overcoming hardship at any point in life.
Emotional Intelligence at Home
Being able to understand your own feelings and those of others can help you to avoid strife in the home. Emotional intelligence gives you the know-how to approach issues with your parents, spouse, siblings, or children in a calm and collected manner.
It can be difficult to think about our emotions rationally with people that we love and trust. However, it’s still important not to let your feelings get the better of you. By taking an emotionally mature approach to conflict in the home, you can resolve everything peacefully and avoid creating any unnecessary family feuds.
Emotional Intelligence at School
As toddlers grow, they slowly learn how to process their emotions. Once they hit school age, they’re expected to be able to interact with other children in a civil manner. However, even in kindergarten, many of us still don’t have the skills we need to navigate complex emotional situations.
It’s up to the authority figures in our lives to help build our emotional intelligence skills to the point where we can function as a part of society. Primary and secondary school can be challenging times for young minds, but interacting with peers is a key part of developing emotional intelligence.
Getting in touch with our feelings doesn’t necessarily stop in high school, however. Developing a sense of emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey that can extend well beyond college. You always have the opportunity to learn new things about yourself, others, and the world around you.
Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Emotional intelligence is one of the top drivers of success in the workplace. In fact, around 90% of top performers have a high EQ score. Emotional intelligence is not only the foundation of strong leadership skills but also encourages flexibility by helping you to adapt to change.
Even if you’re not in management, a high EQ can help you to succeed at work. By being able regulate your feelings and understand those of others, you can forge strong workplace relationships that may one day push you to the heights you wish to achieve.
Conversely, low emotional intelligence can lead to all sorts of issues in the workplace. If you don’t make an effort to understand and accept your coworkers, it may be seen as insensitive, aggressive, or at the worst, bullying. It’s important to show tact and restraint at all times in the workplace, which requires you to be able to understand both your own feelings and those of others.
The Bottom Line on Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence helps us to manage our feelings so that we don’t let them get in the way of our daily lives. It influences every facet of our being, helping us to live richer, more fulfilling lives. Without emotional intelligence, we can have trouble connecting with ourselves, others, and the world around us.
It can take a lifetime to understand our emotions. With practice and patience, however, we can develop a strong foundation of emotional intelligence that sets the stage for the rest of our lives. A strong sense of self can help us to succeed in all areas of life, from living at home to forging our career path.