Emotional Intelligence: Why It's Important And How To Improve It
Everyone is familiar with the concept of IQ, which stands for Intelligence Quotient. It exists on a scale from 1 to 140 or higher, with 100 being the average mental aptitude of a person, 70 below representing mental disability, and 135 above belonging to the geniuses and gifted. A high IQ has been correlated with upper-income brackets, academic success, and workplace success. Finally, it has been associated with the most influential and avant-garde thinkers, such as Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and most famously, Albert Einstein.
However, IQ possesses a less well-known sibling: EQ, which stands for Emotional Intelligence. While IQ is a measure of human reasoning, EQ is a measure of human emotional control. Or in other words, “The ability to manage one’s own emotions, stay motivated, feel what others feel, and be socially skilled.”
This means that EQ is concerned with how well a person can understand emotions in a person, identify the emotions they feel, and control the emotions or thinking they possess. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, a higher EQ means more self-control, empathy, and self-motivation.
Studies on Emotional Intelligence
Unlike IQ, EQ cannot be quantitatively measured, and its abstract nature makes it difficult to test. Despite this, Mayer and Geher conducted the most famous test on EQ in 1996, where they had 321 participants read the writings of a group and were asked to guess what the writers felt and evaluate how much they agreed with the readings. The result was that the participants who agreed more with the writer’s consensus and identified the emotions correctly scored higher on self-reported SAT scores, empathy, and lower on emotional defensiveness.
Another more recent experiment involved dental students who filled out a questionnaire and whose EQ was evaluated. From that batch, 10 individuals arranged from low EQ to high EQ were chosen to be interviewed. High EQ subjects coped with stress differently from low EQ subjects. They reported greater self-reflection, social skills, and time-management while the latter experienced dangerous habits like drinking and smoking. Additionally, low EQ subjects were discovered to worsen stressful experiences while high EQ students created a positive outlook on such experiences.
Another study was conducted on the correlation between EQ and resilience. Participants of the study completed an MSCEIT test and were exposed to two tasks: mental arithmetic and speech. The mental arithmetic task involved counting backward on a 4 digit number by 7. The speech task involved videotaping themselves giving a speech defending someone against a pretend sexual harassment accusation. The results were that the participants with high EQ were physiologically less stressed, while the ones with low EQ had faster heartbeats, sweatier hands, and higher blood pressure. The study also showed that individuals with high EQ were able to better confront problems in a more tranquil state.
Emotional Intelligence brings an equally dramatic effect as normal intelligence. Cultivating our ability to understand ourselves and others can make us more resilient, effective, and stable individuals.
Improving our Emotional Intelligence
Thankfully, there are ways to improve our emotional intelligence. There was a study involving 59 middle managers who completed an emotional intelligence training course one day a week for 5 weeks. Following the completion, their job performance was rated higher by their line managers. Research also suggests that while Emotional Intelligence is firm, it is not rigid. An effective coaching program can yield a higher EQ. However the biggest factor is “you”. It takes an immense amount of dedication to self-evaluate and reform one’s negative thinking, and no coach will be able to fully fix your emotional intelligence other than yourself.
However, this also means that we can still improve our EQ without a coach. This can be done by focusing on the 5 components of Emotional Intelligence: self-awareness of our emotions, self-regulation, maintaining motivation, establishing empathy, and improving social-skills.
We can improve our self-awareness and self-regulation through keeping a journal. Reflecting on our thought processes and deciding how to react the next time we encounter a stressful situation can be extremely helpful. We can also reconnect with our motivation by examining why we pursue our goals or why we perform our job.
Social skills and empathy are a little more intrinsic, and require more experience with communicating with people. However, it doesn’t hurt to practice putting ourselves in someone’s shoes or anticipating how our words will affect others. Improving our emotional intelligence is not easy, and will at first require constant re-evaluation and vigilance, but it is still doable.
Significance of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is something that should be held equally to or even to a higher value than IQ because while it is helpful to be smarter, learning how to be gritty in the face of life’s anxieties can be more important. Also, learning how to collaborate with others and draw upon their collective intelligence in the workplace can be even more crucial than individual giftedness. Finally, IQ is something that is rigid, genetic, and unchangeable. And while emotional intelligence is not easily changed, it is changeable. For those of us who are discontent with our jobs or life, we should consider evaluating ourselves more and possibly investing in coaching. By doing so, we can strive to become more empathetic, tough, resilient, and happy human beings.