If you’re not familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence, then you have probably missed something because it has become a pretty substantial metric in qualifying people for jobs, assessing managers, and determining leaders. Emotional intelligence has been defined as a person’s capability to recognize their own emotions as well as those of others, to discern between different feelings and label or name them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goals.
Based on this definition, these 5 characteristics or qualities make up our emotional intelligence:
Why is emotional intelligence important to develop? It’s proponents say that having a higher “EQ” (emotional quotient) allows for greater personal and professional success. The ability to have a realistic understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, to understand the emotions of others, the ability to deal with stressful and emotional situations, and having good people skills all seem to be qualities which would lead to high achievement and more fulfilling relationships. Additionally, others have noted that those with high levels of EQ are more self-aware, work better with others, and have higher promotion rates. Research also shows that people with a higher emotional intelligence showed a higher measure of cognitive performance.
These “EQ” qualities are what employers at least say they are looking for in their employees and appear to be qualities common among people who have found success in their professional and personal lives. In the past, people placed a high priority on IQ as a metric which could gage potential success. However, intelligence alone does not mediate and create strong, healthy relationships — a big factor in how a person contributes and works in a team, and how he/she defines personal success.
Considering the upside, we would all do better — both personally and professionally — to find ways to increase our EQ, understanding that it provides a set of characteristics which lead to better relationships, greater emotional stability, and higher achievement. With this in mind, I have 5 questions that will help to double your emotional intelligence.
How can I make that statement? Primarily because emotional intelligence is really about awareness. Awareness of yourself. Awareness of others. Awareness of how you react and respond to particular circumstances. Awareness of how you interact with other people in your life. And awareness of what motivates you in life.
The biggest reason for a lack of awareness has to do with what I call the fog of life. Many times life just gets in the way and our current circumstances take the priority in our thoughts. We get involved and inundated with the stuff of life and it clouds our reflective capacity. Drama in our relationships, stress at the office with the deadlines imposed on us, the kids’ homework, and other “life issues” come at us on a regular basis. Things like these often take the top spots of our attention leaving little room for the reflection needed to achieve awareness.
How do we slay this giant? We ask ourselves questions.
Questions are like a magnifying glass. Not in the sense that they make everything bigger necessarily (but they can open our minds to newer and bigger perspectives), but more like when you use a magnifying glass to focus down the light of the sun to a small white-hot point. Questions provide a way to naturally direct and focus our minds on specific things. If we are careful with our questions, we can really use them to direct our thoughts in ways that can be extremely beneficial.
With this in mind, here are 5 questions that can direct your thoughts on particular aspects of your emotional intelligence. And just by asking these questions, just by regularly developing an awareness of these things, you can dramatically increase your EQ.
1. What emotions and feelings am I experiencing right now? This question has to do with self-awareness. It focuses our thoughts on the specific feelings and emotions that we have right now. In life, we don’t necessarily understand exactly what we are feeling at times for two reasons. First of all, we don’t actively reflect on our emotions and secondly, we don’t accurately define them. Emotions like frustration, anger, confusion, and tension can all “feel” the same but when we ask this question, it forces us to come up with a specific answer. We must define our emotions accurately and when we do that, it allows us to have a greater understanding of what we are feeling, why we may be feeling that way, and how we can then proceed to deal with those feelings.
2. What emotion is the other person feeling right now? This question has to do with empathy. Empathy has been defined by academic scholars in several ways:
Another way to understand empathy is putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes — mentally and emotionally — in an effort to understand better their thoughts and feelings. This question allows us to begin the process of empathetic awareness by focusing our attention on their feelings instead of what we typically think about: our own thoughts and feelings.
3. What can I do to control my emotions and reactions right now? This question builds upon question 1. When we understand exactly what we are feeling, we ask this question to help us to seek out strategies for dealing with our emotions and finding ways to react constructively. If we don’t develop awareness through this reflective question, we are prone to “react” on impulse rather than taking a constructive “proactive” action. Asking the question redirects us back to awareness and functions as a “pause” before we do something “on autopilot” or react impulsively in a destructive way.
4. How can I show genuine interest in this person right now? We build our social skills by learning how to be better concerned with other people. Question 2 is a start — learning to understand someone else’s emotions — but developing these skills begins with creating an awareness of the other person instead of ourselves (here’s an article on this: The Absolutely Awesome Topic of Conversation You Need to Know!). When we ask this question, it focuses our thoughts on how we can show a genuine interest in someone else. Genuine interest works like a magic elixir to cultivate more meaningful relationships and increase our social skills.
5. How am I interpreting this specific task — as easy or difficult — and why? Our motivation to do things comes as a result of how we see and interpret those things — particularly if we see them as easy or difficult. We can either interpret easy things in one of two ways: as things within my range of ability and skill or as things which are insignificant and unimportant. Similarly, we can interpret difficult things as either too difficult for me to do or as really important. Our motivation to do or not do things in many ways depends upon these interpretations. We are more motivated to do things that we feel capable of doing and that are important than we are to do things that we see as trivial and impossible (for more on this, read this article on How to Hack Your Motivation with a Change In Perspective). Asking this question helps us to understand how we are seeing things and then provides the opportunity to proactively interpret those things in ways that tend to support greater motivation.
A higher emotional intelligence can be a huge factor for a more successful and more fulfilled personal and professional life but it begins with awareness. These five questions focus on the five aspects of emotional intelligence — self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, social skills, and motivation — so that you can build greater awareness and expand your emotional intelligence.
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