You may have come across headlines or articles mentioning how a business leader or famous athlete demonstrated “a great example of emotional intelligence” after facing a challenge or difficult situation. The term “emotional intelligence”, also known as EQ, has become more and more popular over the years, but what does it really mean?
Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill that doesn’t just benefit your emotional health, but also your personal growth and overall mental well-being. Read on to learn more about emotional intelligence and why it’s so important.
What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. EQ is typically broken down into four core competencies:
- Self-awareness: Your ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses and to also recognize your emotions and the effect they have on you and others.
- Self-management: Your ability to manage your emotions, particularly in stressful situations, and keep a positive outlook despite setbacks.
- Social awareness: Your ability to recognize others’ emotions and perspectives.
- Relationship management: Your ability to maintain positive relationships with others and effectively resolve conflict.
People with high EQ understand the links between their emotions and their behaviors, remain calm and composed during stressful situations, positively influence others, and handle difficult people and situations tactfully. On the other hand, people with low EQ often feel misunderstood, become upset easily, and may become overwhelmed by their emotions.
Why is emotional intelligence important?
Building your EQ can benefit your life in many ways — from your health and well-being to your career and your personal life. Here’s how:
Emotional intelligence helps you foster healthy relationships
Emotional intelligence enables you to evaluate, control, and express your emotions, and to communicate effectively. These are key skills in building and maintaining good relationships — personal or professional.
For example, if a conflict arises with a loved one, colleague, or friend, strong emotional intelligence can help you respond in a way that is productive and not disruptive. When you understand how your emotions may affect others and can control and express your reactions in a healthy way (i.e. communicating your feelings calmly without dismissing others’ feelings), it’s much easier to resolve conflicts.
EQ also helps you understand where others may be coming from, so even if you don’t agree with their opinion, you’re able to acknowledge their feelings and empathize with them. Empathy plays an important role in the health of any relationship. Not only will others feel understood, they’ll also be more likely to understand your point of view, too.
Emotional intelligence helps you build strong social skills
Strong EQ means you can interact well with others — whether it be with coworkers, family members, or even total strangers. Not only does EQ help you effectively communicate and empathize with others, it also helps you show that you value them. When you practice self-awareness and can identify your own strengths and weaknesses, you understand your own value, which in turn helps you value others. This is important to building strong social skills, as people want to feel like they’re heard and appreciated.
Moreover, EQ helps you recognize non-verbal behaviors that reflect emotions, which is a key part of communication and social interaction. For example, you may notice a friend raise their eyebrows and shake their head if they don’t want a secret to be revealed. Picking up on their facial cues and realizing they’re feeling anxiety helps inform your reaction to the conversation (i.e. not telling the secret or stopping someone else from telling it). This is emotional intelligence.
Overall, individuals with emotional intelligence have strong social relations, can solve emotional problems quickly, and have strong verbal and social skills.
Emotional intelligence positively impacts your mental health
Think of a time you felt stress, anxiety, or a low mood. Was it caused by someone else’s negative actions or emotions towards you that in turn had you feeling negatively? Perhaps you became frustrated over a decision someone made that you didn’t agree with. Maybe there were a lot of unknowns in the situation, and you didn’t feel like you had control over anything.
These are normal reactions to difficult situations, but building your EQ can help you manage them better next time so you can be less vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Taking the time to practice self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness can help you better deal with negative emotions and replace them with more positive ones. Mental and physical health are strongly connected, so the better you manage stress and negativity, the healthier you’ll feel overall.
How to assess and improve your emotional intelligence
People aren’t born with emotional intelligence, it’s a skill that’s built over time. To improve your EQ, it’s important to first recognize and acknowledge your own emotions and how you respond to certain situations, especially stressful events. Consider taking the following steps towards building your emotional intelligence:
- Identify your feelings and how they’re affecting your emotions. Ask yourself why you’re feeling this way and take the time to really tap into your emotions. If someone’s actions caused you to feel a certain way, think about why they may be reacting the way they are and try to understand where they’re coming from. Then, consider your own emotions and if you want to change them before reacting. If so, work to regulate your emotions so you can respond in an effective manner.
- Consider asking for feedback. Ask your friends, family, and colleagues for their thoughts on how well they feel you respond to challenges and stress. You can then use their feedback to improve your EQ.
- Try out exercises. EQ exercises can train you to recognize more positive cues in your interactions with others and help you tune into positive aspects of the world around you.
- Think about therapy. Talk therapy can also help you put feelings into words to regulate your emotions, reframe situations to see the bigger picture, and see things from others’ points of view so you can gain a better perspective.
Building emotional intelligence takes time, so be patient with yourself. Even small steps such as writing down how you’re feeling during the day or taking the time to think about others’ perspectives before reacting to a situation can help you build the skills you need for strong emotional intelligence. If you think therapy could help you improve your emotional intelligence, SonderMind can connect you with a therapist who’s right for your needs.