Our society places a premium on intelligence. While we’re in school, we have it drummed into our heads that book learning and a high IQ are the necessary tools for success.
Honors and attention are bestowed on the academic achievers while the majority of the people are relegated to the ever inflating 'average' tag. When we finally get out into the real world, it doesn’t take long to notice that being an academic high flyer doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful or happy life.
So fine, grades and diplomas don't guarantee success and we all know other people who weren’t the best students in school but who have found great success in their chosen career and have a wide circle of valued friends and acquaintances. We’ve all met highly intelligent people who have limited social skills. Why is this? Is something else at play?
- Self-awareness, meaning that you know yourself and understand your emotions. This includes being able to assess your strengths and weaknesses accurately. It also includes having a healthy amount of self-confidence.
- Self-management, meaning you have control of your emotions, act rationally and react to change in a positive manner. This also includes being trustworthy, conscientious, committed and optimistic.
- Social awareness, meaning you have an understanding of the emotions of others and know how to effectively react to these emotions. This includes having empathy and compassion for others, recognizing their unique talents and qualities, and having excellent communication skills. It also includes being comfortable in many types of social situations.
- Relationship management, which is the ability to maintain all types of relationships, to avoid unnecessary conflict, and to work through conflict successfully when it does arise. This includes building a sphere of influence and taking leadership when needed.
When we’re lacking in these competencies, we can end up feeling unsure of ourselves and out of control. If you let emotions that you don’t understand dictate your actions, you may end up feeling like a boat that’s been set adrift in stormy seas. Only by learning to understand and control your emotions can you become the pilot of your life and steer your way to calmer waters.
Letting your emotions control you can have other negative impacts on your life. It’s hard to be open to other people when you’re emotionally stressed, so relationships suffer. Being on an emotional roller coaster over a long period can lead to physical problems like hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Out of control emotions can also cause depression and severe anxiety. A high EQ level is therefore an important component of good health.
How can you raise your EQ? A person’s EQ level is determined by many factors including genetic makeup and childhood experiences. We can change how we react to our emotions, but like all transformational changes it requires more than just the desire to change. We may understand on an intellectual level what needs to be done, but gaining mastery over emotions requires practice and interaction with others.
Psychologist Jeanne Segal, author of The Language of Emotional Intelligence, describes some key skills that can help increase emotional intelligence.
- Control stress as it occurs. Runaway stress can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to be emotionally in control when stress takes over. By learning to control stress as it occurs, you can stay balanced and focused. The first step in controlling stress is recognizing your emotional response to it. Some people become anxious, others withdraw or lose focus. Once you recognize your response to stress, discover how to quickly neutralize it. Learn how to soothe yourself in a healthy way.
- Connect with your emotions. Become aware of your emotional state from moment to moment. Gain an understanding of what triggers different emotions. Do you experience strong emotions that are accompanied by physical sensations such as headaches or a tightening in the chest? Perhaps you have a lack of emotion, or your emotions are suppressed. Learn to connect to your core emotions and to understand them.
- Face the day with humor. Maintaining a sense of humor can relieve day-to-day annoyances and make hard times more bearable. Keeping things light is a good way to avoid conflict and to work things out when conflict arises. A good sense of humor can also help relieve stress and bring you closer to other people.
When we say someone has good people skills, we’re actually commenting on their EQ level. The term “people skills” encompasses a wide range of abilities, including being in tune with the emotions of others, having the ability to make others feel comfortable, and using effective communication to influence and persuade. It means having the ability to be a good friend as well as a leader and negotiator.
Magnetic is an apt term for this type of person, since they naturally draw other people into their sphere of influence, trust and friendship. If you’d like to improve your people skills and tap into this magnetic power, take some time to develop your emotional intelligence.
"There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving...and that's your own self." - Aldous Huxley.
Hope Trust recognises the fact that alcoholics and addicts become emotionally unstable and are not able to identify and express their emotions appropriately. Therefore, emotional management group sessions form part of the treatment at Hope Trust.