Emotional Intelligence: Traits & Development

Emotional Intelligence: Traits & Development

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Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ) is a multifaceted skill set encompassing the ability to identify, understand, monitor, and effectively manage emotions in ways that lead to positive outcomes. Though some individuals are naturally empathetic and talented at processing emotional information, most of us could benefit from further developing our emotional intelligence. 


Developing a deeper level of emotional intelligence has many benefits; research has shown that those who have a higher EQ tend to have better mental health, greater success at work, and superior leadership skills compared to those with lesser emotional understanding. By becoming more aware of your emotions, the emotions of others, and how they can best be managed to lead to positive outcomes, you can improve your relationships with others, both personally and professionally. You might even find that you develop a greater understanding of your own inner self, too!



The Four Core Attributes of Emotional Intelligence


Emotional intelligence is commonly broken down into four main categories. Within these four categories, there are a number of more specific skills and competencies that contribute to EQ.The first attribute is self-awareness. Self-aware individuals are good at identifying their own emotions and the ways in which they affect their thoughts and behavior. They have a healthy sense of self-esteem and can realistically assess their own strengths and weaknesses.


The second attribute is self-management. An individual who has mastered self-management is good at controlling and managing challenging emotions and impulsive feelings and behaviors. Those with well-developed emotional self-management are able to process their emotions in healthy ways. They are good at taking initiative and following through on their emotional commitments. They are adaptable and manage their emotions in ways that are constructive for both themselves and those around them. 


Social awareness also plays a major role in emotional intelligence. When we think of EQ, we often think of the traits defining social awareness. Socially-aware individuals are empathetic and adept at understanding the emotional needs of those around them. Those with high levels of social awareness are good at reading others’ non-verbal social cues. They are often good at understanding groups and social dynamics. In a corporate setting, those with high emotional intelligence are good at predicting behaviors and trends within the organization. 


Relationship management is the attribute of emotional intelligence most linked to one’s interpersonal skill set. Those who have developed good relationship management skills can communicate well with others, influencing others and inspiring them to reach their greatest potential. Those with solid relationship management skills are good at managing conflict and are masters of teamwork, working well both as leaders and as group members. They put others at ease, offer useful feedback and support, and bring out others’ best qualities.  



Developing Your Emotional Intelligence


Whether you consider yourself emotionally self-aware or realize that you struggle with emotionally challenging situations, there are likely some aspects of your EQ that you could focus on improving. Here are a few tips for developing your skills in the four aforementioned areas.


Developing Self-AwarenessConnecting to your innermost emotions is crucial to developing a sense of self-awareness. Many of us struggle with processing our emotions due to the ways in which we were raised. If our caretakers did not understand and validate our emotions as children, we may still struggle to process our own feelings as adults. Are you aware of how you are feeling at any given point in time? Can you easily differentiate between feelings such as anger, sadness, and fear when you experience them? Do you recognize the physical symptoms that accompany your emotions, such as a churning stomach or tightness in the chest? Do you notice when your emotional reactions are unreasonable in a given situation? Do you find yourself sometimes suppressing your own feelings and not managing them? If you find these questions to be challenging, you may need to work on your self-awareness. Consider researching mindfulness or taking up a mindfulness meditation practice. If you feel that you have emotional trauma that you need to work through, therapy may also help you connect with your innermost feelings. You may need to learn how to better manage stress in your life, too. By learning how to handle emotional stress, you will better be able to work through unpleasant emotions, rather than simply avoiding them.


Once you have developed a deeper sense of self-awareness, you will be more capable of assessing yourself in a fair manner. You will have a clearer sense of your own strengths and weaknesses. By knowing your weaknesses, for instance, you can better assess when you may need to rely on others for help, and can more easily identify areas you need to work on. With improved self-awareness you will gain a clearer sense of your own values and purpose, allowing you to become more decisive and self-confident. In understanding yourself, you will soon be able to better understand and help others, too.



Developing Self-Management


Self-management is one of the trickiest aspects of emotional intelligence. Even if we understand our own emotions, we don’t always react in the most constructive ways. The best way to develop emotional self-management is to take a step back and focus on your reactions during times of stress. Do you find yourself panicking or lashing out when faced with unexpected challenges? Instead of exposing others to your emotional stress, take a moment to breathe and re-evaluate the situation. Those who have developed their emotional intelligence learn to stay calm under pressure and recover quickly from unexpected difficulties. They are adaptable and maintain a positive outlook even when they’re struggling. Whether you’re having trouble with a partner or in a professional situation, focus on channeling your emotional energy in a positive direction. Instead of getting upset, focus on telling others what’s wrong and focusing on possible solutions. Stay positive and be willing to adjust your perspective and strategies based on the feedback you receive from others. By successfully managing your inner world, you’ll be better prepared to manage the emotional challenges of your outer world, too.



Developing Social Awareness 


Social awareness involves empathizing with others on a personal level as well as understanding emotional dynamics on a broader scale, such as within a group or organization. To improve these skills, it is crucial to focus on others’ emotions. If you’re caught up in your own inner world, you’re likely to miss the emotional reactions of those around you. Strive to be a good listener. Don’t talk over others, and focus on asking meaningful questions. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal emotional cues. By being mindfully present in your emotional interactions with others, you might actually find yourself growing more in-tune with your own emotions as well. How do others’ words and actions make you feel? Focusing on this give-and-take flow of feelings will help you learn how to manage external situations as well as any challenges in your inner emotional world. 

Strive to really put yourself in others’ shoes, too. This will help you to develop true empathy for others. Can you let go of your prejudices and other deeply-held beliefs? Can you find commonalities between yourself and others? By striving to truly understand others’ perspectives, feelings, and beliefs, you can become a more socially aware citizen of the world. 



Developing Relationship Management


Relationship management is a skill that is built over time. Ultimately, having a foundation in the other aspects of emotional intelligence will help you further your relationship management abilities. If you are resilient and good at assessing and managing your own emotions, for instance, you will be more capable of becoming a positive, inspirational, influential force in others’ lives. If you’re socially aware, you’ll understand the wants and needs motivating those around you; in understanding these needs, you’ll be better able to manage conflicts and disagreements, both personal and professional. If you’ve developed a healthy sense of self-esteem and can accurately assess your own strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be better able to collaborate with others, offering and asking for help as needed. 


If you’re struggling, simply focus on maintaining a positive attitude. Focus on sending positive non-verbal cues to those around you; smile and use humor to convey an attitude of confidence and optimism. Focus on resolving conflicts in constructive ways. Differing perspectives are normal; learning how to reach agreeable compromises that foster goodwill is a talent!


Developing one’s emotional intelligence is a life-long journey. If you struggle with managing your feelings or connecting with others personally and professionally, know that you are not alone! By becoming more mindful, remaining positive, and engaging with others in emotionally constructive ways, you can one day become a master of emotional intelligence. 



In Conclusion: 


Emotional intelligence encompasses a vast number of competencies and skills. Our personal and professional domains are both significantly affected by the ways in which we are able to manage our emotions and engage with others. Though you might already be a kind and understanding person, there are certainly areas of your emotional intelligence that you could further develop. Perhaps you could work on becoming more adaptable and flexible, or maybe you could improve your listening skills. Developing your EQ has the potential to reduce your stress levels and boost your mood, improving your health as a whole. Your relationships with your peers, colleagues, and partner will be strengthened by your growing skill set.If you’re looking to improve the ways in which you interact with others, take a good look at your emotional skill set. Could it be improved? If so, start becoming more mindful of your emotions today! The benefits just might surprise you.



Photo: © John Hayn /pixabay.com

Editor, 12/17/2020