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Emotional Intelligence
By Scott Morrell





Pixar’s film, Inside Out (2015), tells the story of Riley, a young girl who is uprooted from her Midwestern life and moved to San Francisco where her dad takes a new job. The story takes us through her emotions of joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness as she learns how to best navigate a new city, house and school.  And she learns managing her emotions isn’t easy.

We probably all know people who are masters at managing their emotions, even in stressful situations. They have the ability to stay calm and find a solution.  They trust their intuition and are excellent decision makers.  They take criticism well and know when to use it to improve their performance and their lives. 

We probably also all know people who just seem to be really good listeners.  They always seem to know just what to say and how to say it so that we don’t get offended or upset.  They’re caring and considerate, hopeful and optimistic.  And we usually feel better after being in their presence.

What do these people have in common?  It’s highly likely they have a high degree of emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Research from social scientist Daniel Goleman, (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ has expanded the contemporary understanding of what it means to be “intelligent.” Growing up we learned the term “intelligence” and associated it with aptitude (IQ). Goleman, suggests being smart can also mean acknowledging one’s emotions and managing those emotions effectively-Emotional Intelligence or EQ.   


We all have different personalities and different ways of showing our emotions.  Navigating through that takes tact and cleverness (as Riley from Inside Out experienced).  That’s where emotional intelligence becomes important. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.  It’s an awareness of your feelings in the moment and how they affect those around you.  Emotional Intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.


Four Skills of Emotional Intelligence

Bradberry & Greaves, (2009) Emotional Intelligence 2.0 offers a useful model of understanding EQ.  Emotional intelligence consists of four skills (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management) that pair up under two primary competencies:  personal competence and social competence.  Personal competence focuses on you.  Social competence focuses on your interactions with others.

 

Skill 1:  Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across situations.  It includes staying on top of your typical reactions to specific events, challenges and people.  When you have an understanding of your tendencies, it helps you make sense of your emotions.  The only way to genuinely understand your emotions is to spend enough time thinking about them to figure out where they come from and why they are there.  Self-awareness is developing an understanding of what makes you tick.

 

Skill 2:  Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to control emotions and impulses and is dependent on your self-awareness.  It’s your ability to use the awareness of your emotions to positively direct your behavior.  Self-management is what happens when you act-or when you don’t act.  Self-management is more than resisting explosive or problematic behavior, its managing tendencies over time and applying behavior management skills in a variety of situations. People who self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don’t make impulsive, careless decisions.

 

Skill 3:  Social Awareness

Social awareness is your ability to accurately diagnose the emotions of others.  It’s often perceiving what other people are thinking and feeling even when you may not feel the same way.  Two key elements to social awareness are listening and observing others.  And to do these well, we often need to stop doing some of the things we like to do.  We have to stop talking, stop the monologue running in our mind and stop thinking ahead to what we say next. We need to stop and observe.  And it takes practice to really watch people and get a good sense of what they are feeling and thinking. 

 

Skill 4:  Relationship Management

Relationship management is the ability to use the awareness of your own emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully.  Relationship management is the bond you build with others over time.  People who manage relationships well see the advantage of connecting with many different people.  They view solid relationships as something that should be sought and cherished.  They know relationships are the result of how you understand people, how you treat them and the history you share.

 

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Unlike IQ that does not change, EQ can be learned and developed.  While assessments are available to analyze your EQ, here’s some questions to consider about this topic:

  • Observe how you react to people.  Do you rush judgment before you know the facts?
  • Do you seek attention for your accomplishments?  Or do you act humbly?
  • Are you willing to accept you’re not perfect and willing to work on some areas to make you a better person?
  • How do you react to stressful situations?  Do you react quickly?  Do you blame others?
  • How do you think your actions affects others?