Higher EQ for a happier life

So if people with higher emotional intelligence are happier and successful, then how can we increase our emotional intelligence? Let’s start first with understanding emotional intelligence, or EQ for short. Perhaps it should be EI, although EQ sounds better when we think of it in contrast to IQ, the abbreviation for Intellectual Quotient.

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Daniel Goleman has written extensively on emotional intelligence and how it can be increased. In his opinion, intelligence (IQ) determines the types of jobs you can pursue, emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ) determine how well you will succeed within your chosen profession. Many researchers have considered the contribution of emotional intelligence and concluded that it is often more important than IQ in determining success at work, as well as increased levels of fulfillment and happiness.

Your social intelligence is also important, being in tune with your emotions serves a social purpose by connecting you to other people and the world around you. Social intelligence enables you to recognise friend from foe; measure another person’s interest in you; reduce stress; balance your nervous system through social communication; and helps you to feel loved and happy.

Understanding EQ in four domains

EQ affects the four main domains of our lives, and the higher your EQ, generally the better you can perform in all areas.

Your performance at work – high emotional intelligence helps you to manage and interpret the social complexities of the workplace; lead and motivate others; and excel in your career. Many companies include emotional intelligence assessment tools when selecting new employees.

Your physical health – being able to manage your emotions supports you to better manage your stress. If you’re not managing your stress and have low levels of resilience, then you are more likely to suffer from serious health problems such high blood pressure, heart problems, strokes, infertility and accelerated ageing.  

Your mental health – uncontrolled emotions and high levels of stress can impact your mental wellbeing. This makes you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you’re unable to understand, and manage your emotions, you’ll also struggle to form strong relationships. Poor relationships, or a lack of relationships, leads to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, which negatively impact our mental health.

Your relationships – when you understand your emotions and develop the ability to manage them then you increase both your empathy and your ability to express your own emotions in a constructive way. These abilities support better communicate and the ability to develop stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

9 tips to improve EQ

  1. Identify what you are feeling – recognise your specific emotions and the underlying cause, especially of negative emotions that are impacting your physical and mental health
  2. Develop awareness and gain perspective – greatly assisted by a mindfulness practice that emphasises gratitude and kindness
  3. Acknowledge and appreciate your emotions – understand rather than deny your feelings and look for the root cause to amplify positive emotions or resolve negative emotions
  4. Interpret your emotions – understand your emotions and consider the feedback and information being provided
  5. Regulate your emotions – consider how you want to respond to negative emotions (yours and those of others) and select a more positive response that doesn’t aggravate a situation
  6. Recognise and understand the emotions of others – this ability improves as you understand your own emotions
  7. Develop the capacity for empathy – increase awareness of other people’s emotions, ask questions and seek to understand so you can find common ground
  8. Pick up emotional cues – apply emotional skills to inter personal relationships to develop more positve relationships and increase social connectedness
  9. Develop flexibility and self control – find ways to be gently assertive and respectful without falling into negative emotions

4 step emotional self regulation cycle

This super simple process will greatly improve your ability to work with emotions – both yours and those of others. This is turn will increase your EQ.

The most important first step is to cultivate awareness and curiosity as more positive responses to negative emotions. This is much healthier than denial and judgement which can lead to frustration and volatility.

Step 1 – Acknowledge the emotion and consider the exact emotion, identify it to expand your repertoire

Step 2 – Determine the root cause so you can choose positive action to resolve negative situations

Step 3 – Consider the feedback being provided by the emotion

Step 4 – Select a positive response that will resolve or diffuse negative emotions

Start again and this will soon become an automatic cycle that determines your response pattern whenever you feel or encounter negative emotions.