“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” — Dr. Travis Bradberry
There was a point in my life where sadness prevailed. I moped around like a sad puppy, constantly focusing on the negativity surrounding me. My friends were that way too. And we’d often talk about the futility of trying to achieve anything worthwhile in life. It was an echo chamber of negativity. Clearly, our bad mindsets contributed to our lack of success and our chances of achieving our goals.
However, as odd as it might seem, I was completely unaware that the state and quality of my life was a direct reflection of my thoughts. I always felt depressed but it seemed like it was the product of some outside force. Not my own habitual patterns of thinking.In time, I discovered that the primary reason for this was a low EQ or “emotional intelligence”. I simply wasn’t sensitive to the decay resulting from my own thoughts. Nor could I see how they were affecting the people around me.
It wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me how crucial emotional intelligence is for our wellbeing. It determines our ability to succeed, influence others, and regulate our inner domains.Without it, we’re virtually blind to how other people perceive us, and to the effects those thoughts have on our feelings. Knowing the origins of our emotions and our behaviors gives us insights that we can act on. Our ability to communicate with others and grow as people is seriously impaired with the self-awareness that a high EQ can give us.
What is EQ?
Emotional intelligence was first proposed by Michael Beldoch in 1964, but the idea wasn’t popularized until the release of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995.
EQ is our ability to read other people, communicate, empathize and understand our own emotions and how they affect those around us. It’s a toolbox which gives us different coping mechanisms and methods for creating social connections.
EQ is made up of these 5 components:
- Self-awareness – The ability to know your own feelings, what causes them and how your feelings and actions affect other people.
- Self-regulation – Self-regulation helps us control our impulses.
- Motivation – The drive to do more and set quality standards.
- Empathy – Being able to put ourselves in the shoes of another person so that we can understand where they’re coming from.
- Social skills – The technical aspects of communication, body language, and etiquette that allow us to navigate the social landscape.
Signs of a low EQ
There are a number of signs related to having a low EQ. A high EQ can reduce the friction between people with better quality communication, emotional control and understanding. Some signs can include:
Gets stressed easily
When tension starts rising, it’s important to be able to interrupt the cycle. Low self-awareness prevents people from being able to accurately monitor their feelings and intervene when stressed.
Lack of assertiveness
A lack of assertiveness means not being able to be direct about what we want, or set boundaries. It can often be expressed as passive aggressiveness because of the frustration involved from suppressing our true feelings.
Unable to accurately label emotions
Not being able to label emotions leaves less room for self expression. If we have a limited vocabulary to express ourselves it limits how many ways we have to resolve an issue.
Holds onto grudges or bad experiences and mistakes
Our ability to learn from mistakes and bad experiences can mean the difference between growing and being stuck in the past. A low EQ will leaves little room to learn from experiences because negative emotions will cloud our perspective.
Always feel attacked or misunderstood
Misunderstandings are synonymous with poor communication skills. This can be isolating and make people feel like everyone is out to get them.
Allow people or situations to trigger bad emotions
Not understanding our emotions, it’s hard to avoid emotional triggers. People with low EQ’s find themselves involved in dramas or angry about things they have no control over on a regular basis.
Lack of self-regulation
People with a low EQ are more prone to blowing up when triggered. This can lead to arguments which further create misunderstandings and a blocks in communication.
Doesn’t take responsibility for emotions, blames others
People with a low EQ will blame others for their feelings and never take personal responsibility.
How to develop a higher EQ
Luckily, unlike a person’s IQ, emotional intelligence is highly malleable and can be improved with conditioning. A lot of it comes down to paying attention to our outer and inner worlds so that we can learn to recognize our feelings and those of other people.
Pay attention to your feelings
What exactly is causing your negative emotions? Perhaps he/she was insensitive, but what was the specific reason that it caused tension? Understanding our triggers can help us avoid situations that aren’t good for us, or to deal with them so that they’re no longer a threat.
