Whether we’re talking about intimate relationships of the romantic or marriage variety or relationships with friends or work or business colleagues – emotional intelligence is one of those things that you’re going to need if you want those relationships to last.
So what is this thing we call “emotional intelligence”?
Psychology Today defines it this way:
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”
You’ll notice that the definition does not say that we don’t feel things. Feelings are not usually something that we have a choice about. They arise within us from sources we may not understand – and when they do, they are very real to us.
Feelings are not the problem! We don’t choose our feelings (they choose us) – but we DO have a choice about how we BEHAVE when those feelings come to the surface. Some may be reading this and thinking, “but you don’t understand what I’ve been through” It doesn’t matter what we’ve been through! What does matter is …. how we emerge from it.
Everyone acquires emotional baggage as we go through life and experience emotional pain. It could be in the form of abuse from others, a personal tragedy, even horror. Some experiences, particularly traumatic ones, can lead to phobias, or feelings of paranoia and neurosis which are triggered by certain conditions that are unique to us all. For others, the unwanted feelings are less dramatic and overwhelming.
How we choose to behave when those feelings arise is the thing that separates the emotionally intelligent from the emotionally impaired. If you feel that you don’t have a choice about how you behave then you should consider seeking help.
If we are prone to over-reactions, walk-outs, yelling and screaming, manipulative behavior, shutting others out, creating our own reality, lying to ourselves and others, blaming others for a problem, or any number of other dysfunctional behaviors, then these are clear indications of lack of emotional intelligence.
I personally know people who have been through indescribable emotional trauma and yet, are well behaved and emotionally mature adults. I also know people who use their difficult past to justify their childish and self-centered behavior. Some people grow through their difficulties while others remain stuck in destructive behavior patterns.
So how do we know whether we’re emotionally intelligent? What are the signs?
Five Signs of High Emotional Intelligence (Emotional IQ)
1. You Manage Your Emotions
Self-control is a personal competence developed in every person.
Internationally known psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Goleman explains, “Reasonable people – the ones who maintain control over their emotions – are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, the drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organizations and are not apt to leave them.”
Self-control, along with mindfulness, are skills we must acquire so that we have the capacity to be present, calm, and focused during times of high stress.
2. You Know Yourself
Life gets busy, and often times it’s easy to forget to practice proper self-care, stop to evaluate our feelings, or analyze what our emotional triggers are. Knowing yourself at the core is a good barometer for gauging your own happiness, and creating incredible growth.
Cultivating the ability to be completely honest with yourself and about yourself; to acknowledge the patterns in your life and why they have occurred, is the second sign of emotional intelligence.
3. You Respond, Not React
So often we fly off the handle at our children, co-workers, partner, etc. because we don’t know what our triggers are, or how to defuse the situation once the button’s been pushed. It’s quite human of us – we’ll get defensive and act out in fear that stems from an underlying emotional issue. In high emotionally intelligent people, once you get a handle on the root cause of your negative reactions, you can respond with confidence and self-control.
By modeling appropriate and effective communication, highly emotionally intelligent people set the example for others to follow as a cultural trait. When triggered to react, we learn that we first need to reflect on what’s pushing our buttons and choose a “keep calm” approach as we process our emotions for a more tactful response.
4. You Put Yourself in Others’ Shoes – Empathy
People are drawn to empathy, it’s an attractive quality to have in building successful relationships at work. In fact, it is the number one driver of overall organizational performance in the workplace according to research.
Regardless of any preconceived notion that you may have about empathy – you are not born with it. But it is something that you can develop.
The first step is thinking about other people’s circumstances, understanding their pains and frustrations, and knowing that those emotions are every bit as real as your own. This exercise will help you develop perspective, open you up to helping others, and enhance your sense of gratitude.
5. You Reach Out First After an Argument
After an argument, many of us stew in anger, rehashing every detail to the point of exhaustion.
But, does this do any good? More often than not, it’s just plain silly.
A person with a high emotional IQ doesn’t let his/her ego have its way at the expense of losing a friendship, a family relationship, or a great work connection.
Since social skills are one of the four “best features” of emotional intelligence, a person running on all emotional IQ cylinders will be the first to reach out to make amends, even if it means apologizing first. As Kendrick said, “sit down, be humble.”
Regardless of your level of emotional intelligence, the above guidelines are helpful skills to put into action in our everyday lives. You might just be the first to get that next promotion, save your marriage, repair or salvage a friendship!
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