Emotional Intelligence

An old Japanese tale

A belligerent samurai, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the monk replied with scorn, “You’re nothing but a lout- I can’t waste my time with the likes of you! ”

His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into rage and pulling his sword from the scabbard, yelled, “I could kill you for your impertinence. ”

“That,” the monk calmly replied, “is hell. ”

Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.

“And that” said the monk, “is heaven.”

“In true sense, we have two minds, one that thinks, and one that feels.”  -Daniel Goleman

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify and manage your emotions to achieve success and happiness in your life. Emotional intelligence is about recognizing your own emotional state as well as the emotional state of others in order to engage better with them.

Emotional intelligence is a form of social intelligence. It lets you guide your thoughts and actions while interacting with others. It enables you to communicate your thoughts effectively, empathize with others and helps you in resolving conflict and challenges.

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” -Mayor & Salovey 1997

The rational and emotional brain complements each other. The rational brain helps in making consciously thought-out decisions while taking into consideration every aspect related to it. Whereas the emotional brain is involved in making impulsive and sometimes illogical decisions.

We are programmed to act in a way our brain has been trained. There are moments in our lives when our emotions overpower our rational thinking. This happens because our brain is divided into 2 parts: rational and emotional. When the emotions are intense, they hijack the rational part of the brain and trigger a reaction that could be seen in the form of the emotions: anger, fear, happiness, love, surprise, disgust, sadness.

“Anybody can become angry. What is not easy is to be angry with the right person and to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way.” -PLATO

EQ (Emotional Quotient) vs IQ (Intelligent Quotient)

IQ is a genetic characteristic that can’t be changed by life experiences. Whereas EI can be taught to children & instilled in them at a young age so that they can utilize their full intellectual potential.

The traditional meaning of success is having a better IQ. But Daniel Goleman says that those who have enough IQ to just get into a decent university but a stellar EQ makes more money than those who have a higher IQ but lack EQ.

Research shows that high EI is actually more important than IQ for success. An individual’s success in work is 80% dependent on EQ while only 20% dependent on IQ.

Benefits of higher EQ

  • Ease in forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships and in ‘fitting in’ to group situations.
  • A better understanding of one’s own psychological state, which can include managing stress effectively and being less likely to suffer from depression.

5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

1. Self-Awareness – Know Thyself

Being self-aware simply means that you’re able to recognize and label your feelings.

For example, when children learn to speak, they usually need to be given the vocabulary first, so if your son is angry because you’re not letting him have candy before dinner, he’ll know he feels bad, but can’t tell you what exactly it is, until you tell him that what he’s feeling is anger.

Socrates said “know thyself”, so developing a keener understanding of our own nature (self-awareness) is the first and most important step on the way to Emotional Intelligence.

Developing a better understanding of your own nature is the first step towards learning emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior.

Being aware of the self means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It includes having self-confidence and an accurate self-assessment of knowing how and why you behave in situations in a certain way.

If you can know your emotions as they happen, you can make better decisions.

It might seem at first glance that our feelings are obvious; more thoughtful reflections remind us of times we have been all too oblivious to what we really felt about something, or awoke to these feelings late in the game.

Self-awareness or meta-mood as psychologists say, is the sense of an ongoing attention to one’s internal states. In this self-reflexive awareness, the mind observes and investigates experience itself, including the emotions.

Self-awareness in short, means being “aware of both our moods and our thoughts about that mood” -John Mayor

2. Self-Regulation – Managing Emotions

An important part of the EQ equation is emotional self-regulation.

For example, when you sit in your office and hear a sudden, loud bang, like the sound of an explosion, your emotional processing center will perceive it as a threat and put your body in alert mode. But when your rational brain double checks and sees there’s no actual threat there, it calms you down again, so you can get back on track to what you were doing.

As an adult, being able to look at your emotions on a meta-level is crucial in choosing how to react to your feelings – or if you should react at all.

The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, and manage them in an effective way, being optimistic, taking initiatives, and adapting to the conditions in challenging situations.

Goleman stresses that you cannot avoid emotions from arising. However, you can control them when they appear.

Goleman explains the Ventilation fallacy for the most experienced emotion: anger.

The Ventilation Fallacy

Goleman tells a story when he gets in a cab. The impatient cab driver honks signaling a young man to move out of the way. The young man makes an offensive gesture, further adding to the cab driver’s agitation. He revved his engine loudly and said you have to yell back as it makes you feel better.

Venting when you are angry prolongs your mood rather than ending it. Anger only breeds more anger. Venting out when you are sad is a good way to validate your feelings. So, you have to keep a check on your feelings.

Follow these simple tricks to relieve your bad mood:

  • Take deep breaths
  • Reframe your thoughts and try to avoid overindulging in negative thoughts
  • Go for a walk

3. Motivation – Self-Motivation

Emotional traits like enthusiasm and persistence play an important role in mastering aptitude.

Goleman says the reason most Asian students have better aptitude than their counterparts, not because of their IQ, but their endurance to improve their shortcomings.

Self-motivation is also affected by delayed gratification. Goleman shares the famous marshmallow test wherein some 4 years old were given a marshmallow. They were asked to wait for 15 minutes before eating the marshmallow. If they did so, they would be awarded another marshmallow. But if they did eat it before that time, they will not get another one.

Years later, the children who did not eat the marshmallow immediately were found to perform better in life than those who did eat the marshmallow immediately.

The ability to delay gratification was a result of self-control. This helps in making some difficult choices which result in good benefits in the long term rather than making short-term but bad choices.

4. Empathy – Recognizing emotions in others

People express far more through non-verbal cues like facial expressions, gestures than they express their feelings with words. Understanding others through non-verbal communication and feeling empathy for others helps you connect with them more comfortably.

Suppose someone at work messes up with some tasks. If you provide them with a harsh and sarcastic tone, it does not lead to a solution. Instead, you should try to provide constructive criticism with specifics and suggestions to face the problem face to face. This gives them hope and motivation to do things better.

5. Social Skills – Handling Relationships

The ability to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly and manage conflict in stressful situations.

Emotions are highly contagious. If someone talks to you in an angry tone and you can keep calm, it is highly likely that the other person will start to calm down.

5 Elements of Emotional Intelligence in Short

  • Self-awareness: emotional awareness, self-assessment, self-confidence;
  • Self-regulation: self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, innovation;
  • Motivation: achievement drive, commitment, initiative, optimism;
  • Empathy: understanding others, service orientation, leveraging diversity, political awareness;
  • Social skills: influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, change catalyst, collaboration and cooperation.

Emotional Intelligence in Professional Life

IQ is usually what we think determines success. But Goleman’s research led him to believe that EQ, emotional intelligence, is just as, if not more important, to find happiness.

For example, in the world of business and careers, students with higher levels of empathy seem to get better grades, even if their peers are just as smart. That’s because they can better manage their feelings.

Your health also highly depends on your EQ, because the more you have of it, the better you are able to mitigate stress, which can prevent a lot, if not all, of the most prevalent diseases of our time.

2 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

Here are two really cool exercises to increase your emotional intelligence:

  1. Mirror other people’s body language: This first exercise will not only help you connect better with the person across the table, it’ll also make you more emotionally self-aware. It’s one of those “fake it till you make it” scenarios, which help you build better habits.
  2. Convince yourself that your failures result from things you can change: This second exercise helps you become an optimist. Optimistic people continue to try, because they believe their actions make a difference, and are thus more likely to succeed.

From the book:-
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

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