Emotional Intelligence explains the importance of emotions in your life, how they help and hurt your ability to navigate the world, followed by practical advice on how to improve your own emotional intelligence and why that is they key to leading a successful life.
Though Focus is the book by Daniel Goleman that first sparked my attention, Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is actually far more popular. His masterpiece has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 40 languages.
Goleman explains how two separate minds live in our brains, one rational and one emotional, and why the five key skills making up your emotional “literacy” are actually a much bigger predictor of happiness and success than the capacity by which we usually measure it: IQ.
Here are 3 lessons about what emotional intelligence is, why it’s so important and how you can get more of it:
- Emotional intelligence rests on self-awareness andself-regulation.
- A high EQ makes you healthier and more successful.
- You can boost your EQ by mirroring other people’s bodylanguage and thinking optimistically.
Ready for an emotional education? The class is now in session!
Lesson 1: Emotional intelligence depends on your ability to be self-aware and self-regulate.
There are two parts to being emotionally intelligent. One is being emotionally self-aware. It simply means that you’re able to recognize and label your feelings.
For example, when children learn to speak, they usually need to be given the vocabulary first, so if your son is angry because you’re not letting him have candy before dinner, he’ll know he feels bad, but can’t tell you what exactly it is, until you tell him that what he’s feeling is anger.
The second part of the EQ equation is emotional self-regulation.
As an adult, being able to look at your emotions on a meta-level (thanks to mindfulness, learned from meditation or other self awareness exercises) is crucial in choosing how to react to your feelings – or if you should react at all.
For example, when you sit in your office and hear a sudden, loud bang, like the sound of an explosion, your emotional processing center will perceive it as a threat and put your body in alert mode. But when your rational brain double checks and sees there’s no actual threat there, it calms you down again, so you can get back on track to what you were doing.
Both of these qualities rely heavily on the neural connections between your rational and emotional brain, which, if severed, can cause serious problems.
Lesson 2: If you have a high EQ, you’re more likely to be successful and healthy.
IQ, the level of your intelligence, is usually what we think determines success. But Goleman’s research led him to believe that EQ, emotional intelligence, is just as, if not more important, to find happiness.
For example, in the world of business and careers, students with higher levels of empathy seem to get better grades, even if their peers are just as smart. That’s because they can better manage their feelings – for example being bored, but still doing their homework – and perform better in social settings, like knowing when to speak and when to be quiet in class.
Similarly, as you might know from the famous marshmallow experiment, kids who can better discipline themselves at a young age tend to perform better later as well.
Plus, managers, who are socially skilled, will have the power to persuade people when they need to and thus do a better job at leading people.
Your health also highly depends on your EQ, because the more you have of it, the better you are able to mitigate stress, which can prevent a lot, if not all, of the most prevalent diseases of our time.
Lesson 3: You can boost your EQ by mirroring other people’s body language and thinking optimistically.
Alright Nik, that’s all good, but how can I improve my EQ then?
I’m glad you asked!
Here are two really cool exercises to increase your emotional intelligence:
Mirror other people’s body language.
Convince yourself that your failures result from things you can change.
The first exercise will not only help you connect better with the person across the table, it’ll also make you more emotionally self-aware. For example, when the person you talk to has great posture, straightening your own body will send subtle non-verbal cues to them, that they can trust you, help you realize what great posture feels like and also make you more empathic, because now you know how they feel when their body is in that pose. It’s one of those “fake it till you make it” scenarios, which helps you build better habits.
The second exercise helps you become an optimist. Optimistic people continue to try, because they believe their actions make a difference, and are thus more likely to succeed. This is based on how they explain failures. They think bad events are temporary, external and specific, and that they have the power to change them for the better by improving the next time. So the next time something goes wrong, tell yourself: “It’s alright, this is going to pass, it’s just a one-time thing, I’ll improve and get better at this!”
My personal take-aways
Do you know how many non-fiction books really have just one good point to make and then fill an extra 200 pages with additional information so they can actually publish it as a book? This one is NOT like that. It’s super comprehensive. After first introducing you to emotions in general and why they matter, Goleman then explains the idea of EQ, what constitutes it, why it’s great and how to improve it.