Brain Hacks

Does Your Emotional Intelligence Need a Boost?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), previously an overlooked element in the confines of intelligence, is gaining some traction in recent years. The term was first coined in 1985 and became a more mainstream term in the mid 90s. Although we don’t tend to think of those with high EQs as “geniuses” like we do with high IQ groups like Mensa, a person with high EQ will stand out in a powerful way – even if you can’t put your finger on why. Some researchers now suggest that emotional intelligence is more crucial than IQ for success, and when considering how socialization dominates most of our time, it’s hard to dispute.

Emotional Intelligence means expressing and controlling personal emotions, and interpreting the emotions of others accurately. It deals with the social realm, including the interpretation of things like facial expression and body language. Asperger’s syndrome is known to cause struggle in these areas, but by no means is this the only thing that can cause problems.

We All Know That Guy/Girl

The notion of high emotional intelligence may seem like a no brainer to some people. Of course, you know that angry people should not be provoked, sad people should be comforted, and busy people do not have time to hear your life story. You know not to start crying about your lost pet at a job interview. But while all this may seem like common sense, the degree to which people embrace their EQ varies. I’m sure you can think of at least one person in your life who just doesn’t “take a hint.” You desperately want to be left alone, while they yammer on about something that doesn’t even concern you. You act disinterested. How do they not get it?

On the other hand, maybe you’ve been at a party in a very awkward or uncomfortable situation, and a friend swoops in at just the right time, with just the right joke or conversation starter to give everyone a giant sigh of relief? That person is your EQ Mister Miyagi. Learn from them.

So why are some better than others in the emotional intelligence spectrum? Those who are EQ superstars are usually in touch with their own emotions. They pay attention to them, they try to understand, and they act reasonably based on their emotions. When someone is accustomed to doing this, they can often sense the emotions of others and come to the rescue when you need them (or back off without you having to tell them). It’s simply a matter of awareness: paying attention to changes in expression, noticing when others act out of character. These simple behaviors can make or break your emotional intelligence.

So how do you spot a low EQ-er? Generally, low EQ comes off as rudeness or aloofness: The guy who forgets his girlfriend’s birthday every year, the mom who doesn’t pay attention when her kids need to talk. To the outsider, it may seem obvious, and like that person just doesn’t care. To some, emotional intelligence will come naturally, while for others it may take some extra effort.

Self Assessment

So how do you know if your EQ could use a boost? Asking yourself the following questions will help clarify what it means to have “high” EQ:

  • Are people often upset with me for not being aware of how they feel?
  • Am I often surprised by the reactions of my friends and family?
  • Do I ever feel strong emotions without being able to pinpoint why they are there?
  • Do I manage my emotions well? (Managing doesn’t mean suppressing, ignoring, or constantly expressing)
  • In difficult situations, do I act to put others at ease?

For someone on their EQ game, the first 3 questions would warrant a “no,” and the last 2, a “yes.”

The Implications

So why should one worry about his or her level of emotional intelligence, and how does it relate to real world success? For one, most things worth accomplishing require the participation of others. Marriage, childbearing, working, volunteering, teaching, starting a business, building friendships, etc. Just about all of the primary things we strive for require others in order for them to be meaningful. Would you look forward to your wedding day if you had to do it alone? Would you want a job at X big company if no one else even worked there? Thus, it’s absolutely necessary that our EQ skills be at least decent.

Interacting with others while having a low EQ could mean misunderstandings, hurt feelings, lost opportunities, and barriers to closeness. In business, our EQ skills could mean the difference between a new career, a raise, or a promotion. The quality of your people management skills greatly relates to EQ. This is a common problem in the workplace, addressed perfectly in How to Deal with a Boss with Zero Emotional Intelligence. In relationships, low EQ people might push others away without realizing, or confuse, neglect, and burden others. Thus, low EQ could become a barrier to just about anything you are pursuing, as long as your feelings and others’ feelings are involved.

Some say EQ is the most crucial factor for overall success in life. However, an early EQ researcher John D. Mayer disagreed, saying that while there is no evidence EQ is the number one factor for achievement, “EQ is quite important: It expands our notions of intelligence, it helps us predict important life outcomes, and it can be used to help people find the right work and relationships for themselves.”

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