Updated: Mar 31, 2022
December 22nd, 2021
What is Emotional Intelligence? (Plus Improving it)
Everyone experiences emotions throughout their day. From the frustration of not getting a morning cup of coffee to the joy you feel when seeing loved ones. We all get emotional, and we all regulate our emotions. We hold back anger, navigate social situations, and much more. How is this all done? Through what we call "emotional intelligence."
What is it?
What exactly is emotional intelligence? Well, before I describe what it is and to make sense of it, let’s get a little sciency. When we smell, hear, see, taste, or touch, that information travels through the spinal cord to the brain. But before it moves to the front of the brain, where our primary thinking takes place, it has to move through the Limbic System, which is the place where we experience emotions. Whenever we take in any information, our emotions get activated before we can properly think about it. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is about effective communication between our brain’s rational and emotional parts. So when you are working from just your emotions and not thinking rationally, you’re working with a lower EQ.
Since we feel emotion before the rational part of our brain can process information, understanding what we are feeling and why we are feeling is the basis for emotional intelligence. The more you can process emotions and understand them, the more emotional intelligence you will have. EQ defines how we manage behaviour, navigate social situations, and make personal decisions.
Emotional intelligence can be broken down into four different skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
The first one, self-awareness, is about recognizing your emotions in the moment and understanding how you react when faced with those emotions. For example, let’s say you are visiting with a friend, and they say something mean to you. Self-awareness in EQ is about recognizing that you might be feeling angry and understanding what you would normally do in this situation as a response.
The second skill is self-management. This ties in directly with the previous one. Self-management is what happens when you act or do not act. This skill is all about how you use your awareness of your emotions and direct them towards a positive result. Going back to our friend example, self-management might look like not yelling at them and saying mean things back. Instead, just letting your anger pass or talking to them about what they just said. This goes into our next two skills, which are focused on interacting with other people.
The next skill is social awareness. Social awareness is your ability to pick up and understand the emotions that other people are experiencing. Understanding where they are coming from, why they are feeling that way, and so on. In our example, social awareness would be about you focusing on why your friend is saying something mean. Why are they saying that? What is their emotional state? What drove them to act in the way they are acting?
And the final EQ skill is relationship management. This skill brings the other three together in how you deal with other people. Being aware of your emotions and reactions, managing yourself, and understanding the other person’s emotions allow you to interact with them in a positive and healthy way. By being self and socially aware, you can manage your actions and words to build a better interaction. With your friend, this could look something like expressing your feelings on why they were being rude instead of simply lashing back at them and working with them to understand why they acted in the way they did.
How to Improve EQ?
To improve your emotional intelligence, the next time you are faced with an emotional situation, take a moment to breathe and think about why you are feeling this way. If there is another person in the situation, try to figure out why they are acting the way they are. Where are they coming from? And how can you use that information to improve how you act towards them to turn a negative situation into a positive one?
Thanks for reading. I hope it was helpful in understanding emotional intelligence and how it plays out. And I also hope that you consider implementing the skills listed above the next time you are in an emotional situation with someone!
Until next time,