Move over IQ, there’s a new kid in town! EQ, emotional intelligence, isn’t actually a new concept but it’s steadily gaining popularity, especially in the workplace.

Limiting the importance of emotional intelligence to just the workplace isn’t really fair, though. Higher emotional intelligence can affect and improve virtually every aspect of our lives.

After a heated debate with someone, have you ever thought, “Well crud, I should have said _____”? But the debate was so intense; you were emotionally charged and not thinking straight. Most of what you said came out in an accusatory tone or on the defense, so nothing was really solved. It happens. Especially when emotional intelligence isn’t in the playbook.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

As you might have guessed, emotional intelligence is based on emotions. Not the emotions themselves though. It’s about having the ability to identify emotions, understand them and manage them. It determines how you interact with others, with conflict and under stressful situations. There are four attributes of those with higher levels of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-Awareness – aware of your own strengths and weaknesses; aware of your own emotions and behaviors.
  • Self-Regulation – able to effectively control emotions and responses; refrain from impulsive reactions; ability to adapt to different circumstances.
  • Social – understands other’s emotions and feelings by assessing emotional cues; feel comfortable in social situations.
  • Relational – ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships, exhibits effective communication skills; adept in conflict resolution; is a positive influence for others.

Based on these four qualities, it’s becomes clear that emotional intelligence isn’t something we are born with and needs to be honed-in on and fine-tuned as we grow and develop. In fact, emotional intelligence is closely paired with emotional maturity. Emotional outbursts and temper tantrums are replaced by rational thinking, assessing the situation, and responding appropriately.

How Important is Emotional Intelligence?

Having a successful life greatly depends on our reactions to any given circumstance, situation or experience. Sure, being intelligent in general will make that job application look marvelous. But all the college degrees and certificates in the world don’t make up for being able to manage emotions and stress, both in yourself and those around you.

The ability to defuse an escalated call from a client at work is much the same as taming a toddler who is throwing a tantrum or an explosive friend who is ranting about one thing or another.

Everyone is different. No two people have had the exact same experiences and their personalities, skills, strengths, weaknesses and emotions are equally diverse. The world would be incredibly boring if we all came from the same cookie-cutter.

Though the workplace is typically where folks encounter the intricate diversities of peers on a larger scale, it’s easy to see that emotional intelligence can affect all aspect of our lives: physical, mental, work and relationships.

How to Develop Higher Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence isn’t a number or value we get assigned to us based on exams. It’s developed over time in the test of life. We only have control over ourselves. How we act and react to events and people determines our emotional intelligence.

Sure, we can influence people to sway one way or another, or behave in one manner or another, but that’s it. We don’t have absolute control over others; they too choose their own path.

So how do we increase our emotional intelligence? Follow these few steps:

Reduce Stress

In every aspect of your life where stress can be reduced, do it. Stress in one area of our lives carries over into the others. Reduced stress is also great for our mental health and physical health.

Be Mindful of Self

Be aware of your emotions and triggers. Observe your non-verbal communication such as facial expression, body language and gestures.

Be Mindful of Others

Once you’ve got a handle on your own emotions, pay greater attention to those around you. Listen without having a response ready, even when taking criticism. Always look at the bigger picture and see their emotions from all angles. Don’t take things personally.

Respond, Don’t React

For effective conflict resolution, think before you respond and choose words carefully. The conversation should always be centered on the present; no digging up old issues to use as examples. And when the end of the conversation arrives, let it go.

Improving emotional intelligence will enhance many areas of your life. Motivation and positivity seem to be oozing from the pores of those who have increased emotional intelligence. Being able to effectively manage relationships, at work, home and socially, catapults our lives into a higher realm of success and joy.