Here’s a quick quiz: If you had to choose between having a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) or emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), which one would you choose? Which one would offer you a higher chance of success, better relationships, and positive opportunities? Let’s revisit this a bit later.
“I can’t deal with you right now!” is the response you get when you enter a coworker’s office. CRACK! Your 8-year-old just swung a bat in the house and cracked a light globe. How you process and react to these situations has everything to do with EQ. Let me explain.
In his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Is More Important Than IQ and How You Can Improve Yours , Allan Goldman takes you on a step-by-step journey that begins with an explanation of what EQ is, how to understand and enhance yours, and some benefits of having high EQ.
The term “emotional intelligence” emerged around 1990, defined as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.” Simplified, EQ is the ability to control and regulate emotions in yourself and others. Of course, simplified does not mean simple!
There are four traits that Goldman uses to define emotionally intelligent people:
1. Self-awareness is first and perhaps the most important. At least you get that impression from the sheer amount of time devoted to it in the book. I am reminded of an important leadership trait I learned several years ago: “Know thyself; grow thyself. Goldman says, “By simply understanding how your emotions drive your actions, you can better regulate that emotion.” Having self-awareness by itself is not enough—unless it is accompanied by action. That brings us to the second trait.
2. Self-regulation is an action, or putting theory into practice. Your first reaction to a situation is emotional and then behavioral. You regulate how you react on an emotional level, including how long the emotion lasts and the behavior that follows. This is my favorite quote from the book, “Instead of letting people push your buttons, start living like you’re the one with the remote.”
3. Empathy is next. Most of us understand what this means. Goldman describes it as the ability to recognize and understand how others feel. Remember, EQ isn’t just about regulating and controlling emotions in you; it includes being mindful of others’ emotions as well.
4. Last, but not least are strong social skills. This doesn’t mean that you are proficient with Facebook, Twitter, or using emoji; this is the interpersonal component of EQ.
The ultimate goal of many who pursue EQ may well be what Goldman calls emotional competence. EQ is teachable, but the student has to be willing to learn. Unfortunately, we all know people who are not great learners. They don’t like self-examination or criticism, and they think they are wonderful just as they are. They seem to project an aura of, “Take me, or leave me!” But Goldman writes that, “It doesn’t take much to improve your EQ if you pay attention to: how you feel, what has led to the feeling, and how you have reacted to the feeling.” He offers this multi-step improvement process:
- Pay attention to your emotional reactions.
- Monitor your behavior.
- Own your emotions (and behavior).
- Embrace empathy with yourself and others.
- Remember that improving EQ takes time.
The benefits of emotional intelligence are many. Goldman offers these four in his book:
- Better physical health. A key part of high EQ is being able to monitor and manage negative emotions that cause stress. If someone can’t handle stress, it acts like poison in the body.
- Better mental health. Stress poisons the mind, too.
- Better relationships.
- Improved chance of success. EQ can’t predict guaranteed success, but those who are successful tend to have high EQ.
Now, let’s put what you learned to the test with the situations I mentioned above.
“I can’t deal with you right now!” is the response you get when you enter a coworker’s office.
CRACK! Your 8-year-old just swung a bat in the house and cracked a light globe.
I confess, these are real-life experiences that happened to me. How would you handle them? Has your newfound knowledge about EQ changed your emotional and/or behavioral responses? It may have changed mine, had I been in practice at the time these things happened. Perhaps the coworker was simply having a bad morning and reacted poorly to being interrupted.
Goldman cautions readers to, “Bear in mind that you are only responsible for your reactions and behavior, and that you cannot change the other person.”
Self-management is the key in dealing with your child, both for your sake and his. The light globe can be replaced, and there is a good lesson to be learned in letting the child own the problem. Allan writes that, “Studies show that the way parents deal with their children early on will have a massive effect on their experiences later in life.”
And, about that quiz…which answer did you choose? EQ or IQ? Be honest!
Doesn’t the answer partly depend on how you define success? Is it money and ladder-climbing or, as Goldman states, “good relationships, happiness, and self-actualization?” If you chose the latter, EQ might be a more fruitful pursuit. “Working alone, IQ accounts for 10 percent to 25 percent of what is needed in order to be successful,” Goldman writes. The best answer is probably some combination of both IQ and EQ.
If you’re ready to pursue a higher EQ, Goldman’s book takes you on a step-by-step journey and is broken down into bite-size pieces that make it easy to read and navigate. I found myself picking it up, reading it, and then putting it down to process what I read. Goldman states that, “Having a high EQ often comes hand-in-hand with success, better relationships, and positive opportunities.” Will you join me on this journey?
Shanna Hanson, FHFMA, CHC, CC, manager of business knowledge, is the Human Arc leader with responsibility for research and reporting to executive staff on all legislative and environmental changes and trends impacting the company’s health care markets, services and product-development initiatives.