What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?
EQ is a set of emotional and social skills that influence our self-perception and the ways in which we express ourselves, build and maintain relationships, cope with challenges and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. EQ is the skill set that helps you deal successfully with the human dimension of business. It also impacts how well you utilize people to produce results and create a fulfilling work environment.
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Why should you care about EQ?
The single greatest influence on whether your people stay or leave is their relationship with you. It affects the level at which they are engaged or if they just do enough to get by.
EQ skills are the ingredients for “real” leadership.
It’s often not the smartest people who are the most successful or most fulfilled in life. There are many people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially awkward and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual intelligence (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to be successful in life. Your IQ can help you get into university, but it’s your EQ that will help you to manage the stress and emotions when facing your final exams.
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Emotional intelligence affects:
- Your performance at work. Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career.
- Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your stress levels, it can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to manage and relieve stress.
- Your mental health. Uncontrolled stress may also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand and manage your emotions, you’ll also be vulnerable to mood swings
- Your relationships. An inability to form strong relationships can leave you feeling lonely and isolated. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and build healthier and stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.
There are four attributes that make up EQ:
- Self-awareness – You are able to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior; you know your strengths and weaknesses, and you have self-confidence.
- Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on your commitments, and are able to adapt to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness – You can understand and recognize the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
- Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, can communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.
Experts say…out of control emotions make smart people stupid.
How to raise your emotional intelligence
All information going to the brain comes through our senses, and when this information is overwhelmingly stressful or highly emotional, our instincts take over and our reaction will be limited to the flight, fight, or freeze response. To access the wide range of choices and an ability to make good decisions, we need to be able to control our emotions and bring them into balance at will.
Emotions and memory are also strongly linked. By learning to use the emotional part of your brain as well as the rational, you can expand your range of choices when it comes to responding to a new event, but you’ll also factor emotional memory into your decision-making process. This can help with preventing you continually repeating earlier mistakes.
To improve your emotional intelligence—and your decision-making abilities—you need to understand and control the emotional side of your brain. How?
Developing five key skills can do help you raise your EQ. Master the first two skills, and the other three will be much easier to develop.
EQ consists of five key skills, each building on the last:
- The capability to quickly reduce stress
- The capability to recognize and manage your emotions
- The capability to connect with others using nonverbal communication
- The capability to use humor and play to deal with challenges
- The capability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence
Anyone can learn these five skills of emotional intelligence. But you need to do more than study them; you need to apply this knowledge to your life. When you are overwhelmed by stress, the best of intentions can fly out the window.
To permanently alter behavior in ways that stand up under pressure, the key is to learn how to take advantage of the powerful emotional parts of the brain that remain active and accessible even during times of stress. In a nutshell, this means you have to experience and practice these skills in your daily life—you can’t simply read about EQ and expect to master it.
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