There’s a term that’s being tossed around a lot these days: emotional intelligence. People are saying it’s just as important, if not, more than IQ.
Well, what is it, why does it matter, and how do you improve it?
Having great emotional intelligence (EQ) can help you:
- be more like-able and communicate with customers, employees, business friends, and executives
- inspire your workforce with positivity, community, leadership and well-being
- make more long-term, helpful friends
- have better relationships with your family and in your dating life
- improve your income and career by differentiating you from competition
In the books Social by Matt Lieberman and The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, they showed studies that found that having a good network of friends acted as a safety net for your emotional well-being and mental resiliency.
It makes perfect sense that we are wired to be social creatures since we have lived in tribes for most of our existence.
Plus, being super social is really what allowed us to develop incredible intelligence as a species.
Here is my book summary of Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman, the book that popularized the term and had minds like Bill Gates talking about it.
EQ doesnt make up all of your success but it’s still impactful. Keep in mind there are tons of factors at play that determine your life circumstance.
Just because you have the potential for high EQ doesnt mean you have high EQ until you develop competency.
EQ is more useful for responsibilities that need less technical skills and more soft skills, like personal relationships or customer service.
EQ is a great differentiator for people who all have the necessary technical skills
Compassion and self control are much needed traits in modern life and something EQ can help with.
Recent societal changes have made children worse at EQ than ever before, including the amount of time children spend on screens, the distance away from extended family due to air travel, and less time spent with parents because they work longer hours.
The Neuroscience of Emotional Intelligence
Emotions aren’t a bad thing. They evolved because they helped us act and make decisions that we couldn’t make accurately on logic alone
They have helped us survive for most of human civilization.
They are not as helpful sometimes in modern society because we have evolved as a civilization much faster than evolution can keep up with. Emotions developed in the human brain before logic did.
The hairtrigger response of emotions helped our ancestors survive when predators were more of a real threat but now they are a hindrance especially since young children can have access to guns when they get angry
The amygdala acts as the emotional sentinel or control center. It overrides rational thinking with emotional reaction. The more intense the primal emotion, the deeper it imprints on your mind (fear or excitement). Past trauma or emotional memory is stored here. The problem is that outdated behavioral reaction to emotional triggers can occur here. Only a few elements of a memory have to be the same for the behavior to trigger (e.g. the stale smell of a day old diaper can trigger past memories of the stench of war)
Possible applications to me or other modern humans (past social rejection haunts your behavior with making friends, talking to others as equals, or girls … or past experience with parents causes an overreaction to criticism or “failure”)
There is a large emotional component to decision making as proven by people who have had lobotomy’s and had their emotional parts of their brain removed who cant make any proper decisions in day to day life
Valedictorians do not indicate success in later life. A study following valedictorians into later life found that only 25% of them had significant success later in life, with many struggling.
Academic performance has no relation to emotional mastery.
Don’t under-emphasize soft skills like intra-personal skills and people skills.
Examples of High and Low EQ
Here are polarizing examples of emotionally intelligent and unintelligent men and women to give you an idea of why it’s important:
Note: these are extreme depictions to illustrate a point. You don’t have to be exactly like these examples. We all have mixes of both in different degrees.
Men with high IQ but low emotional intelligence:
- Intellectually adept in the mind but failing in his personal life.
- Ambitious and productive but predictable, dogged, and troubled by concerns of himself.
- Critical and condescending
- Hyper-attentive to accuracy
- Uneasy with sexuality
- Unexpressive, detached, bland, and cold
Highly emotional intelligent men are:
- Not fearful or ruminating
- Notable capacity for commitment to people and causes, for having an ethical outlook, and taking responsibility.
- Sympathetic and caring in their relationships.
- Their emotional life is rich but appropriate.
- They are comfortable with themselves, others, and their social universe.
High IQ low emotional intelligence women are:
- Intellectual confident
- Fluent in expressing their thoughts
- Value intellectual matters
- Wide range of intellectual interests
- Prone to rumination, anxiety, and guilt
- Hesistant to express anger openly (though they do it indirectly)
Emotionally intelligent woman:
- Express their feelings directly and appropriately without outbursts
- Feel positive about themselves
- Life holds meaning to them
- Outgoing, social
- Adapt well to stress.
