What is EQ and How Do You Improve It?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is increasingly seen as an important trait in the workforce that matters as much, if not more, as IQ. People with strong emotional intelligence tend to be happier and more successful in life, and are better able to manage stress and interpersonal challenges. So what is emotional intelligence, anyway?

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What is emotional intelligence?

Psychology today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” By being aware of their moment-to-moment emotional states, emotionally intelligence people are able to relieve stress, empathize, communicate effectively, and manage conflict successfully.

Is EQ more important than IQ?

In his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman argues IQ–as it is currently measured–offers too narrow a view of a person’s capabilities. It’s now estimated IQ accounts for only 10 percent of a person’s chance of success in life. The remaining 90 percent relies on emotional intelligence, according to Harvard University.

Examples of emotional intelligence

People with high emotional intelligence display a number of positive traits, including:

  • Emotional self awareness
  • Self-control
  • Trustworthiness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Adaptability
  • Successful relationship management
  • Innovative thinking
  • Commitment
  • Optimism
  • Empathy
  • A willingness to collaborate and cooperate
  • Clear communication skills
  • Leadership

People who possess high emotional intelligence are sought after in the workforce. They are better prepared to navigate complex social and political environments, forge strong relationships, motivate others, and clearly communicate than people. Traditional IQ is important, of course, but without emotional intelligence the benefits IQ brings to a workforce is limited.

Developing emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is not an immutable character trait. With practice, anyone can improve their EQ by being mindful of their emotions.

Byoberving their emotions, people learn to control and manage them. Doing so takes practice–initially you may have difficulty tracking emotional reactions from moment to moment. With time, however, you’ll find it becomes easier to both identify the emotions you’re feeling and to manage them.

Try to identify how specific situations affect your emotional state. Does making a presentation make you nervous? Does applying for a new position fill you with a fear of rejection? How do you react to difficult coworkers, delays in production, or any of the thousand little challenges that make up the workday?

By identifying your emotions you develop the ability to control them and change the way you think about situations. Your newfound emotional awareness helps you see how other people react emotionally, increasing both your empathy and your understanding of others. Ask yourself why people feel and act the way they do, and how their emotions in a given situation match or differ from yours.

One of the simplest ways to improve emotional intelligence is to pause. Before you speak and act, pause to evaluate your own emotional state and that of those around you. This simple act (easy in theory, challenging in practice) can greatly improve your emotional intelligence.

How does this help you succeed in business? Your ability to recognize subtle emotional signals increases, improving personal and professional relationships. A calmer mind helps control stress, while reframing difficult situations helps resolve conflicts and turns problems into collaborative opportunities.

What is emotional intelligence? It’s a hard-to-quantify trait that helps people lead happy, fulfilled lives. By developing your EQ, you’re making an investment in your career–and yourself.

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