On the same token, learning what makes us happy can also be liberating. We can be proactive in creating the right emotions for more enjoyable day’s, work, and social experiences. Understanding our feelings gives us control so that we’re not emotional puppets on a string.
Pause before reacting
Probably all of us have said things we’ve regretted at some time. Just look online in the comments sections of YouTube or on Facebook and we can see an unlimited variety of impulsive, emotionally charged comments.
It doesn’t just happen online of course. By pausing before replying to that text, sending an email, or responding face to face, we can let our mind fully comprehend what we’ve just heard or read, and respond appropriately without emotional baggage.
Listen instead of waiting to speak
It’s common for people to stand there bobbing their heads, simulating listening, but for many it’s just a formality before being able to speak. This can make the people we talk to feel unheard and also cause misunderstandings. It’s a bad recipe for our friendships, romantic relationships and careers.
To counteract this bad habit, forget what’s on your mind and listen intently to the other person. Pay attention to the main points then repeat back to them in your own words. By using your own words you’ll understand better, and repeating it to them allows for corrections to be made. I like to use what I call the “snowball technique” because it helps create deeper conversations and connections.
Pay attention to your body language
What did your body do when you had that thought or emotion? Did your fist clench or shoulders tighten up? Maybe you smiled or took a deep relaxing breath. Either way, by understanding how our body language reacts to different emotions we can better understand and guide how we feel.
Body language is a powerful way to change a negative state to a positive one simply by taking on a confident posture. Even a smile when we’re down can tell the brain that something good is happening, and that affects what we feel inside.
Observe other people’s reactions
Just as observing ourselves will make us sensitive to our feelings, observing other people will help us understand theirs. It can give us insights into our own behaviors too because we can catch negative patterns which are off putting and correct them.
Pay attention to how people react when you use a certain tone, facial expression or posture.
5 Ways EQ determines your ability to succeed
“No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.” – Jack Welch
Self-awareness is crucial for success in our business and personal lives. It’s hard to really give our best self when we don’t know how to make our best self come out. Otherwise, we’re just waiting for good luck or “the right mood” to strike. This is unreliable at best.
Being aware of our feelings and how to regulate them helps us reach peak performance levels when we most need them.
To get performance on demand, create a ritual which primes your mind. This can be a morning routine to start the day, a social routine to overcome shyness, or a warm up which makes you ready to workout. It’s best to keep your ritual as simple as possible so that it’s easy to execute. Complicated rituals are less likely to be done and are less motivating.
Repeat the same patterns every time to get you into state. Your mind will recognize this ritual and adjust your state to perform. Minimal effort will be required once it’s a habit.
This is where we control our behaviors and prevent emotional outburst when things are going badly. Having a high level of self-regulation helps us stay calm and cool under pressure. Especially when we’re trying to do something big, pressure and frustration can build up. If it gets to a boiling point it can derail our efforts.
Develop your self-regulation by “checking in” with yourself when you feel stress rising. Take a break (if possible) and focus on your breathing to rein in the tension. A few moments of self-reflection can often be enough to take control back.
Not only effective for understanding other people, but a great skill which can help us negotiate better. By putting ourselves in another person’s position and seeing through their eyes, we can understand what’s driving them and any grievances.
These are skills which help us to make connections, maintain relationships, negotiate, make peace, create attraction, make friends and network. Social skills give us different tools which can influence conversations, like body language, eye contact, voice tonality, and the words we use.
High stress levels prevent us from thinking clearly and lower performance levels at work. Having a high EQ give us the tools to interrupt stress patterns and function at higher levels. By reducing our own stress levels we reduce stress for those around us. This is valuable in a team setting where people are working closely together. It’s demotivating to be around others when they’re stressed or lacking optimism.
“One of the things that happens when you’re under stress is you’re not paying attention to your impact on other people. Stress impacts your ability to do well at work and can impact the way you react to other people around you such as your supervisors.” – Steven Stein