What Is Emotional Intelligence?

What is emotional intelligence? Well, it is probably more important now than it ever has been, given the turbulent times we are all in. This article will shine some light on what emotional intelligence is.

What is emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman, founder and author of the book, Emotional Intelligence, highlights that “it’s the ability to sense, understand, value and effectively apply the power of emotions” to build relationships, get the best out of yourself and influence others in a positive way.

In other words, the more emotionally intelligent you are, the better you can perceive, evaluate and control emotions, positively.

There are several different factors that go into emotional intelligence, and which you need to master to be effective as both a leader and a person.

The Components of Emotional Intelligence and how they Play an Important Role in our Lives

Goleman traditionally categorised Emotional intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient as it’s also referred to (EQ), into five components or stages.

  1. Self Awareness: This is the first step towards being emotionally intelligent. Here you become aware of your own emotions and the effect it has on people around you. This may sound easy, but it is not. A research by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich shows that although a large proportion of people claim to be self aware, only a paltry 10-15% are actually aware of their emotions and how they affect other people;
  2. Self Regulation: This is where you start to act upon your self awareness. Once you know the effect your emotion has on others, you need to start managing your emotion so as to weed out the negatives and ensure that you leave a positive impression on people around you. A part of this is to understand which emotional triggers cause certain reactions. By understanding this, you can objectively see when you are in an emotive state – one which you may not be in control of. Even an outburst of anger should be a calibrated response to a situation rather than a spontaneous explosion;
  3. Motivation: When you have figured out your emotional triggers and learned how to manage them to best suit the situation, you will automatically feel confident and motivated about your capability to hold your own in face of any adversity. Not only that, you will also be a motivating factor for the people around you, be it your family or friends or colleagues. This creates a steady assurance to those around you;
  4. Empathy: At this stage, you go beyond your own emotions and learn to understand the feelings of others and be able to empathise with them, so you can effortlessly walk in their shoes. Empathy is the cornerstone of a successful social, professional and personal life. It’s what transforms you from a manager to a leader and makes you more acceptable and endeared to people around you. It allows you to quickly build rapport, as you can  effortlessly connect with your peers and followers;
  5. Social skills: This is the final stage of emotional intelligence, where you act upon your knowledge of others’ emotions, so that you bring the best out of them. If you have good social skills as a leader, you’ll more than likely be a great communicator. You can lead change effectively and resolve conflicts more effectively, too.

What is emotional Intelligence? Here Are the Benefits

Self awareness and self regulation will help you to effectively compartmentalise your work from your family life. This will ensure that stress at the workplace does not often overflow into your family space.

Impact on Personal Life

Whenever you are with your children or your significant other, you should be present completely, both in body and mind. Once you know how your actions affect the feelings of your family members, you will be in a much better position to avoid or resolve conflict.

The resulting happiness in your personal life will have a multiplying effect by boosting your workplace productivity.

Impact on Professional Life

At your workplace too, your emotional intelligence will have a dramatic impact. If you once suffered from performance related anxiety, you’ll notice that it will regress considerably when your emotional intelligence is improved.

You will stop being frazzled by deadlines and targets and rather start enjoying them as new challenges.

Organisation will be positively impacted, too. This will improve your work-life balance and break the once vicious cycle of anxiety.

If you’re a leader, your team will more than likely improve in their performance, too. As a more empathetic leader, you’ll build deeper relationships and rapport. This will improve deeper relationships and empowered teams, not to mention better motivational levels.

A research by Koman, E. S., & Wolff, S. B. (2008) clearly shows the positive correlation between the EI of a team leader and the performance of the team.

They confirm that, “Results show that team leader emotional intelligence is significantly related to the presence of emotionally competent group norms on the teams they lead, and that emotionally competent group norms are related to team performance.”

In other words, a highly emotionally intelligent leader can create a tight nip, and higher performing team through ‘better team norms’.

Emotional intelligence helps create an environment of trust and loyalty which improves the productivity of an organisation and also reduces the attrition rate.

Hence, in today’s world, most enterprises look for qualities of emotional intelligence while selecting people for higher positions. Developing emotional intelligence will thus help you rise through the ranks of your organisation.

Impact on Social Life

Being more approachable, empathetic and a calming influence around your friends, has a big impact on your social life. As people interact, they often mirror each other’s body language. The more they share this synchronicity, the more they share moods and build relationships. This is a key determinant of interpersonal effectiveness.

The better we are at sensing emotions and controlling our own, the more we build deeper relationships that can last a lifetime.

Are we Born Emotionally Intelligent?

The straight answer is a big NO! Unlike IQ, which is congenital, the parts of the brain that process emotions and social interactions are among the last to mature.

This happens over time through multiple iterations of similar experiences. Hence, emotional intelligence can be cultivated and learned like a skill.

Although this is easier if practised from childhood, many of us were well past our childhood years by the time we realised the importance of emotional intelligence.

Some Tips to Get Started

Here are some tips to help you start to develop your emotional intelligence:

  1. Observation: Keep your eyes and ears open, not only to grasp how people are overtly reacting to you, but also notice the subtle changes in body language, intonation and other factors of metacommunication that may help you judge the situation;
  2. Patience: Cultivate the ten seconds rule. Do not jump to conclusions or immediately give in to emotional outbursts. Even if something requires an urgent action, take a customary pause of 10 seconds. Take a few deep breaths, and consider the outcomes of the possible actions that you may take. This will automatically filter out most of the negative actions you might have instinctively jumped upon;
  3. Retrospect: Once you hit the bed at the end of the day, take a little time to rewind the day – specifically to some of the important decisions that you took during the day. Play it over in your mind and try to figure out the emotion that was predominant while making each of these decisions. Also try to analyze if you could have taken a better decision under other circumstances;
  4. Gain multiple perspectives: Before you take any decision, try to view the situation from as many angles as possible. Don’t be shy to ask others for their inputs. Once you have analyzed a situation from various points of view, you are more likely to take a balanced and comprehensive decision;
  5. Accept Criticism: Look at your critics not as your adversaries, but as a mirror that reflects your shortcomings. You must not get put-off by criticism. Rather you should learn from them. The criticism from even your worst enemy has some element of truth. Only once you figure the leak, can you plug the hole.

Once you have started putting these into practice, you will start seeing the results almost immediately.

What is emotional intelligence? It’s a key skill to master in today’s world, for not only your career but personal life, too.