What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Does It Matter?

Have you heard of “emotional intelligence,” or EI for short? It’s a hot topic these days, and with good reason. Some people say it’s the most important thing that determines whether or not you will be successful in your career and relationships. So, what exactly is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence has to do with your self-awareness and ability to manage your emotions while helping others manage theirs.

How quickly can you shift to a positive state after something challenging happens to you? How deeply are you able to relate to people? Do you tune-in to how someone feels during a conversation?

These are all aspects of your EI. Can you see how those things can be helpful in your job and your relationships? According to Daniel Goleman, the founder of the idea, emotional intelligence has 4 parts.

1. Have a keen awareness of the way you feel.

For some people, self-awareness comes naturally, for others it may take some practice. Wherever you’re starting from, you can always improve and become more aware of the emotions you’re experiencing, why they’re coming up, and how you’re showing up to the world. The important thing here is to be an impartial observer. You don’t need to judge your feelings, just watch them arise.

When you bring awareness to them and can see the full picture, you’ll then be able to handle the emotions that you’re feeling. Everyone has different strengths and specialties, but generally, awareness is necessary before you can excel at handling emotions, either for yourself or others.

Action to Improve Emotional Awareness

Next time you notice yourself in a negative state (or a positive one), stop whatever you’re doing and just observe. Why do you feel this way? What’s the root cause of your emotion? Notice what you notice.

Once again, it’s crucial that you don’t judge your feelings as they come up. Simply notice them, and let them float on by like a cloud in the sky.

2. The ability to manage your emotions.

Once you’re aware of your emotions, then you’re ready to learn how to shift them and control your emotional state. The benefits of this include:

  • Not being triggered by other people’s actions or things that happen to you
  • Not wasting time moping or pouting when you could be getting things done
  • Not being bogged down by negative emotions that keep you from being productive

You can understand this part pretty easily, right?

Actions to Improve Emotional Control.

The next time you feel yourself slip into a bad emotional state, be aware and continue watching in an unbiased manner. Ask yourself questions, like: “Why am I feeling this way? Is this helping my situation or making it worse?”

Another powerful question that can help you shift is this: “Will this issue matter on my deathbed?” Although it seems extreme, remember: it’s easier to deal with your emotions when you’re committed to the big picture. If you don’t want to go to the gym, but you’re extremely committed to being fit, you’ll get it done. Try to step outside of yourself, and pull your awareness outside of your current emotional state.

3. Be aware of other people’s emotions.

Again, this will come intuitively to some. For others, it will take practice. There are cues you can look for to ascertain how someone is feeling during an interaction. If you use these tools, you’ll be able to relate to people in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Actions to Improve Awareness of Others

Next time you’re interacting with someone, pay attention to their body language. Does the person have their arms and legs folded? Are they making eye contact? Are they slouching or sitting up straight? Look into their eyes and notice what you feel intuitive when you do. How is their tone?

What is the subtext of the words that they’re saying? Make guesses as to how people are feeling, then ask them and see if your answers match up. With practice, you’ll start to notice the subtle signs.

4. The ability to manage and handle other’s emotions.

This last aspect of emotional intelligence is a powerful one. Have you ever seen someone who was a master salesperson? They probably had a strong ability to excite someone about a product or turn their frustration into something with a simple solution. That’s an example of someone who has developed a mastery of this skill.

Actions to Improve Your Ability to Manage Others Emotions

Next time you’re with someone who seems like they’re sad, or angry, practice seeing them in a positive state and treat them as if they were already in one. Without being patronizing, or pretending the situation is different than it is, find a way to remind the person (gently) of how wonderful their life is, or how grateful you are that they’re in your life.

Generally speaking, a real, authentic, positive attitude is contagious. The key here is to stay in your positive state and make sure you don’t succumb to their negativity. This is a challenging part of expanding your emotional intelligence, so don’t get discouraged. As long as you focus on leading by example, you’re helping others to make better choices as well.

When you develop your emotional intelligence, you’ll have the ability to control your emotions, instead of letting your emotions control you.

Schools don’t teach it yet, but emotional intelligence is one of the most important things we can teach our children and the rest of society.

emotional intelligence

High EQs leads to better grades, healthy relationships, strong bonds with other people, good decision-making, a higher life expectancy . . . the list goes on and on. Developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness at a young age instills healthy self-esteem and the motivation to live an authentic life.

Before you’re able to implement Goleman’s valuable advice successfully, you need to be in touch with your authentic self. Any addiction to approval will keep you from moving forward to a healthy, happy relationship with yourself and others. If you’re still living on autopilot, it’s likely the next point won’t come easily to you. So take a moment to assess if you’re aware and living as your true Self in this moment.

The next point is to identify the difference between IQ and EQ, which is essentially the difference between listening to your heart and listening to your logical mind. They’re both important in different ways. While a high IQ helps you problem solve and use reason, your EQ will help you relate to yourself and to others in a deep, sincere, and fruitful way.

Curious about your emotional intelligence?

Wherever your EI/EQ is right now, realize that it’s a skill you can always improve on . . . and with practice, you can master the art of relating.

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We originally published this article on LinkedIn Pulse.

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