Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence in his groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ”, which was released in 1995. Fast forward almost two decades and we’re still discussing the core principles of emotional intelligence “EI” or “EQ” (as opposed to IQ) as the competences that matter most in having a successful career and life.
However, discussion is cheap. Development is priceless. I’m here to talk about what we can do to become more skillful at work and home using EQ, the overall framework. But first, let’s define what the heck we mean by emotional intelligence. The fine folks at testing service MHS define EQ as:
“A set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”
That’s good, but a bit verbose. Here’s how I’d sum that up – “EQ is your ability to see and manage emotions skillfully.” While cognitive intelligence is important for a baseline of functioning to understand and convey information, being skilled at managing emotions is what leads to a more fulfilling career and life.
Your EQ ability is THE differentiator between simply getting by and thriving in relationships. The foundation of this perspective is rooted in neuroscience. Today we have boat loads of studies of the human brain that prove how impactful our emotions are in our decision-making, relationships and overall happiness. The good news is that you can develop your emotional intelligence. In other words, unlike IQ your EQ is not fixed AND emotions are contagious, you can impact others with your adeptness or ineptness in managing the emotional roller coaster we call life.
For the research, and if you can’t get to sleep some night, check out Emotional Intelligence and Neuroscience
The folks at MHS have actually developed a great framework and assessment, the EQ-i 2.0, based on this research. They break EQ into five areas of competence: 1) self perception 2) self expression 3) stress management 4) decision making 5) interpersonal skills. These five areas are critical to your overall wellbeing and success in life.
Ok, that’s great background Bob, but you said it’s about time we talked development not definition. So let’s talk!
One of the most powerful ways to begin the journey in EQ development is to figure out where you are now. I recommend taking the EQ-i 2.0. I also recommend asking a few friends or colleagues you trust to take the assessment with you because learning with others and sharing insights helps build commitment to the process.
I then recommend you start an EQ journal for your eyes only. Write down a few situations or experiences that didn’t go as planned or hoped. Reflect on what was said, what wasn’t said, what you were feeling and possible reasons why. Try to see where you could have been more patient, more empathic. Retrace how much you listened versus talked. Think about what it felt like before, during and after the experience. Maybe it was a team meeting, a one-on-one with a direct report, or a conversation with a significant other. Whatever the situation, be introspective.
This is your private journal so be open, honest and go deep. What did you learn? Was there a shift in energy during that experience? Did you say what you needed to and what you meant? Did you feel that others understood you, responded to you as expected? Did others communicate openly, honestly? If not, why not?
Beyond the journal, I recommend meditation, exercise, coaching and reading. Meditation, even for a few minutes each day, can help calm your mind and body. It can help you operate at your peak. Stress causes us to be careless, but meditation can help us de-stress.
Exercise is another, perhaps the best, de-stressor. Exercise connects the body and the brain and helps you think more clearly and act more calmly.
Working with a coach trained in EQ is another great way to start seeing the impact of your emotions on yourself and others. A coach can help point things out and provide direction and support.
Finally, reading about EQ is really helpful, especially about the ways emotions like fear, anxiety, optimism and hope impact how we behave. A great book to read about how EQ impacts work life is “Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations” by Robert K. Cooper and Ayman Sawaf. This book came about in 1997, so a bit of an oldie, but goodie. My copy of this book is dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and coffee-stained. Needless to say, I refer back to it a lot.
So that’s a start. Remember, understanding and developing your EQ is a journey. So I’m merely helping you walk out onto the track. It’s up to you to determine your pace, but I promise that it will be a rewarding experience in more ways than you think or feel right now.
Brand Builder and Organization Leader