Do You Understand Emotional Intelligence?

Ever since Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence, we have heard that phrase a lot, but perhaps you never heard it explained. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill, because it means you know how to work with all kinds of people, understand them and get along with them. Once you understand emotional intelligence, you can see the people around you who have it, and those who don’t: at work, in politics, in the media and in your neighborhood. The media use both EI and EQ (like IQ) as shortcuts for emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is akin to empathy. It’s the ability to “read” other people’s feelings, and respond in an appropriate way. Emotionally intelligent people succeed because they form good connections with others, are trusted and liked. When you understand how and when to be sympathetic, supportive, direct, and trustworthy or gentle with people, they trust you and learn to rely on you. This creates a framework for business and personal interactions that form lasting, productive relationships.

To develop emotional intelligence, you must learn to focus not only on your own wants and needs, but the wants and needs of others. This requires learning delayed gratification, patience, and concern for more than just the bottom line. Emotional Intelligence is also essentially emotional maturity, which means your mind can manage your emotions.  According to Goleman, the five characteristics of emotional intelligence are: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.

• Self-Awareness: People with high EI understand their emotions, and because of this, they don’t let their feelings rule them. They know the difference between feeling and thinking, and can use thinking to moderate feelings, without ignoring them or quashing them. They’re confident—because they trust their intuition and their good judgment, which is a result of using feelings and intelligent thought to assess situations. People who have emotional intelligence are willing to take an honest look at themselves, see themselves realistically. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. They have realistic positive self-regard, which means they have reasonable standards for their own good behavior. They care about others, but are not co-dependent. They can set boundaries for their own self-protection. This self-awareness is an essential foundation of EI. 

• Self-Regulation: Also known as self-control and impulse control, this is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or jealous; they don’t have temper tantrums or hysterical outbursts and they don’t make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act or react. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no. They are good at delayed gratification, understanding that waiting for what they want may bring better results. They operate on an internal code of ethics rather than a standard of behavior which is imposed from without.

• Motivation: People with a high degree of EI are usually motivated. They’re willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They’re highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do. They understand that motivation comes from celebration and appreciation, and are willing to motivate themselves and others when appropriate.

• Empathy: This is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. Empathetic people are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening to, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way. They exhibit generosity and benevolence, and a positive attitude towards others.

• Social Skills: Good social skills are another sign of high EI. They know how to cooperate, to be team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they understand that success comes through helping others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.  In addition to the empathy on which these social skills are based, people with high EI also are good at patience, generosity, trustworthiness, gratitude, sympathy and they’re emotionally responsive.

Here is how to recognize emotional intelligence in yourself and others:

1. What’s one indication a person has no EQ whatsoever?
He or she has no idea what to respond to a statement or question about emotions. “How do you feel about…” only elicits what he or she thinks, if anything.

2. What’s the downside of relating to someone with little or no emotional intelligence? It’s not very satisfying, because we all like to have emotional understanding and empathy. It also means the person will not be good at listening or sympathizing with your experience.

3. If we can’t detect any emotional intelligence, should we distance ourselves from the person?
If the relationship is going well, it’s going well. This question won’t matter. If you are frustrated by a lack of emotional intelligence, and everything else is OK, you could try to teach it, draw it out of your friend, relative or partner, but it takes a lot of patience. It’s like explaining feelings to a three-year-old.

4. What if the person has some EQ? What can you do to help them develop more EQ?
Be very responsive and supportive when his or her EQ is on display. If he or she does something thoughtful, be sure and express your gratitude. If she or he listens sympathetically to you or someone else, praise him or her for it.

5. What’s one way we can encourage others to continue being emotionally present and intelligent?
Be emotionally responsive to him or her. Give him or her room to respond emotionally and thoughtfully to you; don’t be impatient, it’s not very emotionally intelligent.

6. Why are people with good EQ desirable?
High emotional intelligence creates closeness, comforting, empathy and affection in your relationship. It’s easy to have fun or share feelings with someone with high EQ.  You can count on a high EQ person to be kind and considerate.           

To develop emotional intelligence:

Before embarking on any new encounter or activity, do the following steps:

1. Make a mental note of the possibilities: Can you learn something there? Can you meet a new friend? Will just getting out of the house and around new people feel good?

2. Remind yourself of your goals: You’re going there to enjoy the people there and to have fun.

3. Review your positive personal qualities: What do your friends like about you? What do you like about you? Your intelligence, your sense of humor, your style, your conversation skills? Are you a kind and caring person? Reminding yourself of these qualities means you will radiate that positive energy.

4. Have a positive outlook: Research shows that people who have a positive outlook have better lives, partly because a positive attitude is attractive and charming, and people are drawn to it. As a result, you make friends. When you are positive you are supportive of yourself and others, you notice the good things more than the bad things, which makes it easier to connect to others. In addition, you feel much better about yourself, which means you feel more deserving of friends. It’s a positive spiral, and goes up and up.

5. Be interesting: Wear attractive, but interesting, clothing—something that reflects who you are. If you like travel, for example, wear a shirt, scarf, tie or jewelry from another country, or wear something that reflects your ethnic background, or a hobby (sports, the outdoors, a Hawaiian-type shirt with surfboards, gardening implements or an animal print). It will help start conversations. Match your energy to the energy of the people around you. Obviously, if you’re dancing or eating barbecue poolside, the energy level will be pretty high. If you’re having quiet conversations at a cocktail party, discussing books, taking a class, or sitting down to dinner, the energy will be more mellow and focused.

6. Pay attention: Look around you, and seek to make friends. Notice who’s around you and what’s interesting or attractive about them, find an interesting thing about what they’re wearing, and complement it. “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help noticing that gorgeous color; it looks great on you.” or, “What an interesting watch! Does it have a story?”

7. Prepare in advance: Read up on some fascinating topics to talk about—the background doings of a hit movie, some new technology advance, or a cool new trend. Then, when someone wants to talk to you, you’ll have something to say.

8. Find a way to help: What needs doing that you might enjoy? If you’re in a new environment, I recommend finding a “job” to do. Don’t just say “what can I do to help?” Instead, volunteer for something specific: to greet people and show them around, or keep the food table replenished, or refill drinks. It will give you a feeling of belonging, a great excuse to meet everyone, and you’ll be busy enough to keep your nervousness at bay. The host or hostess will be grateful and remember you later.

9. Follow through: If you do meet someone you’d like to know better, follow the event or meeting with an invitation for coffee. The best friendships begin in these social situations.

Emotionally Intelligent conversations are like tennis matches. That is, the other person “serves” he or she asks a question or makes a statement. Then, you “volley” back you answer the question with the kind of answer that invites a response. For example:

He: “How do you know our hostess?”

You: “We went to school together. I like Pam’s friendliness, don’t you?”

This invites your companion to respond, and keeps the “volley” going. If the conversational thread ends, the next “serve” is yours. If you have to re-start the conversation too often, excuse yourself and move on. That person is not interested enough. If you force the other person to do all the conversational “work” he or she will move on pretty quickly. One-syllable answers are a pretty clear indication of lack of interest, even if you didn’t mean it to be that way. Instead, turn on your charm, and the other person will want more time with you.


Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and her newest, The Real 13th Step.  She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for LoveForever.com, Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance.” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video  and podcasts

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