Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in one’s self and others and to use this understanding to guide thinking and behaviour. It encompasses a range of skills, including self-awareness, self emotional regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Those skills can be defined further as: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Decision Making

Effective decision-making requires not only rational analysis but also emotional intelligence. Research has shown that people with higher emotional intelligence are likelier to make good decisions, even in high-pressure situations. Emotional intelligence enables individuals to manage their emotions, regulate their behaviour, and make decisions based on logic and intuition.

The Key Elements of Social Intelligence

Verbal Fluency and Conversational Skills. The highly socially intelligent person can carry on conversations with a wide variety of people, and is tactful and appropriate in what is said.

Knowledge of Social Roles, Rules, and Scripts. Socially intelligent individuals learn how to play various social roles. They are also well versed in the informal rules, or “norms,” that govern social interaction. In other words, they “know how to play the game” of social interaction. As a result, they come off as socially sophisticated and wise.

Effective Listening Skills. Socially intelligent persons are great listeners. As a result, others come away from an interaction with an SI person feeling as if they had a good “connection” with him or her.

Understanding What Makes Other People Tick. Great people watchers, individuals high in social intelligence attune themselves to what others are saying, and how they are behaving, in order to try to “read” what the other person is thinking or feeling. Understanding emotions is part of emotional intelligence and social intelligence and emotional intelligence (as measured by emotional competences) are correlated—people who are especially skilled tend to be high on both.

Role Playing and Social Self-Efficacy. The socially intelligent person knows how to play different social roles—allowing him or her to feel comfortable with all types of people. As a result, the SI individual feels socially self-confident and effective—what psychologists call “social self-efficacy.”

Impression Management Skills. Persons with social intelligence are concerned with the impression they are making on others.

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Are you able to recognize the emotions you are feeling?

Can you manage those feelings without allowing them to get in your way?

Are you able to motivate yourself to get things done?

Can you sense the emotions of others, make adjustments in real time, and respond effectively?

If you can do the things above, then you are likely someone who has developed solid emotional intelligence.

If you would like to work in it, emotional intelligence can be developed and strengthened. Below are some strategies for how to do it.

1. Pay Attention to Your Emotions. Pause for a moment. Be mindful of bodily tension which, based on the body-mind connection, can alert you to your current emotional state. Note what you are feeling at a given time.

2. Ask Yourself, “Is This the Right Time and Place?” Stop and think before you act or speak. It’s hard to do, but keep working at it and it will become a habit. I’m still working on this, but if I can make advances given my ADHD, anxiety, and dyslexia-related struggles over the years, you can make progress too.

3. Reflect on the Emotions of Those Around You. This is where “self-other awareness” begins. To grow in emotional intelligence, think about your own emotions and how you typically react to negative situations, whether they involve a co-worker, family member, or stranger. When you’re more aware of your emotions and typical reactions, you can start to control them.

4. Don’t Try to Be a Mind Reader. One of the biggest misconceptions about EI is that you should always know how others feel. True EI comes from the willingness to check in with others to see if your reality is similar or different from what they are seeing. This especially applies to navigating emotionally charged situations.

5. Become More Empathetic. Seek to understand the “why” behind another person’s feelings or emotions.

6. Have a Growth Mindset. Choose to learn from criticism. When we choose to learn from criticism rather than simply defend our views, feelings, and behaviors, we can grow in emotional intelligence.

7. Keep Working at It. Becoming more emotionally intelligent won’t happen overnight, but it can happen—with effort, patience, and a lot of practice.