Angry irritated woman clenching her fist in the office

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

We are hearing a lot about Emotional Intelligence at the moment but what exactly is it and why is it important and so popular?

Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to control and express our emotions in a healthy way, and to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others in an appropriate way. Many people focus on their IQ or Intelligence Quotient, but psychological studies have shown that there is also a thing known as an Emotional Quotient (EQ), and that those with a high EQ tend to do well in both their careers and social situations.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) was first explored in the 1930s in the US and by the 1990s had become a mainstream concept used to help people with anger management and other issues monitor their own feelings and actions, and better grasp the effects of their emotions on other people. By also learning how to read the feelings and emotions of others, better communication could take place, and relationships improved.

The Four Aspects of Emotional Intelligence

Researchers have created a model of EI that is said to have four parts:

  1. Recognizing emotions
  2. Reasoning using emotions
  3. Understanding emotions
  4. Managing emotions

1. Recognizing

The first step in understanding emotions is to recognise them, and be able to identify them accurately. This will often include tapping into one’s own inner truth to sort out anger, disappointment, embarrassment, and other emotions. These might all be expressed in the same way by a person lacking in EI, who might demonstrate anger in all of these instances.

It might also be a case of recognising their own body language and the unconscious messages they are sending, and picking up on the non-verbal cues others are giving them, such as facial expression and body language. Standing too far away or too close to someone, for example, sends out certain messages they need to be able to read in themselves and others.

2. Reasoning Using Emotions

Human beings are not robots. We make many decisions in relation to our emotions, though we might not realise it. We will often do things on the spur of the moment due to mood. However, reasoning means getting the emotions under control and using them to make logical decisions based on who the person is and the life they wish to lead. Emotions help us focus on what’s important to us and filter out what isn’t important.

3. Understanding Emotions

We can usually identify emotions, but are not always able to interpret what they mean. For example, we can all spot anger in most cases, but need to get at the heart of why the anger has been triggered. However, not everyone who experiences anger shouts or throws things. Sometimes their reaction is a lot subtler, such as silence, sarcasm, or simply walking away.

Understanding emotions is also about not taking things personally. Is your boss really angry with you, or are they angry at the guy who cut him off in the parking lot?

4. Managing Emotions

Managing emotions is an essential part of EI, with your expression of emotions appropriate to the situation and context. Shouting, screaming and throwing things might be appropriate when you are two, but not when you are an adult – and certainly not in the office in front of all your colleagues.

Those who are able to regulate their emotions and not get ruffled no matter how stressful things get, are seen to be a reliable person in control of their life. Those who fly off the handle at the least little thing are seen to be unreliable and out of control, and therefore someone who needs to be dealt with cautiously.

If you’ve been struggling with relationships, it’s time to learn more about your EI.

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