When I think of the word “intelligence,” there are many things that immediately come to mind, like book smarts and logic. One that really sticks out in my mind and didn’t garner much attention until recently is emotional intelligence. As you can pretty much guess, emotional intelligence is about your emotions and the emotions of others – how you perceive emotions and how that perception affects your thinking. For years, research into intelligence mainly focused on the traditional sense of the word – the logic and the ability to figure out problems. While it is important to understand that version of intelligence, it is perhaps even more important to understand emotional intelligence and the way it fits into the context of society.
For some time, people believed that being highly intelligent translated into being successful. The people with the most brainpower would be making a lot of money, working in top-level positions, and feeling accomplished. As it turns out, research revealed that people with average IQs were actually doing better than people with the highest IQs in a majority of cases, about 70% of the time (1). This stood at odds with the prevailing idea that IQ was the main determinant of a person’s success. If it wasn’t intelligence in the traditional sense that led to success, then what else could it be? So people started to look for other forms of intelligence and capability that could have an impact on the way people performed.
In the past, some people thought that our emotions and our intelligence were two separate entities. If there’s anything that people have learned by now, it’s that things are more connected than you would think. Your emotions affect your thoughts and behavior, just like your thoughts and behavior affect your emotions (2). Two scholars who explored this connection between our feelings and our behavior were John Mayer and Peter Salovey. They posited that emotional intelligence (EQ) is made up of four distinct parts: perception of emotion, use of emotion to facilitate thought, understanding of emotion, and management of emotion. By using all these factors, people could learn to deal effectively with the unpleasant feelings they may face and to build on their positive emotions. Emotional intelligence helps them navigate stressful situation with their romantic and platonic relationships (3). “It is about being smart with your feelings,” as Robin Stern, the associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, put it (2).
A big shift took place before the beginning of the 21st century when, in 1995, Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ. The book drew so much attention from the public that it went on to become a best seller. Goleman brought emotional intelligence into the spotlight, where it quickly became a popular topic of discussion. He had spent time researching into the idea and was intrigued by the information that scholars like Mayer and Salovey had discovered. In his model, he stated that there were five components to EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and empathy (4). It explained that developing your EQ allowed you to properly label your emotions and learn how to express them well. If you understand how your emotions affect you, you can better interact and relate with other people, as well as with yourself (2).
It appears that developing your emotional intelligence may have far-reaching benefits. Research has shown that EQ may affect your health, personal growth, success, and other aspects of your life (2). For people with higher EQ test scores, they were more likely to believe that they had supportive relationships in their lives. EQ also positively influenced how people were able to handle conflict in their lives and how they interacted with colleagues at work (3). This may have been due to their abilities to view situations from different perspective and to push through challenges in order to achieve their goals (2). In addition, emotionally intelligent people tend to be more successful than those with lower EQ since they are more likely to be empathetic and get along well with others (4). People with high EQ are likely to make about $29,000 more on average per year than those with low EQ (1). In the past, people would try to keep their emotions to a minimum while at work and refrained from talking about them. But now, employees allow emotions to show in the workplace and understand that they can benefit from doing so. The workplace has changed dramatically over the past few decades or so, with people now working more in teams and collaborating.
The great thing about emotional intelligence is that it is flexible and gets better with practice. Even if you aren’t born with a high level of EQ, you can take steps towards improving and using it (4). One of the best things you can do to improve is to reflect on your emotions. Think about how different situations make you feel and what your typical responses are. If you understand a bit of how your mind works, you can prepare for similar situations in the future. You can also try asking others for advice and input on how to deal with certain issues and conversations. Overall, try to listen, observe, and put into practice.
1. Bradberry, T. (2014). Emotional Intelligence – EQ. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/01/09/emotional-intelligence/#78ced3361ac0
2. Gabriel, E. (2018). Understanding emotional intelligence and its effects on your life. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/11/health/improve-emotional-intelligence/index.html
3. Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2011). Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Personal, Social, Academic, and Workplace Success. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 5/1: 88–103, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00334.x. Retrieved from http://ei.yale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/pub184_Brackett_Rivers_Salovey_2011_Compass-1.pdf
4. Duggal, N. (2019). Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Why You Need It, How to Get It. Retrieved from https://www.simplilearn.com/emotional-intelligence-what-why-and-how-article
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