Emotional Intelligence 101

I used to work at a medical research facility with a boss who was obsessed with emotional intelligence. He incorporated it into every meeting, reinforcing the value of self-awareness and encouraging us to be more attuned to the emotional temperature of a room. The irony is that everyone on our team knew our boss needed to work on the very thing he was preaching to us.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)? It’s the ability to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. EQ has quickly become one of the most valuable qualities in leaders, with Forbes encouraging employers to seek candidates with high EQ rather than high IQ and the Langley Group describing it as the most important leadership asset. 

For the longest time, I thought emotional intelligence was just something you had, like genetics or family of origin. But here's the deal - you can develop better EQ; it just takes time and hard work. To assess my EQ, I took this free online test. The results showed that I have a pretty good handle on self-awareness, but there are some deficits when it comes to recognizing emotions in others. The truth is that we all have room to grow, and we should never stop trying to be holistically healthy humans. 


So, how do you improve your emotional intelligence? Here are some practical ways to develop better self-awareness and increase the health of all your relationships... 

1. Keep a journal. Commit to journaling as a discipline. Over time, you will be able to notice changes in your emotional response to stress, you will track triggers for unhealthy behavior, you will gain perspective, and you will become aware of your underlying belief systems.

2. Create a life mission statement. Doing the work to develop a mission statement will show what you value. It will help rank your priorities and give you clear direction for personal growth.

3. Pay attention to your self-talk. What's the inner dialogue that runs behind the scenes? What are the things you say that no one else can hear? These unspoken words affect the way you view yourself and interact with others. 

4. Record your ABCs. A: What was the ACTIVATING event that triggered your inner dialogue? B: What BELIEF did you form after the event occurred? C: What are the CONSEQUENCES of your new belief?

5. Observe other people. Not in a creepy way, y'all. That can get you arrested. But pay attention to others - their body language, the words they use, and the ways they cope with stress. Become a student of your community. 

6. Read books. Read books that challenge your way of thinking, books that make you feel uncomfortable, and even books that make you angry. Reach for genres you don't usually entertain. 

7. Ask about your blind spots. The hard thing about blind spots is that we don't know they exist unless someone else points them out, but we all have one (or more than one). Maybe you bulldoze over people when you're stressed. Maybe you shut down in the face of conflict. Or maybe you treat every obstacle as a catastrophe. We can't grow if our blind spots stay hidden, so ask a trusted friend or family member to share your blind spot with you. 

A while ago, I was talking with an acquaintance who had been working at the same company for years! She shared some weaknesses of his personality but quickly added, "I'm not like that now! After years of being in this business, I'm past all that." My heart sank, because I knew that wasn't true. She thought she had improved, but the team dynamics at her office told a different story. The worst part is that she had no clue.

I don't want to walk around unaware of the damage I'm doing, and I don't want that for you either. A deep knowledge of self is directly related to the health of our relationships, the strength of our leadership, and the maturity of our faith. I'm convinced: emotional intelligence is worth the work.

Maggie Johnson1 Comment