Emotional intelligence is a hot topic, everyone is talking about it, but what is it and why is it important? And in particular why is it important for you?
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to your ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions suggested by Daniel Goleman. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic. Some question if it is a real intelligence, or if it is even a valid model over accepted models such as IQ and the big five personality test. Even the definition of emotional intelligence is still something discussed at length.
But the supporters say people who are more emotionally aware, and work in professions that are people focussed are more effective. But there are claims that EI is the solution to humanity’s problems, which is unfortunately causing EI to take on an almost new age ideology.
But for leadership positions, the argument goes, improving your emotional intelligence is beneficial, you can lead without good emotional intelligence, but would you be a well liked one?
Steve Jobs was famously well known for his lack of emotional intelligence, but he still was successful. Did it even matter? It certainly didn’t seem to matter to him, but would have he been more successful if he had a high EI?
No one can say, despite the hype EI is still a poor predictor of future occupational success. So far studies have only shown that EI can be measured and can predict someone’s well-being and how well they socially interact.
Our emotional experiences define how we interact with the world
We kind of naturally know that some people are better at social interaction than others. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty in everyday social interactions that you wouldn’t even give a second thought about. And rather than being unfeeling robots people with ASD experience emotion but experience their emotions differently from you.
Many people with ASD also have difficulty describing and identifying their emotions. A medical condition known as alexithymia. Which subsequently results in an inability to identify emotions in other people. Recent research also shows that high levels of alexithymia and anxiety are closely combined.
The research also indicates that this breakdown of self awareness plays an important role in symptoms of anxiety, both in people with ASD and in wider society. And despite many open questions, experimental evidence is starting to tell us what you knew along, that your emotions play a huge role in how you manage yourselves and others.
Why is it important for you?
Well the first question to ask yourself is that one, is this something that is important you? When you are frustrated, annoyed, angry, or worried are you an effective person? Do these emotions sometime leak out and affect your relationships around you? Do they affect the way that you behave towards others and do they affect the way you behave towards yourself?
And is this something that bothers you enough to do something about? Then working on your emotional intelligence will be beneficial. And while it seems that experimental results have overstated the benefits of emotional intelligence, high EI has been positively correlated with.
- Better social relationships for children and adults.
- Being perceived more positively by others.
- Better family and intimate relationships.
- Better academic achievement.
- Better social relations during work performance and in negotiations.
- Better psychological well-being.
Getting the most out of emotional intelligence
Psychology is a messy science, if you want a straight answer then it isn’t going to give you that. Thus it is generally best to take all these things with a healthy dose of pragmatism, and use them as models to manage yourself and other people. But being more self aware is the start of being an effective leader in today’s complex world.
But having good emotional intelligence starts with having a good foundation around yourself. Removing stress from your life, sleeping, eating and exercising are key to providing you with the foundation on which to build your personal development. But treat developing your EI as part of suite of personal development activities that you use and understand that it is just one tool and approach for developing self awareness.
Tips to get you started
Practice observing how you feel every day, and set aside time to reflect on how you felt during the past day. During the day we rush from one meeting to another, this is when we forget to manage our emotions and may react to a trigger without thinking. Look back and reflect on how you managed your emotions during the day.
Pay attention to how you behave, notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life. Does it impact your communication with others, your productivity, or your overall sense of well-being?
Remember that you aren’t your emotions, emotions come and go, and because you feel a certain way doesn’t make you a good or bad person. Emotions are there to give you information about a current situation or a past event. It is how you respond to these feelings that matter.
Consider other people’s viewpoint, take a step back and ask yourself, what is this person feeling? What could be driving their feelings? If you were feeling the same, how would you want to be treated or what kind of support would you need?
While the benefits of emotional intelligence have been inflated, there is evidence that we can measure EI and that it is correlated with well-being and relationships. Remember also that not every situation is the same and people’s experience and perspective are different from yours. Working on your emotional intelligence won’t change your world overnight, but it won’t make your world or your relationships any worse, and will most likely make them better.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.