When Daniel Goleman published the book Emotional Intelligence in 1995, he sparked much public discussion about what “intelligence” really is. Until Goleman’s book came along, people generally used that word to mean brain power, believing that a person in possession of that power could apply it to any problem, be it logical, scientific, moral or emotional.
The device for measuring how much of this all-embracing power a given person possessed, they thought, was intelligence quotient (IQ). Then, through his book, Goleman made people aware that humans also have an emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), and it exists independently of their IQ. In fact, it turned out that people with a high IQ could have low emotional intelligence, and vice versa.
How we discuss feelings and our ability to handle them has never been the same since.
When emotions arise in the brain, the amygdala jumps into action. It can override the rational cortex so that the body can react almost instantaneously to whatever stimulus triggered the emotion. This is a very useful response if that stimulus is an immediate threat to your safety – that is, the kinds of fight-or-flight situations our prehistoric ancestors faced.
It’s not so good for most situations in modern life, because it causes us to act on unthinking impulse and, often, in a self-centred manner. An emotionally intelligent person has learned to be aware of and control the reaction of the amygdala, and when emotional, lets the emotion subside before taking any action.
Emotional intelligence can be divided into four areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Self-awareness means knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, understanding your emotions and being honest with yourself.
Self-management includes being calm, staying calm in a crisis and reacting rationally.
Social awareness involves empathy, being able to put yourself into the place of another person and seeing things from all points of view.
Relationship management includes conveying positive emotion (for example, through recognition and positive feedback), listening to other people and hearing what they are saying, and giving people what they need and want in emotional terms.
People with high EQ can easily be recognised based on their ability to engage with others. They are genuinely interested in other people, and they ask questions, listening carefully to the answers.
They exercise self-control in their behaviour, considering the feelings of other people. Such people allow others to be themselves, without trying to control them or take centre stage. And they respect and accept the validity of other people’s opinions.
Beyond these qualities, they know their weaknesses and strengths. They can accept criticism as a useful tool to improve their behaviour. If they make a mistake, they can learn from it and move on. They set clear boundaries and can say no when appropriate. If given responsibility, they welcome it and respond to the best of their ability.
They can be a team player, or a leader. They see leadership as inspiring others to fulfil their full potential. They give their team praise when deserved, and helpful feedback when needed. Altogether, other people respond to them with admiration and respect.
Daniel Goleman defines EQ as six points:
Another way to put it could be: when I feel an emotion, I recognise it by name; I realise that I am emotional; I understand that someone or something makes me feel a certain emotion; I take a moment to restrain myself; then I respond in an appropriate, constructive manner.
Developing emotional intelligence is a personal journey but it can be a fun experience with the right tools and support. So would you like to have fun finding the “real” YOU? Would you like to do so sharing with friends as they find the “real” them?
My new book, Mindfulness Together will give you topics of conversation and easy steps to follow to bring together a group of individuals focused on self-development, including topics like emotional intelligence. You will grow and focus together on what is a mature human being. You probably already know, but it can be fascinating to explore this question with other people.
Are you aware of your emotions? Do you find it difficult to control how you feel? Do you let your emotions control you? Are you in control of yourself at all times?