Intelligence comes in many forms. Many have heard a person described as “street smart” or “book smart,” meaning they possess practical intelligence or display a more intellectual inclination. But in recent years, discussions about emotional intelligence have become common. Experts define emotional intelligence as how a person perceives, recognizes, and expresses feelings.
The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence defines emotional intelligence with the acronym RULER, which stands for:
- Recognizing emotions
- Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
- Labeling emotions
- Expressing feelings the right way
- Regulating emotions appropriately
Emotional intelligence has become very important in many aspects of life, but business and education have particularly focused on this skill and how it can affect a person’s success in life. Why is emotional intelligence so important? And what can someone do to increase their emotional intelligence?
Origins of Emotional Intelligence
Two professors, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in the 1990s. Daniel Goleman developed the idea more fully, bringing it to the public’s attention. Emotional intelligence may also be referred to as emotional quotient or EQ.
Emotional intelligence matters because it affects not only a person’s relationships but also how someone learns and makes decisions. Additionally, it helps physical and mental health by providing tools to manage sadness and nervousness, so they don’t develop depression or anxiety.
Signs of Emotional Intelligence
Not everyone possesses the same level of emotional intelligence. Examples of behaviors someone with emotional intelligence will display include:
- The ability to recognize and describe another’s feelings
- Self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses
- Possessing self-confidence and self-acceptance
- The ability to let go of mistakes
- A capacity to accept and embrace change
- A strong sense of curiosity, particularly about other people
- Having empathy and concern for others
- Displaying sensitivity to the feelings of other people
- Taking personal responsibility for mistakes
- Managing emotions in difficult situations
Emotional intelligence matters because it improves not only a person’s relationships but also has a positive effect on their well-being and communication skills.
Levels of Emotional Intelligence
A mental health expert may administer a test such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) or the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI) to determine a person’s emotional intelligence.
Researchers have identified four levels of emotional intelligence. The levels are perceiving emotions, reasoning with emotions, understanding emotions, and managing emotions.
The first level — perceiving — focuses on ensuring a person understands others’ emotions. Perceiving involves both what the person is saying and reading the individual’s body language and facial expressions.
Reasoning with emotions centers on how emotions help people prioritize what they react to and what draws their attention. It is the process by which someone uses emotions to enhance their thinking. The next level deals with how someone understands another person’s feelings. For instance, is the individual reacting to you or an outside event?
Finally, the fourth level of managing emotions is a vital component of emotional management. How someone responds to their own emotions and others’ feelings connects to the highest level of emotional intelligence.
How to Improve Emotional Intelligence
It is also possible to increase or improve emotional intelligence. A review of multiple emotional intelligence training studies indicates that people can train themselves to be more emotionally intelligent. Methods to try include:
- Recognize emotions — The work to increase emotional intelligence begins with identifying your own emotions and naming those feelings.
- Express your feelings — You may find you can recognize your emotions, but you are still struggling to express them. Another way to improve emotional intelligence is to practice better naming your feelings to others.
- Listen to others — Hearing what others say is vital to increasing emotional intelligence. It prevents misunderstanding and communicates respect.
- Be aware of body language — Listening to others involves more than hearing their words. Practice paying attention to the nonverbal clues someone is giving, from how they stand to their facial expressions.
- Cultivate empathy — Knowing what someone else is feeling helps you respond better. Try imagining what might be upsetting someone before reacting.
- Ask for feedback — Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you improve your emotional intelligence. Ask friends, family, and work colleagues how they perceive your response to difficult situations, how empathetic you can be, and how you handle conflict to gain insight into areas where you could improve.
- Reflect — You can also provide internal feedback by reflecting on past situations, how you responded, and what you could have done better.
- Think before acting — Making an impulsive decision in the heat of the moment will only create more problems. Take a step back and consider how your words or actions can improve a situation.
- Practice social skills — Make an effort to appear approachable. Having a positive presence helps others to feel comfortable around you.
- Read literature — This final tip may sound strange, but studies have shown that reading about complex characters in literature can boost a person’s empathy. Reading allows you to encounter people, places, and situations you may not have in real life. Discovering these different perspectives can expand your ability to connect with those around you.
Even for people with a high level of emotional intelligence, it’s good to practice these tips to keep themselves aware of the feelings of those around them. For those individuals who need to improve their emotional intelligence, working on these ten methods can help them boost their level.
With cultivating emotional intelligence, there is no downside — it can only enhance a person’s life. Not developing emotional intelligence can cause various issues, from poor emotional coping skills to getting into more arguments to having lower-quality relationships. The good news is that even those without high emotional intelligence can make adjustments to improve their lives.
A licensed mental health and substance abuse intensive outpatient program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona, Rising Phoenix was created to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are not judged, but embraced, throughout their recovery process.