by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Health Columnist
Published in Health on 21st March, 2019
Emotional intelligence is a term that has been floating around the internet in recent years. You may have seen it as you browse social media or enjoyed other internet adventures. However, it might not be particularly clear what the term is referring to.
However, emotional intelligence can be a very helpful thing to gain an understanding of. Because of that, we've put together this handy guide to help you with understanding emotional intelligence, the benefits it can provide, what high and low emotional intelligence look like and how you can improve your emotional intelligence if you want to.
Continue on, and enjoy!
In short, emotional intelligence is the way you identify and handle your own emotions. It can involve learning strategies to stop avoiding certain kinds of emotions ad well as developing skills to manage them in ways that will be helpful rather than harmful in the long run.
Using emotional intelligence as a strategy is also a great way to avoid or heal from addictions, in which we use substances like food, alcohol, drugs or prescription medications to deal with unwanted emotions. It can really be a useful tool for learning how to exist in the world in a healthier way.
There are a variety of skills that can help with building emotional intelligence. By practicing them, you can help yourself to grow, gain empathy and learn how to handle your emotions in beneficial ways. As a result, you'll have an easier time connecting with others and avoiding emotional outbursts.
On top of that, the skills you develop will help you to understand the world around you in a clearer way, as well as communicate with others.
The first step to emotional intelligence is gaining an understanding of your feelings. This often means learning how to observe your emotions in a non-judgmental way. Having the ability to admit to yourself that you're feeling sad, angry, frustrated or lonely is a key part in learning how to manage the emotions you feel.
Those with low emotional intelligence can struggle with this aspect, trying to deny some feelings while approving of others. However, allowing yourself to feel all emotions that come to pass is key to creating better emotional health within yourself. It will also help you to learn how to use those emotions in productive ways.
What we choose to do with our emotions is a huge factor in emotional intelligence. Learning how to channel them in productive, or at least less harmful ways is a necessary step towards managing emotions well.
In addition, the ability to think about why we are feeling those emotions and what we can do to resolve negative emotions is highly useful. For example, if you're feeling angry then think about why, what exactly made you feel that way, and what you can do about that situation in the future.
When you've gained enough insight about your emotions, you can work on learning how to manage them in healthy ways. Instead of self-medicating with alcohol, junk food or other substances, you can use things like journaling, exercise and other productive habits to handle energy in positive ways.
This will also mean learning how to help others with their emotions. Within reason, it gives you more insight into how they might be feeling and what you can do to cheer them up.
Having a high emotional IQ isn't like having a high intelligence IQ. It's not about bragging rights or making others feel beneath you. Instead, it's a way to lead a healthier lifestyle and open yourself up to a greater amount of empathy. Below, you'll see some of the benefits that can be achieved with a higher level of emotional intelligence.
When you understand your own feelings well, you can start to process the feelings that other people might be having. For example, if Susan was just turned down for a promotion in favor of Jerry, then you can imagine that Susan might be feeling disappointed or disheartened.
From that point, you can choose what to do about it. You may want to help cheer Susan up. Considering the feelings of others is a great way to build deeper relationships. It also allows you a better look into how your behaviors and words may effect those around you, for better or worse.
Emotions are useful tools, but they can also lead to irrational behaviors, impulsion and doing or saying things you cannot take back. When you have a higher level of emotional intelligence, you can learn how to handle strong emotions in a more effective way.
Negative emotions are going to happen, and in many cases they are perfectly natural. However, there is a big difference between saying "I am angry. I'm going to go cool off" and immediately taking your anger out on someone nearby in a physical or verbal way. The latter can result in negative consequences and plenty of regrets.
A greater level of emotional intelligence also means that you can learn how to communicate more effectively with others. We can often run into problems when we are upset with a friend or family member and turn to avoiding, ignoring or behaving passive-aggressively towards them rather than communicating the problem.
With emotional intelligence, you'll also have an easier time picking out the situations in which communication is the right choice and when the person you're dealing with simply cannot join in that communication with you. Overall, you'll have a better ability to make decisions to protect yourself or the relationship in any given situation.
There are many people who can run into problems when they speak without being aware of how their words might effect those around them. Learning to be more thoughtful about your words and actions shows those around you that you care about their well-being.
Furthermore, it can help to save you the embarrassment of saying whatever comes to mind and risk offending or upsetting others due to a lack of thought. Learning to pause and frame your words in a more thoughtful way will help you to feel good about yourself and make you more enjoyable to be around.
Below, you'll find a few signs that might point to someone having a lower level of emotional intelligence. If you notice these in yourself or others, then it can be helpful to try to understand why. At the very least, you'll have an idea about what might be going on behind the scenes.
A low level of emotional intelligence can be marked by an inability to connect well with those around you. It can mean having difficulty with understanding how others feel, because you may not be able to see much beyond the way you think and feel. Many can get caught in the trap of believing that others must feel the same way they do.
Those with low emotional intelligence can struggle with understanding the emotions of others, or why they are having those emotions. It can all seem overly complicated and like others simply expect them to know what emotions are going on at a given time.
Another important factor for those with low emotional intelligence is that they tend to place blame on others in inaccurate ways. For example, this person might make an insensitive joke or comment and then claim that someone who is upset by it is simply "too sensitive".
Rather than taking a look at why their words may have been inappropriate, they are quick to place the blame on others. The ability to read emotional tone, or understand why a statement that they aren't offended by might offend someone else is a struggle for those with a low emotional IQ.
We've all come across individuals who are more abrasive than others. Those who get into arguments frequently, experience needless drama and more tend to have trouble both understanding others and managing their own emotions.
