Scott Davison is a Blogger, father and founder of TheDadTrain.com, where he provide articles and ideas and on self-improvement, relationships and parenting (for dads).
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence (also known as EI or EQ) is a relatively new concept. It was introduced and explored in the early 1990s by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, who define emotional intelligence as follows:
“Emotional intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Salovey and Mayer, 1990
It’s important to understand that there are two separate skills involved in Emotional Intelligence.
Firstly, the ability to identify and understand emotions (both in yourself and in others).
Secondly, the ability to manage these emotions to make good decisions and to influence people and situations.
Is Emotional Intelligence related to IQ?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has no direct relationship with cognitive Intelligence (IQ). It’s possible to have a very high IQ and a very low EQ or vice versa.
We probably all know someone like this, who is very intelligent in the traditional IQ sense, but makes terrible decisions or has trouble relating to other humans.
Likewise, you can probably think of someone you know who is not particularly intelligent but has brilliant social skills or the ability to persuade other people (for both good and bad).
The other key difference between these two forms of intelligence is that IQ is fixed, or at least very difficult to change, whereas EQ is something that can evolve and develop over time.
Why is Emotional Intelligence important?
In his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, Daniel Goleman argued that Emotional Intelligence was twice as important as cognitive intelligence in predicting career success.
That’s a very bold claim, which could be overstating it a little. However, several other studies have also found a link between Emotional Intelligence and career success.
Many companies are now actively measuring and developing EQ as part of their recruitment and HR strategies. These emotional intelligence skills are what we often refer to as “soft skills”.
But it’s not just in your career where EQ can help you. It’s basically all areas of life and especially those that involve interactions with other people.
And nowhere is EQ more important than in our home lives.
Improving your Emotional Intelligence can make you a better partner and a better parent. This is the best reason I can think of to put some effort into increasing your EQ.
With that in mind, here are seven things you can do to help improve your emotional intelligence:
1. Practice self-awareness
I used to think self-awareness was just about knowing your strengths and weaknesses. But it’s much more than that.
Self-awareness also requires you to be aware of your FEELINGS.
That’s right gentleman, we need to get in touch with our emotions. Sounds a bit scary right?
But it gets worse. Not only do we need to be able to identify our feelings, but we also need to try to understand the deeper reasons behind them.
For instance, a very common emotion for men is anger. But often, what’s behind the anger is a different emotion such as fear. So you need to try and dig a bit deeper in your quest for self-awareness.
There are various techniques that can help with this process, such as journaling and meditation. But perhaps one of the easiest ways to explore your feelings is to start talking about them with your friends and loved ones.
I told you this was going to be scary!
NOTE: Men often find it difficult to talk about emotions. However, this tool called THE FEELING WHEEL can help with that. It includes 130 different types of emotions that stem from the seven core emotions. Use it to improve your emotional vocabulary and to help your children discuss their feelings.
2. Seek feedback from others to gain perspective
An important aspect of emotional intelligence is to understand that different people see things in different ways — and that’s okay!
In fact, it’s a good thing, which we want to embrace.
This applies to our perception of ourselves also. It’s important to discover if other people see you the way you see yourself. And one of the best ways to do this is to ask them.
You should treat all feedback, especially negative feedback, as a gift — regardless of how it’s delivered. The reality is that very few people know how to deliver criticism well, so don’t focus on the way it’s delivered, focus on the message behind it.
Try not to take criticism personally, treat it as a learning opportunity.
Or ignore it. That’s fine too. There are plenty of times when you shouldn’t listen to criticism, for instance, if there are ulterior motives behind it.
But that’s the art and the skill of emotional intelligence. You need to be emotionally intelligent enough that you don’t take criticism personally. But also emotionally intelligent enough to understand the feelings of the person delivering the criticism.
3. Be observant
You may have heard the quote that 80% or even 93% of communication is non-verbal. The truth is that it’s virtually impossible to measure and depends greatly on the context.
