Many of us grew up engaging in standardized IQ tests from elementary school onwards. Some of us might have found ourselves in the “Advanced” classes, some might have been in regular classes, and some may have been in “Modified” classes. But these “class systems” did little to reveal where one’s true value lies. While we have been influenced to believe that possessing a high IQ equates to success, research has shown that people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. Turns out, the most successful (and happiest!) people are the ones rating high in emotional intelligence (EQ or IE) rather than intellect.
So…what is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify, assess, and control and understand one’s own emotions, the emotions of others, and that of groups (Goleman, 1995). Sound vague? Think of EQ as a sense of grace that one has that increases personal and social competence, enabling one to embrace the unique person they are without being self-conscious about it. EQ affects how one manages behaviour, navigates social complexities, and makes decisions that achieve desired results (vastly differing from self-sabotaging behaviour – think of EQ as embracing your worthiness!).
Further defined: EQ is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies:
- PERSONAL COMPETENCIES: This includes your self-awareness and management skills – think of this as how you interact with others. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of emotions and manage your behaviour and tendencies.
Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behaviour (resisting the urge to change others).
An example of this could be that while your boss or family member may continually seek to undermine you, you are able to recognize that their attempts to undermine or invalidate you is oftentimes a projection of how they feel about themselves (thus enabling you to reduce your reactivity as their negativity is about them, rather than you).
- SOCIAL COMPETENCE: This includes your social awareness and relationship management skills such as your ability to perceive other people’s moods, motivations, and behaviours as a means of enhancing the quality of your relationships.
Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on the emotions of others, and understand (rather than judge) what is really going on.
Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the emotion of other people in managing relational interactions successfully.
An example of social competence is choosing to be curious of others rather than judgmental. We are prone to assuming that others’ reactions are about us, or we may refuse to try to understand what need is not being met by the other that causes them to act out in anger. Since anger is a secondary emotion, it can be helpful to try to derive an understanding of what need the angry person is not having met. Could they be desiring ease, a need to be validated, are they sad? Remember these adages: “when in doubt, check it out” and “to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME”. Chose to be open-minded and flexible in your thinking of others, as well as with Self.
As with most things, enhanced EQ is a practice, rather than a destination. Some days we will be EQ masters, some days we can feel like EQ disasters. Don’t forget to access your self-compassion practice when you feel you have failed in your interactions with others (for more on self-compassion, see: https://blacksheepcounselling.com/2017/03/mindfulness-self-compassion/)