What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage emotions in positive, healthy ways to communicate effectively, relieve stress, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. This helps adults build stronger relationships, succeed at school and in future employment endeavors, and achieve their career and personal goals. It can also help your team connect with their feelings, turn intentions into actions, and make informed decisions about what matters most.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability of someone to control, perceive and effectively evaluate their emotions. Some researchers believe that emotional intelligence is a trait one can learn and strengthen, while others believe it is a characteristic present at birth. For developing leaders, emotional intelligence is vital for achieving lasting success.
What are the Characteristics or Qualities of Emotional Intelligence?
Put simply, emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand and manage their emotions and those of the people around them. An adult with a high degree of emotional intelligence understands what they are feeling, what their feelings (emotions mean), and how their emotions can affect others.
Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who helped popularize the idea of emotional intelligence, notes there are five key elements. They include:
When someone is self-aware, they have a keen awareness of their emotions and how those emotions and related actions affect those around them.
People who can regulate their emotions and feelings have control over their actions and reactions. They rarely make rash or emotional decisions, stereotype others, or compromise their values. When their emotions are elevated, they remain in control and do not attack others or place blame on others.
Self-motivated people consistently focus on pursuing and achieving their goals.
Empathy is a skill that involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy can be difficult and challenging to develop and to apply to all situations, especially when emotions are high or when you experience a stressful or traumatic event.
Adults who have strong social skills are excellent communicators. They are open to hearing both good and bad news and are excited about engaging in new things. People with good communication skills also manage change and apply diplomacy to conflict.
Are There Different Types of Emotional Intelligence?
Researchers suggest there are three different types or branches of emotional intelligence; the trait model, the ability model, and the mixed model. There remains an ongoing debate within the scientific community about whether this is a set of skills an adult can learn and strengthen or whether it is an inherited set of self-identified personality traits.
The trait model
The trait model steps away from the concept that emotional intelligence is built on abilities. The trait model suggests that people have traits and emotional self-perceptions that form a part of their personality. These traits are self-identified by the individual rather than measured using a scientific scale. Examples of self-identified features or characteristics may include:
The ability model
The ability model states that emotional intelligence lies in possession of four competencies. Those are:
- Knowing your emotions
- Understanding what your emotions mean
- Knowing what to do with your emotions
- Knowing how to manage your emotions
The mixed model
This model combines several different emotional intelligence qualities. The mixed model explores the idea that emotional intelligence may be a mixture of inherited traits and learned skills. Some qualities that are part of the mixed model include:
- Traits (optimism, etc.)
- Skills (empathy, etc.)
- Other qualities such as the ability to inspire others and read facial expressions
More About the Four Levels of Emotional Intelligence
Researchers indicate that there are four different levels of emotional intelligence. They include emotional perception, reasoning using emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.
The first step in understanding emotions is learning to perceive them accurately. This might involve acknowledging and understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions in many cases.
Reasoning with emotions
The next step is using emotions to promote thought and cognitive activities. Our feelings help prioritize what we pay attention to and what we react to. We are wired to respond emotionally to the things that grab our attention.
The emotions that we sense can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing angry feelings, an observer must acknowledge and interpret the cause of the person’s anger and what their feelings might mean.
Managing emotions effectively is crucial to emotional intelligence and the highest level of EI. Regulating emotions and responding appropriately to them, as well as responding appropriately to the feelings of others, are all critical aspects of emotional management.
The four branches of this model are arranged by complexity, with the more fundamental processes at the lower levels and the more advanced functions at the higher levels. For example, while the lowest levels involve perceiving and expressing emotion, the higher levels require greater conscious involvement and an understanding of emotional regulation.
Tips for Improving Emotional Intelligence
Although some individuals are or seem to be naturally emotionally intelligent, research shows emotional intelligence is also a skill you can develop and improve with time. A randomized study conducted in 2019 showed that emotional intelligence training could increase emotional abilities and control in the workplace and academic settings. Knowing what we do about emotional intelligence suggests that being emotionally intelligent is important. So what are some steps you can take to improve your social and emotional skills?
Practice active listening
When someone wants (or needs) to understand what others are feeling, the first step is to pay attention and engage in active listening. It is crucial to truly absorb what others are trying to say, both verbally and non-verbally. Body language can be hard to read sometimes, but the signals someone sends using non-verbal cues can carry a lot of meaning. When you sense that someone is feeling a particular emotion, it is important to take a moment to consider the factors that could contribute to those feelings.
Acknowledging another’s emotions through active listening is a critical step. Still, it is also necessary to be able to “put yourself in their shoes” to truly understand things from their perspective. To improve emotional intelligence, you can start by practicing empathy. Consider how you would feel if you were placed in their situation. Engaging in these activities can help you improve your emotional understanding in specific situations while helping develop stronger emotional skills.
Reflect on emotions
It is also important to develop (and practice) reasoning and examine emotions. Consider how your emotions influence your behaviors, actions, and decisions. When you study how others respond to you, consider the role their feelings play in their communication. Ask yourself questions such as why does this person feel this way? And are there factors I cannot see that may contribute to their emotions? Or Why are my emotions different than theirs? By exploring these questions, you may find it easier to understand how emotions impact how you and others think and behave in certain situations.
What About “Low” Emotional Intelligence?
Having low or lower emotional intelligence skills can lead to several potential challenges for you. These challenges can impact multiple areas of their life, including academics, social and personal relationships, employment, self-confidence, etc. Adults with fewer emotional skills seem to get into more arguments and disagreements, have poor emotional coping and regulation skills, and have lower quality personal and social relationships.
But, it is important to mention that having a high level of emotional intelligence can also come with a few challenges. For example:
- Research indicates that people with high emotional intelligence may actually be less innovative and creative than those with average emotional intelligence.
- Highly emotionally intelligent people may experience difficulty giving others negative feedback-even when it is constructive- for fear of hurting other people’s feelings.
- Research has shown that high emotional intelligence can sometimes be used for manipulative and deceptive purposes.
How is Emotional intelligence Measured?
Several possible assessments are used in academic settings and mental health programs like The Meadowglade to measure levels of emotional intelligence. These tests typically fall into two categories or types: ability tests and self-report tests.
Ability tests involve having someone respond to specific situations and then assessing their response skills. These tests often require the “test taker” to demonstrate their emotional intelligence skills, which a third party then rates.
These are the most common form of emotional intelligence because they are the most straightforward to administer in addition to the easiest to score. On self-report tests, the test taker responds to questions or statements by rating their own behaviors. For example, “I often feel that I understand the emotions of others.” When presented with this statement, the test taker might answer with strongly agree, agree, somewhat agree, neutral, disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree.
Suppose you are taking an emotional intelligence test administered by a mental health professional such as a member of our team at The Meadowglade. In that case, there are two specific measures or tests that could be used.
Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)
MSCEIT is an ability test that measures the four branches of Mayer and Salovey’s emotional intelligence model. Test-takers perform tasks designed to assess their ability to perceive, identify, understand, and manage emotions.
Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI)
The ESCI is based on an older instrument known as the Self-Assessment Questionnaire. It involves having individuals who know the test-taker offer ratings of that person’s abilities in several different emotional competencies. The test is designed to evaluate the social and emotional skills that help distinguish people as strong leaders.
Uncontrolled and misunderstood emotions can impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to other emotional concerns, including depression and anxiety. It is essential for you to learn how to manage and be comfortable with your emotions as it will help you forge strong relationships and understand how to address and understand the feelings of others. Working well with others begins with emotional awareness. To learn more about the link between emotional awareness and mental health and how programs at The Meadowglade can help you take control of your emotional wellness, contact us today.