Have you ever heard someone say, “That fellow lacks EQ.”
Or “EQ is more important than IQ”.
But have you also ever wondered? What is this thing called EQ or Emotional Intelligence?
Is there a test to take to determine my score? Am I born naturally with a low or high EQ? And is there a way to learn it?
Let’s give you a broadstroke understanding about EQ.
Made popular by the author Daniel Coleman, he writes in his Book that emotional intelligence is “a person’s ability to manage their feelings so that these feelings are expressed appropriately and effectively.”
Our feelings come from our emotions – sensations that our body receives when it is triggered by a stimuli. It could be words that someone said to you- an external event. Or it could be a memory that you suddenly thought of-an internal trigger.
Emotions, like the word motion hiding within it, needs to move. They trigger you to act. “If you are happy and you like it, you clap your hands” – so says your favourite childhood song. When a baby is hungry, it cries. When you feel the adrenaline rush at an amusement park, you scream. When you feel stressed, you go out and have a jog and suddenly feel a lot better. Because emotions are just energy that is craving for a space to be expressed. Through our behaviours.
But of course some of these behaviours are productive. While others destructive. If you look at it in that lens, maybe we can think that there are no good or bad emotion. Indeed, what’s more important is what we do with them. Do we use our emotions to help or hinder ourselves and those around us?
And that’s where EQ comes in. It is about having the intelligence to know how to use our emotions. At the right place. At the right time. In the right amount. How we use our emotions appropriately so that it becomes helpful rather than obstructive.
So what is an easy way to go about doing that? Here’s 6 bite-size micro practices (HACKS) you can start with so that you can instantly level up your EQ.
1) Know Your Emotions
Emotional Intelligence always starts with recognizing your emotions. Because if we do, then we know how it make us feel and how we can act appropriately. The challenge is that many of us grew up being told to suppress our emotions, rather than express it. People tell us “Don’t be sad!” “Just think positive!” or “Don’t dwell on it!”. But awareness is the first step to action. If we aren’t even aware of how we feel or why we feel that way, it can be living with a raging storm inside our hearts that is waiting to be unleashed. At the wrong place or wrong time.
Many psychological research have pointed to the 6 Basic Emotions people feel- fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise.
But the more specific you are about what you are really feeling, the more you would be able to accept it and understand where it could be coming from. Because although the emotion comes from the heart, your brain wants to make sense of it.
One exercise you can do is to label or name your emotions. Whenever you are feeling any emotion, articulate it and name your emotion.
“The customers I had to serve today really gave me an awful. They made me question that I did not have the right abilities for my job. Because of that, I feel disappointed.”
When you label your emotions, it is like minimizing that big window of emotion you are feeling into a something that is manageable. It is just like organising all your messy documents into well-labeled files and folders. Now we feel better and can start be more effective when we work!
2) Write Down Your Emotions
Sometimes you need things to get out of your head to gain clarity. A lot of emotions can come from the lack of clarity with the thoughts in our head. You will come to realise that when you write it down whether physically or digitally, you can focus better and make sense of your thoughts. Some people practice journaling at the end of the day. Others just do a quick reflection so they can check in on what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. Either way, it’s time to untie the knots the thoughts in your head brought. By articulating and visualising them in words. Time to turn that mess in your head into a message you need to comprehend or acknowledge.
3) Respond vs React
How many of us react within 3-5 seconds when we see a spider, a lizard or a friend who bumped into us at the blind side of the corner? Some of us scream, shout or even hit the person we bump into! We react. But imagine if we had time to process what happened to us- we get more clarity, we can choose our response and act in a more productive manner. After all, it is just a tiny spider which just happened to cross our path- no need to turn violent, no? In the same way, practice responding to any event that happen to you by delaying your response. And ask yourself what is the most productive and helpful thing I can say or do next?
4) Listen Actively
Emotional intelligence is not only about understanding the emotions of yourself but tuning in to the emotions of others. When someone messes up, not saying things like “I told you so” is indeed being wise of the emotions of others. One way you can tune in to the emotions of others is to listen mindfully. Many of us listen so that we are ready to respond with an answer. Perhaps what you can do instead is to be present at the moment and take in everything you are hearing with a lack of judgment- even if goes against your principles. Observe their hand gestures and make eye contact. Nod subtly or say the ocassional “Mhmm,” or “Tell Me More” to lean in to the conversation. Test it out and see how you can make an even better connection with another person even without saying much.
5) Shine the Spotlight from Others, not yourself
Emotional intelligence is as much identifying and managing your emotions as being able to build social skills with others. Many people in a social interaction tend to be conscious of what they say- “How do I sound?” “How can I impress others?” “What do they think of me?” To really use EQ is to shift that focus from “ME” to “WE”. Instead of focusing on what you can bring to the conversation, be truly curious about others. Listen to their stories. Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings. Give them a space where they don’t feel judged. Shine the spotlight on them- make them the star of their conversation. And they will walk away feeling all those positive vibes about their interaction with you. Even though all they did was to tell them their story of their lives.
The thing about EQ is that it is something that gets better with practice and reflection. Ask yourself after each interaction-
How did I make that person feel?
How did I feel after the interaction?
How did I leave the person better than I found him/her?
Because as you use more of it, you'll have more of it. Because with each reflection, when you know better, you do better.