Emotional intelligence, AKA “EQ,” is a newer term in our society. You may or may not have taken an emotional intelligence test (or even be aware of what that is), but the term is one men and women interested in improving friendships and relationships of all kinds should know more about.
What is emotional intelligence?
According to the American Psychological Association’s definition, “Intelligence refers to intellectual functioning. Intelligence quotients, or IQ tests, compare your performance with other people your age who take the same test. These tests don’t measure all kinds of intelligence, however. For example, such tests can’t identify differences in social intelligence, the expertise people bring to their interactions with others.”
Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is defined as follows: “Emotional intelligence (EI), Emotional leadership (EL), Emotional quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”
The term first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, and became popular following the publication of Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Essentially, your EQ is your “emotional IQ.” Your EQ affects every aspect of your life, from your basic human emotions to the way you relate with others. This is because the extent to which you know how to read people, including yourself, defines the extent to which you will have peace, love, joy, or chaos in your life.
There are 5 main qualities of emotional intelligence.
According to Goleman in a 1998 article, emotional intelligence is made up of five distinct components.
Goleman explains that self-awareness is the “ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives,” not only how they affect you but how they affect others as well. Signs of high self-awareness include “self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.”
Goleman defines self-regulation as “The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods” and “The propensity to suspend judgment — to think before acting.” Signs of self-regulation to look for in yourself include “Trustworthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity, and openness to change.”
Motivation is “A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence,” according to Goleman. Key signs of motivation include a “Strong drive to achieve, optimism (even in the face of failure), and organizational commitment.”
According to Goleman, empathy is “The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people,” and subsequently “Skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.”
5. Social Skill
Lastly, social skills are a huge part of emotional intelligence.
If you want to find out your emotional intelligence quotient, there are a number of ways to do this, including reading articles or taking an EQ test.
There are a number of different tests online to find out your EQ. Some are free and some you have to pay for. Some are short and some are longer.
Here are three EQ tests with free report options you can try:
- Psychology Today’s Emotional Intelligence Test
- Psychtests Emotional Intelligence Test
- Global Leadership Foundation
Understanding your own EQ is critical.
It affects everything you do in life, as well as all of your relationships.
If you have a poor EQ, your emotions may get in the way of your relationships. This could mean the loss of connection with family members, friends, loved ones, or even jobs. If you have an average EQ, your life may run smoothly most of the time, but emotional issues are likely to crop up every once in a while.
And if you have an excellent EQ, life is likely to be intentional and exceptional for you. You accept, value, and acknowledge your emotions while keeping them in perspective. You are also able to help others control their emotions through the manner in which you interact with them.
Your EQ is important because your emotions are a valuable part of who you are at your core. Enjoy your emotions, keep them in perspective and allow them to help others.
Emotional intelligence develops in childhood.
If you grew up in a fairly healthy emotional environment, you’re likely to have a fairly healthy EQ. If you don’t experience much in the way of emotions, you may have been so traumatized by past experiences that your unconscious mind shut down your emotional capacity. In such instances, you may generally go about life feeling frozen or numb.
As a child, you may have heard phrases such as:
- “Don’t cry. It’s not that bad.”
- “You’re too big a boy for that kind of thing now.”
- “Just do as you are told and stop whining about it.”
These words hurt! And they can have significant negative effects on your emotional well-being.
If you grew up being told such things, as an adult, you may be prone to over-sensitivity, feeling as though other people’s behaviors are a direct reflection of their perceptions of you, reading more into words and encounters than actually exists.
Without emotional awareness, it’s difficult to harness your emotions to your advantage to do whatever it is you want to accomplish.
If you have a lower EQ, it can be tough to get moving when you don’t want to do something.
For example, if you don’t want to cut the grass, you’ll probably find every excuse not to do it. Someone with a higher EQ, though, would recognize that mowing the lawn needs to be done. So why not make it fun? This ability to find playfulness or humor in even the most disagreeable tasks makes it easier to get on with them.
Unfortunately, few of us are offered emotional intelligence training in school. Some of the learning comes along the way of development as we grow.
If you had parents that taught you emotional management, you were very fortunate — you learned some very valuable lessons. For most of us, we did not learn to manage our emotions.
The baby who cries continually learns that their needs are not important because their caregiver is not helping regulate them, emotionally. The child who is told to say, “I am sorry” when they are still angry is being told to shut down their emotions. And the teen who is told to ignore their feelings does not learn emotional control.
Fortunately, you can learn how to improve your emotional intelligence.
Essentially, it comes down to learning how to control your emotions.
It’s important to be clear that this doesn’t mean there are any emotions you should never feel. Or that you should shut your feelings down completely. Being emotionally intelligent means being able to manage your emotions in a manner that is appropriate to the moment in which you are having them.
Managing your emotions means knowing when it’s appropriate to express them fully and when it’s better to keep them in check until later, and then doing so. You may need to learn mindfulness exercises such as breathing deeply from your diaphragm to calm yourself in the meantime.
Managing your emotions also means being able to help other people manage their own. Examples of this include speaking to others in a respectful manner, and asserting clear boundaries when someone refuses to show you the same respect in return.