Getting Started: Your Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Some people are born with a natural ability to interpret others’ emotions and make decisions based on their perceptions. Others aren’t as gifted. Some will completely miss emotional cues while others may read too much into another person’s every word and action. While some may display a higher innate emotional quotient (EQ) than others do, everyone can improve their emotional intelligence. Consider this your guide to emotional intelligence.

Getting Started: Emotional Intelligence, Defined

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept in psychology, pioneered by Daniel Goleman in the mid- 1980s. His model looks at five key areas that comprise EQ:

  • Self-Regulation. We all have experiences that disrupt our natural course from time to time, but a person with high EQ can keep to his or her course more easily. Being able to control outbursts, panic, and avoid self-pity (or attract pity from others) are all associated with good self-management.
  • Self-Awareness. Recognizing your own feelings, including accurately assessing your capabilities and knowing when to ask for help, are characteristics of self-awareness.
  • Empathy. Reading and responding appropriately to the feelings of others is an essential part of EQ.
  • Motivation. A person with a high EQ is motivated by more than money or status, but by curiosity or joy at completing a task well.
  • Social Skills. This involves empathy, but also the delicate balance between the importance of others needs and your own. In other words, sacrificing your needs for the needs of others demonstrates a lack of emotional intelligence just as much as sacrificing others for yourself. Finding common ground and compromise are important signs of emotional intelligence. 

Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Perhaps your heart began to sink as you read this, knowing that you have trouble self-regulating, identifying with the feelings of others, or asking for help when elements of emotional intelligenceyou need it. In truth, we all struggle with these capabilities from time to time, but those with a lower EQ encounter these issues more often. While some may be more emotionally in tune than others, we can all work to improve emotional intelligence. In fact, a recent study in Personality and Individual Differences found that those who received training in EQ not only improved their ability to regulate, recognize, and respond to emotion, but those outcomes were just as notable at the six-month mark, suggesting that changes can be sustainable.

Here are a few suggestions for improving your own emotional intelligence:

  • Ask for feedback, both at work and at home. If you’re having trouble deciphering a reaction to a project, ask a supervisor. If you’re not sure if a partner is angry with you or just had a bad day, inquire. The answers may surprise you. Over time, you’ll get better at reading cues.
  • Practice mindfulness. Meditation and yoga can help improve your emotional intelligence by improving your introspection. By quieting your mind, you’ll be better able to recognize your emotions and respond to them appropriately.

If you’re still struggling with your emotional intelligence, coaching can help. Check out our directory of qualified, certified coaches.

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