What exactly is emotional intelligence (EQ)? How can you determine if you have those characteristics? And why is it so important?
You’ve probably heard the term “emotional intelligence.” It’s come into vogue in recent years, with numerous books being written about the subject. Businesses are increasingly focusing on emotional intelligence and researchers are increasingly learning its importance.
What is emotional intelligence?
The term “emotional intelligence” (EI or EQ) was coined by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. Author Dan Goleman made the term mainstream in his book “Emotional Intelligence.”
Typically, EQ includes two related, but distinct items:
- The ability to recognise, understand and manage your own emotions
- The ability to recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others
The 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is characterised by 5 distinct characteristics:
1. Self awareness
Those with high EQ are able to recognize emotions in the moment. One of the keys to developing EQ is being aware of feelings, evaluating those feelings and then managing them.
2. Self regulation
Everyone knows that emotions come quickly and with force. It’s rare that you have control over when we are hit by an emotional wave. Even the slightest thing can trigger something deep within you. However, if you have a high EQ, you can control how long that negative experience lasts.
It’s very difficult to be motivated if you always have a negative attitude. Those who are full of negativity don’t often achieve their goals. Those with a high EQ are able to move toward a consistently positive attitude by thinking more positively and being aware of negative thoughts.
Empathy is the ability to recognise how others are feeling. This is essential for functioning well in society and excelling in your career. A person without empathy will end up regularly insulting and offending people, while a person with a high EQ will be able to understand what a person is feeling and then treat them accordingly.
5. Social skills
The final characteristic of EQ is having and developing excellent interpersonal skills. It used to be that access to the greatest amount of information would allow you to succeed, but now that everyone has immediate access to knowledge, people skills are more important than ever. Those with a high EQ are able to wisely and skillfully navigate the various relationships that fill their lives.
How can you tell if you have high EQ?
There are various tests that can help you identify your emotional intelligence, such as the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 test. However, these tests have their limitations in that EQ is intangible, making it difficult to precisely measure.
There are a number of markers that accompany those with a high emotional intelligence.
Some of those markers are:
A curiousity about people
Curiosity comes from empathy, which is one of the most significant elements of EQ. If you are curious about people, you will also care about what they feel and how they struggle.
On the flip side, those with a low EQ don’t have any interest in others. They aren’t interested in what others think or feel. Their primary focus is on themselves.
A thorough emotional vocabulary
Remember, EQ is the ability to identify and understand emotions. Research done by Travis Bradberry, who is the author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” suggests that only about 36 per cent of people have this ability.
This is partially due to an inadequate emotional vocabulary that prevents people from properly identifying what they’re feeling. Every negative feeling is simply called, “Bad,” and every positive feeling is, “Good.”
However, those with high EQ can specifically name their emotions, which then allows them to deal with them in the most effective way.
A holistic understanding of themselves
If you have high emotional intelligence, you have a holistic understanding of yourself that goes beyond just feelings. You know what you’re good at and what you’re not. You know the people and situations that frustrate you. You also understand how to avoid or effectively navigate situations that will hurt you emotionally.
If you have a high EQ, you can tap into your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Not easily offended
Emotional intelligence involves a thorough knowledge of yourself and the ability to control your emotions. Combined, this makes you difficult to offend. You are confident in who you are and are able to understand when someone is simply making a joke versus when they are degrading you. You don’t let people easily get under your skin.
An ability to judge character
EQ gives you the ability to read and understand people. You are in tune with their emotions, which then allows you to more readily understand their actions. You can tell the difference between someone having a bad day and someone who is a bad apple. The more you develop your EQ, the more skilled you become at making character assessments about people.
Not haunted by the past
A low EQ makes it difficult to manage emotions when they appear unexpectedly. When a past mistake comes to mind, it’s easy to get dragged down into discouragement and despair.
If you have a high EQ, you are able to think about past mistakes without letting the associated emotions overwhelm you.
Giving without expecting
Those with a high EQ are able to give without expecting anything back. Because you are constantly in tune with the emotions of others, you know the effect that a gift will have on someone. When someone needs something, you want to meet that need.
This giving attitude allows emotionally strong people to build deep relationships with other people.
An ability to handle toxic people
Toxic, difficult people will often draw a reaction out of you. You feel surges of negative emotions when you are around them and often lash out, which then hurts both you and them. Lashing out also fuels their toxic behavior even more.
If you have a high EQ, however, you can keep your emotions in check when dealing with a difficult person. You don’t allow your anger to boil over. You’re able to see multiple perspectives, calmly.
“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.”
Janae Ernst (M.S. ’17) serves as the marketing communications coordinator for Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies. This article was orginally published on the Cornerstone University blog.