- They can easily reach out to new people.
- They are comfortable with themselves to be playful, spontaneous, and open to sensual experience.
- Rarely feel anxious or guilty or sink into rumination.
Who do you know who resembles the traits of high EQ mentioned? How can you hang around them more and learn from them? Who do you know has these low EQ traits? How can you be more like the high EQ people?
How to Improve Emotional Intelligence
Improve self-awareness, self-mastery, and empathy (the 3 fundamentals of EQ)
Work on your mindfulness. I suggest guided mindfulness meditations.
Constantly practice being aware of your emotions — be a 3rd party observer rather than someone influenced by the emotions of the event. The more you practice, the better you get at this ability. I believe breathe meditation helps. Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of MindValley, became able to detach and observe his road rage after years of meditation, according to his book Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
Get committed, get enthused, draw on your dreams, form good habits (neurogeneresis will form new neural pathways into your brain — it can take 6 months or more to build new habits — just keep practicing)
Get anonymous evaluation to see where your EQ competencies are and aren’t (there are tests for this, the 360 degree test is the best)
Get honest feedback from people you trust for areas for improvement
Mental rehearsal. Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as does the real activity. This is why Olympic athletes spend off-season running through their moves in their brain – because that counts as practice time, too. It’s going to increase their ability to perform when the real moment comes.
The sooner you start the better. Your emotional and social wiring gets formed into ingrained habits in the first 25 years of life.
Have intentional effort to improve and practice when opportunities present themselves (make an effort to active listening when you are given the opportunity to listen and not speak)
Try the DISC Personality Test
One great way to improve your emotional intelligence and communication skills is by taking a personality test. The DISC test is a comprehensive, expensive test that analyzes your communication style.
Broadly speaking, the DISC can be broken down into four quadrants:
D – dominance – how you handle problems and challenges
I – influences – how you handle people and influence others (high I = customer service/sales though that doesn’t you can’t be)
S – steadiness – how you handle change and pace yourself
C – compliance – how you handle rules and procedures set by others
D – strong, clear, confident, fast-paced, finger-pointing, leaning, direct eye contact, leaders (if you have high D without self awareness, you can be the bull in the china store. Telling them how to prioritize things may be seen as too much and like you are micro-managing them.)
I – charming, loud, optimistic, team player, conflict resolver, customer service, event promotion, account management.
S – predictable, patient, steady, patient, empathetic, dependable, loyal (Once you develop the relationship, they’re very loyal. When communicating with these, explain the WHY behind change rather than just have change for change’s sake. Avoid giving them ambiguity or no prioritization.)
C – quality control, fact finder, high standards, analytical (ideal environment: low-noise environment.)
Extroverted: D and I
Introverted: S and C
One of the four factors is your Achilles Heel: A high C can clash with a high D because one likes strict rules and procedures, while the other doesn’t.
Don’t pigeonhole. DISC can change.
Higher isn’t always better.
If you don’t think part of the assessment is accurate, maybe it is true and you won’t admit it or it’s inaccurate:
Ask yourself “How were I to rephrase that so that it were true?”
Ask someone who knows you well and ask them if it’s true.
The further you out towards the edge of the Success Insights Wheel, the less adaptable you are too different people or traits.
Another huge part of DISC are motivational drivers. Your drivers rarely change throughout your life unless there’s some huge upheaval or turning point in your life. There’s huge value in understanding someone’s motivations. If someone is driven by helping others versus making money for himself, those are different ways you should communicate and incentivize each.
How do you find out your or someone else’s drivers?
Think back to your memorable childhood memories that influenced you.
Find out what they do with their free time and extra money. But you can’t just assume: dig deeper. They may have gone on a mission trip not because they’re selfless but because they’re family dragged them to. Ask them why.
My Top 4 Highest Drivers:
Intellectual 86 (love of learning)
Resourceful 83 (being able to measure results)
There is no good or bad to which drivers are best. It’s about having the wisdom to identify the drivers of people and tweaking how you deliver communication to others (and that’s not knowing you change your inner nature, manipulate, or get political to do so).
Action Steps and Tips:
Understand the drivers and personality traits of others so that you motivate and communicate with them in the proper forms and ways.
Find out more by reading the books I mentioned. Get two free audiobooks via Audible. (affiliate link)
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