As a result, they are more prone to emotional outbursts and struggle to see both sides of a dispute. Instead, they continue to argue their side without consideration for the other person. What they often don't realize is that the inability to empathize with others actually makes their life much more difficult than it needs to be.
Another key sign that can be seen in those with low levels of emotional intelligence is that they have a hard time with situations that are especially emotional. Whether it's taking responsibility for upsetting someone, dealing with a loss in the family or similar kinds of difficult circumstances, they tend to wall themselves off.
This might include physically walking away, refusing to talk about difficult topics directly or covering up their feelings with abuse of alcohol, drugs or other substances. When they are pushed into confronting charged situations, they may only react with emotional outbursts or further denial.
As one might expect, those who have a hard time understanding the emotions that others may experience also struggle with feeling empathy for others. They lack an ability to look at situations or life in general from the perspective of others, which can cause a number of problems in their own lives.
This can become a huge problem in the relationships that a low emotional IQ person may have throughout their lives. Friends, romantic partners and even family members can be put off because they don't feel understood. In some cases, these other people may not even feel that they are really being heard at all.
The following are clues that someone has a higher level of emotional intelligence. It can be a good idea to take an honest look at yourself and others to see which of these signs they show. Contemplating these behaviors can help to provide a goal for your own emotional intelligence if needed.
Those with high levels of emotional intelligence care about others, and listen for the sake of understanding them. This can be compared to those with low emotional IQ, who may not really listen and only engage in conversations just to get their own agendas across.
High emotional IQ individuals don't seek to dominate the conversation, but are instead listening to gain perspective on what the other person is thinking and feeling. This allows them to place themselves in the shoes of that person more easily, and learn how to connect with them on a deeper level.
In addition, those with high emotional IQ aren't quick to judge others. They understand that the world isn't black and white, and that others might make positive or negative decisions for any number of reasons. You'll also find that such a person won't immediately dismiss the issues you're having when others might.
This isn't to say that those with a high emotional IQ will put up with any manner of conversation, or allow others to take advantage of their helpfulness. However, for those who are having genuine issues and are in need of help, they can find provide great insight or at least a listening ear.
Those who have a high level of emotional intelligence have an easier time being honest with themselves. Ultimately, they like themselves but are also aware that, like all other people, they have flaws. Being able to admit this and accept criticism and advice are useful in self growth.
That's not to say that these individuals always have a positive reaction to criticism. Internally, they may initially feel hurt, depending on the criticism given. However, what sets them apart is that they can then logically look at the criticism in terms of whether it was meant to harm or help and adjust accordingly.
Having the ability to be honest with themselves about their feelings is key in people with high emotional IQ. That doesn't mean that they don't experience negative emotions, but instead have an easier time sitting with them and considering what they need to do in response to it.
Instead of becoming wrapped up in self pity, a high emotional IQ individual can take a deeper look into themselves and understand that they are feeling sad or lonely. They can then think about why that emotion is occurring and what they can do about it.
Even with a high emotional IQ, these individuals know they aren't perfect. They can still make mistakes, say the wrong things and unintentionally hurt others. This is where it pays to consider how a low emotional IQ person would react versus how someone with a high emotional IQ might.
When confronted with a mistake, a person with a low level of emotional intelligence might push back, deny that they did anything wrong, or blame the other person in some way. On the other hand, someone with a high emotional IQ would take a moment to analyze what they did wrong, how it hurt the other person, and provide a sincere apology.
Emotional intelligence can be improved. It's not something that you're stuck with all of your life. That said, you will need to be willing to put the effort in, and it's unlikely to be an easy process. You can rest assured that it will be worth the effort.
The first step to improving your emotional IQ is to learn how to be more honest with yourself about your own feelings. Don't try to push away negative emotions, and avoid reacting without thought. Instead, think about what is going on inside you and why it might be happening.
If you're upset, ask yourself why that is. What exactly triggered the negative feelings. Did something bad happen, or was it an ingrained response to something? Writing out what is going on can be a great way to practice looking at your emotions in an objective way.
Most of us are aware that there are positive and negative aspects to life. However, keeping them balanced can be tricky. When something goes wrong, it can be easy to fall into the mindset that the whole day is ruined. On the other hand, it can also be too easy to put on rose-colored glasses during a time when something has made you happy.
It's a good idea to learn how to keep both the positive and negative in perspective. Bad things will happen, and it's normal to experience negative feelings in response. However, it's also a good idea to remember that they won't last forever.
When you take a look at your emotions, it's better to ask questions than to judge yourself harshly. Instead of becoming frustrated with the way you handled something, or how you felt, ask yourself why that occurred. What was it within you that made you react in a certain way.
On a simpler note, if you're feeling lonely then ask yourself why that might be. Has your social life been suffering? Do you feel like you can't really connect with those around you? The more you ask these questions, the more you can learn about your emotional health.
Don't expect that you'll learn what you need to and then suddenly never have to worry about negative emotions, reacting to things poorly or behaving in abrasive ways ever again. That's simply not the way life works.
High emotional intelligence takes time and patience. It's best to expect that you'll need to keep learning and working on it all of your life. Overall, it's a situation that is about small, sustainable improvements that last over time. You can't simply overhaul the way you behave in a single, focused effort.
If you're really unsure where to start, remember that it's perfectly okay to ask for help. A mental health professional can get you on the right track to improving your emotional IQ. On top of that, a good therapist will help you without any judgment or criticism.
Instead, they are likely to start asking you the kinds of questions you should ask yourself. Where are certain feelings or behaviors coming from? With this guidance, you can learn the tools you need in order to behave in ways you feel better about. Alongside that, you'll be able to take pride in knowing that you can change your emotional IQ for the better.