The Heart in Your Head: A Primer on Emotional Intelligence


In 1990, psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’, describing it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.

Today, many experts believe that a person’s emotional intelligence – often referred to as “EQ” – may be even more important than their IQ when it comes to predicting success, quality of relationships, and overall happiness.

Five attributes of emotional intelligence

If you’ve ever wondered why some people seem to have an unlimited amount of success in both their personal and professional lives, it’s quite probable that they possess high emotional intelligence. These are some of their attributes:

1. Self-awareness: People with a healthy sense of self-awareness understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how their actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.

2. Self-regulation: A person with high EQ can maturely reveal emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of hiding feelings, this person expresses them with self-discipline and control.
3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They’re not only interested in money or titles. They’re usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and often driven by inner ambition.

4. Empathy: People with empathy have compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows them to connect with others on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to respond genuinely to others’ concerns.

5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to rapidly build rapport and trust with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and earn the respect of those around them.

How emotional intelligence impacts our lives

From your physical health to your emotional well-being, your EQ has a profound impact on every aspect of your daily life. In fact, it is your EQ which will very likely determine your level of success in life. As Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence wrote, “People with well-developed emotional skills are … more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of the mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”

Physical Health: The ability to take care of our bodies and manage our stress is closely tied to our emotional intelligence. Only by being aware of our emotional state and our reactions to stress in our lives can we maintain good health.

Mental well-being: Our EQ affects our attitude and outlook on life. It. A high level of EQ can help alleviate anxiety, avoid depression and mood swings, and contribute to a positive attitude and happier outlook on life.

Relationships: By better understanding and managing our emotions, we’re able to communicate our feelings in more constructive ways. We’re also better able to understand the needs, feelings, and responses of those we care about, leading to stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

Leadership: The ability to understand what motivates others, relate in a positive manner, and build stronger bonds with others in the workplace makes those with higher EQ better leaders. Good leaders recognize what the needs of their people are, and meet those needs in ways that encourage higher performance and enhanced workplace satisfaction.

Success: Higher emotional intelligence helps us to be stronger self-motivators, which can reduce procrastination, increase self-confidence, and improve our ability to focus on a goal. It also allows us to create stronger support networks, help us overcome setbacks, and be more resilient.

What are some qualities of people with high EQ?

1. They’re balanced: Their self-awareness means that they naturally know the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance in their lives. They eat well, get plenty of sleep and have interests outside work.

2. They’re curious: An innate sense of wonder and curiosity makes them pleasant to be around. They don’t judge; they explore possibilities. They ask questions and are open to new solutions.

3. They’re empathetic: People with high EQ relate to others, show compassion, and take the time to help others. Their empathy makes them curious about other people and leads them to ask lots of questions whenever they meet someone new.

4. They’re gracious: They know every day brings something to be thankful for – and they don’t see the world as “glass half-empty”. They feel good about their lives and don’t let critics or negative people affect them.

If any of us are to succeed in life, we need to learn to recognize emotions in others. We need to develop empathy; we need to be attuned to what others want or need. And we need to develop our emotional intelligence so we are capable of healthy relationships. Emotional intelligence is not inborn: it can be learned and improved upon. To do so requires work and dedication, but it’s worth it: it can quite literally change your life.

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