Emotional intelligence comprises of the ability to accurately perceive, recognize and express emotion, understand and incorporate emotion in the way we think, and importantly, regulate emotion. Because EI is such an important contributor to success, we have broken it down into 5 specific abilities that can be learned, practiced and mastered.
For a better understanding of Emotional Intelligence, please read the full blog post here: What is Emotional Intelligence?
The 5 abilities of a high EI person:
- Awareness of own feelings and bodily signals. A person with high EI is aware of feeling sadness, anger, fear or happiness. Moreover, they are aware that each of these emotions has a specific effect on the body. For example, anxiety makes people breathe faster, increases heart rate and causes sweaty palms. They are also able to recognize these signs in others and adjust their behavior accordingly. For example, a person with high EI will not ask for a promotion when their boss is stressed and under tight deadlines. Instead, they will wait for a time when their request is more likely to be received positively. Bottom line: People with high EI have greater self-awareness and they use that knowledge to better understand others.
- Ability to regulate emotions. Emotions are important messengers as they signal information about the world and other people. For example, fear might signal us that we might be in danger, which in turns springs us into action in order to avoid the danger. Oftentimes, people suppress or avoid emotions, in particular negative emotions. We tend to do this because societal norms perceive emotional expression as a sign of weakness. In reality, emotions are natural and critical for human functioning. Regulating emotions means resisting the urge to suppress or avoid them, and instead recognize them and channel them in healthy and productive ways. For example, feeling sad after a specific failure at work is normal. If you are used to avoiding or suppressing sadness, which can actually make the emotion last longer, a better strategy is to reflect and turn the situation into a learning experience. You can ask yourself questions like: “Could I have done something differently”? Did I have the time and resources to succeed at the task”? “Was I given enough time to complete it”? The purpose of these questions is to help you view the situation objectively, instead of being self-critical, self-blaming or being in denial. Bottom line: Emotions can be your best friends in the quest to become healthier, happier and more successful.
- Ability to control impulses, delay gratification, and stay focused. Emotions can be powerful drivers of decision making in a way that can help you achieve your goals. In order to do that, you need to be aware of how emotions shape your decision-making and your ability to cope with stress. For example, while it is normal to feel disappointed and sad after rejection, it is crucial to control the impulse to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors, such as drinking, comfort eating, smoking, etc. Staying focused means having a clear vision of your priorities and deciding whether your specific actions help you get closer to achieving your goals or not. Many unhealthy behaviors (e.g., substance abuse) result from lack of self-control and lack of focus. Bottom line: Learning to control your impulses and delay gratification will help you lead a life that is closer to your goals and concordant to your values.
- Ability to decode social and emotional cues of others. A crucial feature of EI is the ability to recognize and manage not only your own emotions, but also the emotions of others. This ability is called empathy. Being empathetic toward someone means being willing and capable of understanding his or her emotional state. In simpler terms, being able to “put yourself into someone else’s shoes”. Empathy allows us to connect with others by fostering trust and connection. For example, when you see that your friend is sad but is unable to express themselves, you express empathy by listening, being present and available for your friend and offering them your full support, which might also mean, offering them a shoulder to cry on. Empathy is a central component of interpersonal relationships and the more you practice it, the more likely you are to engage in open and honest communications with people, avoid conflict and promote positive change. Bottom line:Being empathetic can improve the quality of your relationships with others.
- Ability to influence and guide others. Because we live in social environments and communities that include people who all experience a variety of emotions, it is crucial to learn how to recognize, understand and react to the emotional experiences of others in appropriate ways. For example, someone with high EI can quickly detect when someone is angry, include that information in the way that he or she interacts with the angry person, understand that the angry person might behave in a way that fits his or her emotional state (e.g., become aggressive), and chose to interact with the angry person in a way that will de-escalate the situation. Decoding social and emotional cues in others means that you could avoid an unpleasant interaction and do your part in not letting someone turn anger into a potentially destructive behaviour. Bottom line: Greater emotional self-awareness and understanding can help make the world a better place.
Again, if you enjoyed reading this article, and want to know more about Emotional Intelligence, check out Part 1 of our Emotional Intelligence Series.
Until then, be kind to one another.
Written by Lorena Ruci, Phd
Lorena specializes in social psychology (PhD, Carleton University). She is dedicated to promoting research-based interventions that improve people’s lives. She is the Associate Editor for the board of Journal of Psychology and Psychological Research International. Lorena is a Mental Health and Disability Advisor at Carleton University where she also teaches psychology.