What is Emotional Intelligence and How to Boost It?
Understanding Emotional Intelligence
Not all success depends on and can be predicted based on a single traditional metric that determines one’s aptitude—the intelligence quotient (IQ). One decisive factor for doing well in life—for having both personal and professional success—is “a different way of being smart”, i.e. having an “emotional intelligence.” Individuals who are deficient in this area struggle in their relationships both in office and at home, suffer from anger, frustration and anxiety, and may seriously compromise their physical health.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive (recognize and identify), evaluate (analyze and understand) and control (manage or influence) emotions—both our own, as well as those of others. To have a high emotional intelligence quotient means to be agile in picking up on clues that reveal both your own emotional state of being, as well as the emotional climate in the room—the emotions of the other person, or those of a group of people you are talking to, working with or living with.
The term “emotional intelligence” became widely popular in 1995, when the author and science journalist Daniel Goleman published his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ?”. The idea can be traced back to the American psychologist Abraham Maslow who, in the 1950s wrote about Emotional Strength, a concept which subsequently evolved into the term Emotional Intelligence through the work of several other scientists.
The Five Cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman developed a model/framework that defines the five key constituents of an emotionally intelligent individual. Those are:
- Self-Awareness—All high-EQ individuals are self-aware, introspective, conscious of their inner state of being, and able to recognize and honestly acknowledge to themselves how they feel. They regularly monitor their emotions and, with time, become very apt at recognizing any emerging emotional pattern and pin it down to the corresponding triggers. Self-aware people are patient with their emotions, and aware of how those emotions affect them and others around them. As a result, they know well their strengths and weaknesses, have higher degree of self-confidence, and trust their intuition.
- Self-Regulation—The second cornerstone of high emotional intelligence is the ability to control impulsiveness. This means an ability to prevent emotional outbursts when the situation is highly charged, to stop yourself from saying things in anger which you might later regret for, or to avoid making rushed and impulsive decisions. Such individuals process a high degree of flexibility, adaptiveness, resilience, but also a high degree of conscientiousness and a courage to say “no” when the situation demands.
- Motivation—High-EQ individuals are highly self-motivated or self-driven, willing to work hard toward achieving their goals, willing to accept challenges and surpass targets, and they display success in whatever they do. They often possess intrinsic motivation, which means that they may have passion for a particular activity or goal which is not necessarily rewarded with external recognitions, be it financial or professional. They are capable of entering a state of “flow” and having peak experiences.
- Empathy—High EQ goes hand-in-hand with the ability to understand and value the feelings, circumstances, needs and opinions of other people. High-EQ individuals are not judgmental and prone to quick stereotyping of other people and situations. Empathy leads to better communication, conflict prevention and resolution, ability to persuade and reach a consensus and, in general, more harmonious relationships.
- Social Skills—Another cornerstone of emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively interact with others—to be a team player, to network, establish useful partnerships. Having effective social skills means to consider both your own emotions and the emotions of others in the group, and leverage synergies to build something greater than the simple sum of the individual contributions.
How to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence?
Just like the IQ (intelligence quotient) can be determined through suitable IQ tests which measure the individual’s reasoning and problem-solving abilities, the EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) can also be measured though various assessment tools. Although the accuracy of the results obtained through an EQ test has sometimes been disputed, those test do provide at least an indication of one’s interpersonal skills.
And just like the IQ can be raised through well-calibrated brain-training activities and exercises, EQ is also malleable, and can be significantly improved.
Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence Using the Five-Step R.U.L.E.R. System
The psychologist Marc Brackett, the founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, has developed a system for learning “emotional skills,” known under the acronym R.U.L.E.R., and which has been effectively tested among educators and students in 2,000 schools around the world. The R.U.L.E.R. systems consists of the following five steps (or five skills):
- R (Recognize)—Recognize your emotions rather than ignoring or suppressing them. Self-evaluate the effect that emotion has on you, by asking yourself how pleasant it is, and how much energy is contained in that particular emotion. For example, depression is low in both energy and pleasantness, while joy is high on both.
- U (Understand)—Understand the causes for your emotions—why you are feeling the way you are feeling. Through patient introspection, you can decode the reason(s) for your current emotional state. To expedite this process, ask yourself questions like: What event happened, that caused my emotions? Is my emotion triggered by something similar that has happened in the past? Is my emotion a result of my earlier experiences with this person or place?
- L (Label)—Rather than generalizing and stereotyping an emotion as either “good” or “bad,” try to find the most suitable word to describe it. Based on neuroscience, Brackett suggests that more the accurate the label, the more successful we get at learning to manage the emotion: “We know from neuroscience and brain imaging research that there is real, tangible truth to the proposition that ‘if you can name it, you can tame it.’”
- E (Express)—We often feel embarrassed and ashamed of our emotions, and believe that it is inappropriate to express them. Yet unexpressed emotions will only accumulate, block your energy, and thus prevent you from healing. It is therefore important to find a suitable time, form, platform and audience to express your emotions in a setting that would be safe, supportive and effective.
- R (Regulate)—This is where we need to learn how to manage, i.e. cope with a particular emotion. Rather than allowing the emotion to “run you,” you need to figure our how to deal with it effectively. Effective emotional regulation can be achieved through a number of tools, methods and techniques, including relaxation, breathwork and mindfulness meditation. All these can help you accept, embrace and transform your emotional make-up.
Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence Through a Conscious Use of Language
Some experts suggest that, one way to raise your emotional intelligence quotient is through a conscious use of language. For example, a business professional can grow into a highly successful leader (with high degree of self-control, empathy, adaptability, resilience, ability to communicate effectively, prevent and resolve conflict, to motivate and inspire others) by using the following four phrases:
- "Let me think about that and get back to you." (Considering circumstances)
- "I'm a little worked up right now. I made need a minute to calm down." (Recognizing one's own emotional state)
- "I'm going to take a breather. It will help me clear my head." (Regulating emotions)
- "It seems like you're happy/upset/angry/etc. about something. Can you tell me what you're thinking/feeling before we move forward?" (Identifying feelings and responding accordingly).
- Jeff Steen. If You Use These 4 Phrases Regularly, You'll Have the Emotional Intelligence of a World-Class Leader. (https://www.inc.com/jeff-steen/if-you-use-these-4-phrases-regularly-youll-have-emotional-intelligence-of-a-world-class-leader.html)
- David B. Feldman. Building Emotional Intelligence Isn't as Hard as You Think. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/supersurvivors/201911/building-emotional-intelligence-isnt-hard-you-think)