Emotional Intelligence matters because it influences many aspects of your thinking and behaviour, as well as how others see and interact with you. Emotional intelligence (also called EI or EQ) determines your motivation, social skills, empathy, how you think and reason, your resilience to stress, and above all, how you communicate and interact with others.
In short, EI is a set of skills which determine how well you handle yourself in life and in general. It influences your popularity, your performance, your ability to motivate yourself, and even the quality of your relationships and how you bring up your children.
In this post, I’ll be discussing Emotional Intelligence (EI) and why it matters to individuals and organisations. I’ll also cover how EI can be developed, and where to start thinking about how to improve your skills.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the capability of recognising your own emotions and those of others. It confers the ability to distinguish between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use this emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and to manage your emotions in relation to circumstances.
Managing your emotions in positive ways helps relieve stress, communicate effectively, overcome challenges, empathise with others, and defuse conflict.
It also informs your thinking and influences how well you connect with others and even how successful you are in your career. When you can accurately assess and understand what others are experiencing emotionally you are better able to empathise and build rapport.
IQ versus EQ
We all know what Intellectual intelligence is, to a point where we often over-estimate its importance.
We also all know of highly intelligent people who don’t handle themselves very well; they are not good in social relationships for example, or they have difficulty in communicating with others.
Examples of this are the brilliant but self-absorbed professor who seems unaware of others’ feelings, or the rich and successful business tycoon. Successful that is in everything but human relationships.
Just as important as conventional IQ, the sort of intelligence that gets measured in those tests many of us did in school, is your level of Emotional Intelligence (also sometimes known as Emotional Quotient or EQ).
Although psychologists have been talking about this for several decades, Emotional Intelligence is a relatively new idea in popular culture.
Daniel Goleman who wrote the book which popularised the notion of emotional intelligence said that “There is zero correlation between IQ and emotional empathy… They’re controlled by different parts of the brain”.
He proposed that factors other than conventional IQ determine how ‘clever’ we really are.
He defined EI as “the ability to monitor your own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide your thinking and actions”.
Why Emotional Intelligence matters
In other words, being able to recognise our thoughts and feelings – and simultaneously to be aware of other peoples’ feelings – are key skills, because they enable us to respond more appropriately and empathetically to others, and to gain insight into our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
And this matters because emotional intelligence is about how people and relationships function, how well we get on with others, and how well we manage stress, pressure and demand.
This is particularly important at work because, in addition to being about how we handle ourselves, EI also affects teamwork, management skills and leadership. Not surprisingly, this can have a significant impact on your career.
That’s why it’s vital to understand what it is, and its importance in the workplace.
EI in the workplace
Emotional Intelligence makes you a better communicator, helps you perform better, enables you to motivate yourself and others, and it even affects how others feel about you; how popular you are.
And its not just about individuals. In a broader sense, organisations can be said to be Emotionally Intelligent too. An Emotionally Intelligent workplace is one where staff are able to develop positive working relationships so they can cooperate together to maximum effectiveness.
This can only increase the organisation’s success, and the sense among staff that they are respected, valued and appreciated for their contributions.
And that, of course, starts with individuals being sufficiently self-aware and emotionally competent to function well as part of a cohesive unit, a team.
Social benefits of EI
It goes without saying that EI affects your personal life too. The impact on happiness, health and prosperity are well established, and Emotional Intelligence even contributes to a person’s levels of satisfaction and contentment in life.
Raising emotionally intelligent kids
If you have children or expect to, it’s worth noting that emotionally intelligent parents tend to raise emotionally intelligent children. This makes the whole business of parenting easier and more satisfying. It also gives the kids a great start in life.
How to develop Emotional Intelligence
When Goleman wrote the book which popularised these ideas he was not just explaining an idea. In identifying the clusters of skills which contribute to a person’s EQ he also made it possible for us to learn how to become more emotionally intelligent.
Skills and qualities
The clusters of skills, as they are often referred to, are actually more akin to personal qualities and their related behaviours. To simplify this, the so-called ‘skills’ of EI (self-awareness, social awareness, personal insight, self-management and relationship management) are really personal qualities. But developing or possessing the qualities means you must develop or possess the skills.
A good starting point for doing this is to read Goleman’s original book Emotional Intelligence; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, or one of the plethora of others that followed in its wake. If you prefer your learning to be more practical and immediate you can enrol on my online EI course with its video lectures and practical exercises to help you develop your Emotional Intelligence.