Advancing Your Emotional Intelligence

In 1995, Daniel Goleman published Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman’s research suggested that conventional intelligence, or IQ (intelligence quotient), was too narrow a spectrum to determine an individual’s level of success. IQ sets a foundation, but ignores how a person’s behavioral profile, motivators and life experiences help shape decision making and potential. Emotional intelligence/quotient, or EQ, drives higher levels of productivity, reduces conflict and increases personal and organizational success.

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves published Emotional Intelligence 2.0 in 2009. Bradberry and Greaves’ research found that 90% of top performers have high EQ and that EQ is twice as important as IQ for goal achievement. They also found there is zero correlation between EQ and IQ and that EQ accounts for roughly 60% of job performance.

Although these two books present slightly different EQ models, both build upon the ideas of self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. I’ll define each and offer a few actions you can take to improve your emotional intelligence.

Self Awareness
Self awareness is the ability to understand your emotions, what you do well, what motivates you and recognize how these traits impact relationships and performance. If you know a person who is self aware, he is likely confident, doesn’t let his emotions rule him and is willing to critically assess himself for continual improvement.

  • Understand your unpleasant emotions to identify their causes. If possible, confront or accept your past. And, stop spending time with people who don’t allow you to be authentic.
  • Connect your emotions to your body’s physical changes. From sweaty palms to crossing your arms to touching your chin, track your physical reaction to a situation’s outcome. You’ll be better able to regulate your response when similar situations arise.
  • Know who and what triggers your emotions. If you track personality profiles, situations or environments, you can then correlate your present emotion back to a historical cause of the reaction.

Self Management
This is controlling your emotions and using your awareness of them to stay flexible and act positively. These people have an ability to think before they act, avoid impulsive action and put immediate needs aside to focus on long-term goals.

  • Have others hold you accountable. Make your goals public and let the expectations of others motivate you to regulate your emotions effectively.
  • If possible, wait 24 hours to close a difficult discussion. In-the-moment emotions can cloud sound decision making. Additional time offers clarity by allowing you to identify patterns and forecast expected outcomes.
  • Practice positive psychology. By smiling or laughing more, your internal mood will be more optimistic. Write a gratitude journal, complete a random act of kindness or send a thank you email each morning. Each will balance your emotions.

Social Awareness
Social awareness is the ability to identify emotions in other people, to understand their perspective and take an interest in their concerns. If you know a person who is socially aware, she is likely empathetic, a great listener, easily recognizes feelings and avoids stereotyping and judging others.

  • Listen at a deeper level. Marry your perceptions of the person’s verbal and nonverbal cues to learn something (not to formulate your response) about her, her challenges and how you can help.
  • Adjust your communication to match the other person’s preferences. If the person is an extrovert, people oriented and in a giving mood, it is likely a good time to ask for a favor by being positive, telling stories and using an emotional appeal… even if that isn’t your preferred communication style.
  • Ask your stakeholders to complete a 360-degree survey about you. I recently facilitated a Reflected Best Self exercise for a client and I received more than 100 responses about his strengths and their perceptions of him. It was incredibly powerful.

Relationship Management
This is your ability to use your awareness of your own emotions together with your understanding of the emotions of others to manage interactions, in the moment and over time, successfully. These people are team players and excellent communicators who readily help others grow and shine.

  • Offer personal vulnerabilities of yourself first. This deepens trust and leaves less room for misinterpretation. Be open about yourself and curious about others so you can better interpret emotional cues. After all, vulnerability is sexy.
  • Be great at generating thick value. By offering to do important and customized things for your connection, you’ll build rapport and deepen levels of reciprocity. Small acts of appreciation are gold.
  • Deliver constructive feedback objectively. I utilize the 6-step effective feedback process to remove emotion from tough conversations and stay focused on helping the other person shine.

Your level of emotional intelligence can be increased with determined effort. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth found that we have the ability to achieve our most important goals by taking small, focused and purposeful actions each day.

I’m advocating that you align those actions with the development of your EQ. If you do, you’ll see significant improvements as you climb the corporate ladder, in the adjustment of your socio-economic status and the influence you have with others.