the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically
Working in medicine, it’s a big deal I know my shit. Not only do I need to know the complete inner workings of the human body, but also what happens when you add this medication or that AND their effects on each other. To get to a place of certification for this job and to obtain the comfort to walk into a patient appointment and not feel like a total ass, I have behind me close to 20 years working in health care, a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, and so many hours of continuing education. Think hundreds of hours of anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and microbiology. Then add thousands of hands-on hours with patients.
And then there was that five-credit class on emotional intelligence. Oh, wait. I never even heard this phrase until the last year or two. Reading the definition now, I can’t help but think, in TWENTY years of formal education, why was this never part of the curriculum?! It seems to me like the ability to express and manage emotions and handle relationships is kinda a big deal.
You know when you hear people talk about book smart vs street smart? Well emotional intelligence is a whole other kind of smart. It involves self-awareness and self-management AND social-awareness and social-management. This is NOT your personality, it is more flexible and can be practiced and improved upon. Emotional intelligence is a HUGE predictor of performance and success in the workplace and is a strong indicator of leadership. It’s not surprising then that people with high levels of emotional intelligence make more money in all areas of work. Think of emotional intelligence as the basis for so many critical skills – flexibility, customer service, communication, trust, stress and anger management, accountability, assertiveness, empathy, team work, and tolerance of change.
It’s not surprising when you look at that list to think high levels of emotional intelligence affect not only your work, but your personal life. Your physical and mental health are both impacted by emotional intelligence. Your social life and relationships become so much stronger as you work to increase your emotional intelligence as well.
So, this all sounds fine and dandy, but if there is no official coursework on emotional intelligence in all our years of education, how do we work to improve our EQ (emotional intelligence IQ)?
- Have a heart to heart with yourself. Pay attention to your emotions. Do they rule your decision-making, can you even experience intense emotion or do you hold yourself back, do emotions make you uncomfortable? To grasp the self-awareness side, you must connect with your core emotions and accept them. Practice mindfulness, focus on instances without judgement, manage stress, and appreciate moments.
- Once you become more aware of your emotions, you need to focus on managing them. Using your emotions in a constructive way is key. If you become overly stressed, thinking and feeling at the same time becomes more challenging, right? If emotions aren’t managed well, we may find ourselves making poor decisions. So, go back to the basics. Take a breath and acknowledge your emotions while realizing they do not get to take charge of your thoughts.
- Improve social awareness. Practice reading nonverbal cues when you are in a social situation. Essentially pay attention. Stop judging, stop thinking about the story you want to tell, and set your own intentions aside. When you are interacting in social situations it’s easy to get caught up in your own agenda, but again being mindful and present is going to go much farther than any misguided objective you may have.
- Learn to play well in the sandbox. If you can’t work well with others, you are holding yourself back. Managing relationships is the last piece of emotional intelligence and if you haven’t mastered steps 1-3 yet, start over. Once you are aware of your own emotions, can manage them, and then recognize other people’s emotions, you can build more effective and fulfilling relationships. Again, focus on presence and engagement. Be aware of your own nonverbal cues, practice empathy, and grace. Bring humor and laughter and play into your relationships. Be open to feedback and criticism in your relationships. Become an active listener. You can do this.
This is the tip of the iceberg, but simply becoming aware of emotional intelligence will help you improve yours. If you want to do some homework check out this article that gives you 8 great Ted talks to improve emotional intelligence!