We all dream about that infamous magic pill; a pill that instantly transforms us into a better, more productive, more successful version of ourselves, at home, at work, and with friends. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Sadly, no amount of hoping or pleading can make this pill appear.
But, what if there exists another way to enhance yourself, your skill set, and your impact. Would you take that challenge?
Fortunately, emotional intelligence (EQ) is a skill set that enriches optimal performance and successful results in all areas of life.
You might be thinking, emotion, what? Aren’t we taught to leave emotion out of it?
While a legitimate and popularized concern in today’s culture, reality is, the door is ever revolving. No matter how hard you try to take emotion out of decisions and routines, it willfully comes right back in.
Emotion is a constant force.
In fact, research suggests we each experience over 27 discernible emotions every hour. That’s well over 400 emotions everyday!
So it’s clear. Emotions drive our thoughts and behaviors—constantly. Thus, ignoring our emotions is a colossal mistake as it hurts our productivity and impact in all that we do. Instead, we must lean into our emotions, and work to understand them, so we can learn to control our emotions before they control us.
Fortunately, emotional intelligence (EQ) is a skill that can be learned with commitment and practice. It’s a way of thinking, acting, and reflecting that changes the brain—changes the way you see yourself, the way you see the world around you, and the way you go about reaching your goals in life.
It’s important to clarify that EQ is not the same as IQ and these two do not co-occur in any meaningful way. A person with low IQ can have high EQ and vice versa. And, EQ is also not the same as personality. Personality is a stable set of preferences and tendencies through which you approach the world. It’s fixed early while EQ is a learned, highly flexible skill that can be adjusted and strengthened at any point in life.
Rather, EQ is “your ability to recognize and understand emotions— and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others” (Travis Bradberry, Author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0).
So, you might be thinking, well how do I start?
EQ is composed of four key skills to be harnessed and practiced—skills you can start working on today.
These skills include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
The first two skills, self-awareness and self-management, are core personal competencies. These reflect an intentional and practiced awareness of self, meaning constant recognition and monitoring of thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions.
To begin to become more self-aware, it can be helpful to keep a journal and reflect on your experiences: How did you show up today? What did you say or do? What worked well? What should I adapt in the future?
It’s important to begin to watch yourself more closely and reflective journaling can help you keep track.
The skill of self-management also requires dedicated practice. You can start by getting more organized, setting a timetable to accomplish tasks and goals, eating and sleeping well, and making sure you are breaking down larger goals into more manageable tasks.
Self-management is all about learning the ways you work best, and ensuring you have what you need to get you there. Check this source for more on building self-management skills.
The second set of skills, social awareness and relationship management, are core social competencies, and build an awareness of who you are in interactions with others: do you listen, ask, reflect, include, and adapt to the needs of those around you?
In life, it’s very easy to overvalue how much of a role you play in the success of things, and undervalue the role that others play. Our focus tends to hover on what we might say, do, and think — with little consideration paid to what others may be thinking or saying, or even doing.
Thus we must start practicing things like:
“Listen first, respond second”
Write out everything we want to say (our goals) ahead of time so that we can focus on what the other person or group has to say in the moment
Start each interaction or conversations with some type of “mood check”—asking others how they feel and where they are at with things…
Check the tone of emails and texts before pressing “send” —and when you can, find the person and talk with them directly
Ask for feedback, and be willing to accept it.
Each of these skills takes dedicated learning and practice to achieve. But, rest assured, the practice is well worth it. In fact, research suggests that continued practice of these EQ skills significantly changes neural pathways in the brain, enhancing cognition and thus, productive results.
So it’s important to take the blinders off, and start practicing, because when you do, it’s really hard not to do something productive with your emotions.
When you master your emotions, it trickles into everything you do.
 Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2006). The emotional intelligence quick book: Everything you need to know to put your EQ to work. Simon and Schuster.