But regardless of the exact percentage, we can all agree that non-verbal cues are a key factor in how we interpret a situation or a person.
Body language, for example, plays an important role in communication. So be aware of this and pay attention to how your body language can affect the message you want to deliver.
Also pay attention to the body language of others, as this can help you better interpret some of the subconscious messages that are being sent.
Being observant requires the use of all your senses, which also includes your emotions.
Emotional Intelligence is what people are referring to when they talk about the sixth sense. It’s that ‘gut feeling’ you sometimes get, which is an important tool to be able to tap into.
The other aspect of being observant is to tune into the effect that your emotions have on yourself and those around you. If you pay attention you will notice there is often a direct link between your mood and the behaviour of others.
This is a very important one for us dads….. the big E!
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective.
But more important than just ‘seeing’ things from their perspective, true empathy includes the ability to feel what the other person is feeling.
It sounds almost like a Jedi mind trick right?
Traditionally, men are not raised to be empathetic and as such it’s a skill that is more common in women.
But this is mostly due to environmental and cultural factors, so there is absolutely no reason why men can’t learn to be more empathetic.
The first step to improving your empathy is to be more in tune with your own emotions. The second step is to develop the skill to identify, recognise and feel the emotions of other people.
Once you can identify and feel someone else’s emotions, the third step is to explore the ‘why’ behind those feelings.
Try not to judge the other person based on their emotions. The reality is that emotions are real and we don’t choose what we feel. So instead, try to understand why they feel the way they do.
You can ask yourself… Is there a reason behind that emotion? Are they dealing with something I am not aware of? Can they see something I can’t?
Empathy can be practised at any time with any person, so try using it in different situations.
You can practise empathy in your social interactions, at your work, with strangers, with your partner and especially with your kids.
The ability to empathise with your children is one of the most important skills you can use to build a connection and have a positive influence on them.
5. Slow down
A very useful EQ skill to develop is the ability to pause before you respond….. particularly in a tense situation!
What we are talking about here is the difference between ‘responding’ and ‘reacting’.
Reacting is a subconscious process triggered purely by emotions. And often, it’s what gets us into trouble.
Whereas responding is a conscious process that involves recognising your emotions and choosing how you want to respond.
It’s not about ignoring your emotions, on the contrary, emotions need to be a key part of forming your response. But if you can learn to pause for just a split second, it allows your cognitive brain to catch up with your emotional brain and will result in a more emotionally intelligent response.
6. Understand your passions and what motivates you
People with a high EQ are self-motivated. They understand what motivates them and know how to generate that emotion from within.
The best way to learn what motivates you is to try different things and observe your emotions. You might even discover your passion along the way.
It’s not just positive emotions that can motivate you. Sometimes negative emotions, such as anger or frustration, if used correctly, can also be a great source of motivation.
So get to know your emotions and learn how to use them to motivate yourself.
Ancient Greek aphorism.
7. Create positivity and use humour
People with high EQ are typically very positive people.
This doesn’t mean they are born optimists, but they know how to maintain perspective and generate a positive attitude in themselves and others.
The ability to inject humour at the right time can be a great way to diffuse a tense situation and a good sign of emotional intelligence.
For instance, if you find yourself in a pointless argument with your partner you can use humour as a ‘pattern-interrupt’ to break the cycle and lighten the moment.
But choose your moments carefully, because the opposite is also true.
We’ve all been there, right? Dropping that joke at an emotionally inappropriate time. Awkward!
You may not get it right all the time, but always maintain a healthy sense of humour and don’t take life too seriously.
Keep practising and you will keep improving
Unlike IQ, Emotional Intelligence is a skill that you can keep developing and improving throughout life.
It takes practice, but it’s worth the effort because increasing your EQ will not only make you more successful in your career and in life, but it will also make you a better parent, a better partner and a better person.
That sounds like some pretty good reasons to put a bit of focus on boosting your EQ!