Success in life is often the hardest aspect of our lives to quantify - and that’s not necessarily our fault. Society has developed a narrative that great leaders are those that possess a significant degree of general intelligence in fields such as law, politics, mathematics, psychology and more. While authentic leadership benefits from mastery in particular fields, what is often left out of this definition of success is the importance of high emotional intelligence.
While feelings and emotions are often uncomfortable to deal with, emotional intelligence skills are consistently ranked as some of the most important abilities worth cultivating. There are many reasons why you may be seeking to improve your emotional intelligence, whether that be because you want to implement these skills from a leadership standpoint in a business or simply because you want to learn how to process negative emotions more efficiently.
While social emotional learning is a broad category, practiced by everyone from Bill George to the Dalai Lama, there are certain aspects of emotional literacy and skills that can be defined and explored - which is exactly what this guide will do. Starting with the origins of emotional intelligence to the best resources to practice your newfound skills, here is everything you need to get started on developing your leadership and interpersonal skills!
Can You Be Emotionally Intelligent?
The brain science we learn typically revolves around intelligent people. However, there has been increasing amounts of research into a new science called emotional intelligence that is belying traditional wisdom for how to be an effective leader and developing leadership skills and knowledge. The theory of multiple intelligences deals with this new emotional and social skill, which deals with how well you can perceive your own emotional state and those of others.
If you're interested in learning about leadership styles and personal achievement past indicators like IQ tests, emotional intelligence is the way to go. Kick-started by the bestselling novel Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence deals with the ability in perceiving emotions through facial expressions, body language and intuition.
Here's a guide on EQ basics!
Developing Social Intelligence
If you want to develop your emotional and social intelligence, start by taking an intelligence test for emotional ability. While the most popular emotional intelligence test, the MSCEIT, is typically paid for, there are plenty of free tests online you can take advantage of. While not encompassing all the steps required for developing emotional intelligence, this is a great first step.
These tests will ability to empathize with people, the degree you are self-aware of your empathetic and emotive abilities and more!
Is Self-Control and Awareness Important?
While no one needs to convince you about the importance of measuring a quotient in intelligence, quantifying your emotional abilities can seem non-essential. If you're interested in learning all about how self-management and social awareness can have a positive impact on your job performance, there are countless articles have been written by organizations such as the Harvard Business Review.
If you want to understand more about the degree to which emotions can be a great predictor for personal and professional success, check out some of the works written by psychologists John Mayer, Peter Salovey and David Caruso.
How to Develop Your Emotional Quotient
Now that you understand a bit about the theory behind multiple intelligences and why it can be equally as important to supplement a good intelligence quotient with emotional awareness, where do you go from here? While you might prefer to dig into Daniel Goleman’s bestseller to get even more familiar with the literature behind the emotional quotient, putting the concepts you learn about into practice should be on the top of your priority list alongside with learning more about the subject.
While reading about intelligence tests from Goleman, Salovey and other journalists and academics can give you a better grasp on the scientific definitions surrounding intelligence and emotions, starting to practice social and emotional learning can be difficult. From a young age, we’re constantly taught the habits and mental tools that are necessary to develop things like a high IQ and pass general intelligence tests.
Everyone has had to live through the horror of passing timed, standardized tests to get passing grades, get into schools, into job positions and even to simply pass those captcha tests to prove you’re a human.
It doesn’t help much that the superiority of being intelligent is constantly being reinforced, where society tends to prize hard skills like programming over soft skills like relationship management. Of course, these are broad generalizations - but it does serve to underscore the fact that people aren’t generally taught the important skills of self-regulation, empathy and managing emotions and moods. Here are some of the ways you can start to develop emotional awareness.
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1. Listening to More Music or Watching More Movies
If you want to become intelligent with respect to your emotional rapport with others and yourself, try watching more movies and listening to more music. There are a countless number of studies that have measured the effects of watching films on our emotions. If you really want to experience the full effects of this, you can also try your hand at scriptwriting or filming your own short film. This can help you develop some of the beneficial tools people involved in filmmaking possess, like understanding the body language that emotions convey.
In terms of listening to music, you have probably already felt the powerful effect of music over your emotions. However, if you want to take these benefits to the next level, you should try participating in a music program. Some studies have shown that children who participated in a yearlong music class demonstrated an increased level of empathy.
2. Reading Books or Writing
If you’ve ever been moved by a novel, short story or poetry, you’ve already experienced the benefits of reading. Studies have suggested that reading books that we enjoy have a powerful ability to increase our emotional intelligence. Even for those who don’t consider themselves as big readers can set the goal for themselves of completing one book for the year.
Along the same lines, writing can also help you improve your mental capacity for emotions. Even people who consider themselves as having experienced traditional and non-traumatic life events can benefit from the catharsis involved in writing. Try writing daily at the start or end of your day about the details of your day, no matter how mundane they feel. You’re bound to realize some patterns or specifics about how you process the instances of your days that you hadn’t before.
Here are some more tips on how to improve your EQ!
3. Joining a Sports Team or Exercise
If you think you’d prefer a more active practice in emotional intelligence, try joining a gym class or a local sports team. The scientific literature documenting the benefits of exercise and sports on mental capacities can be conflicting. However, consistent exercise is great at reducing stress and increasing positive attitudes towards life for many people.
4. Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness can take on many meanings, but in general, it is the process of taking stock of your physical and mental processes and attempting to improve them when necessary. For example, if you often find yourself unable to sleep at night because your brain simply won’t shut off, it might be because you have some underlying anxiety regarding some aspects of your life.
Some things that can help you pinpoint what these stress-inducing aspects are can be the breathing exercises involved in mindfulness meditation. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you start to understand your emotions a bit better.
- Do your experiences affect your emotions drastically, fluctuating drastically as a reaction from moment to moment or not really?
- Are your emotions tied to sensations in your body? If so, can you locate them? Some examples can be tightness, dryness or clenching of the throat, stomach, chest, etc.
- Are people normally confused by how you’re feeling because you tend not to have such strong emotional responses? Or maybe because you have very intense emotional responses?
- Do your emotions play a major role in your decision making or do you actively work against them when making decisions?
Answering questions like these can help you start to understand your perception and processing of your emotions.
Best Online Help for Improving Your Social Skills
If you want to learn more about how you can improve your social competences and emotional learning, online websites can be your best tool. While not an exhaustive guide on how to improve your emotional intelligence, here are some of the best guides that can help you learn to understand and self-report your emotions.
- Being Well podcast: learn from Dr. Rick Hanson's interviews with professionals on some of the ways you can develop mental skills for a happier, healthier life
- Taking emotional intelligence tests online