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  • Writer's pictureJesse Galvon Reid

What is Emotional Intelligence and What’s the Big Deal?

The term “emotional intelligence” entered the lexicon in 1995, when Daniel Goleman published his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. Indeed, nowadays, it’s generally accepted that your level of emotional intelligence (EQ) has more to do with your happiness, smarts, and leadership success than your IQ, and the good news is that unlike your IQ, EQ can be developed.

But what, exactly, is emotional intelligence, and why does it matter so much? What can emotional intelligence do for you, right now?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, control, and express your emotions and recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of other people. High emotional intelligence produces a higher level of self-awareness, a more positive outlook on life, and the ability to cope with setbacks and negative emotions. Emotional intelligence can lead to greater purpose and meaning in life and better relationships with the people in your orbit. It can help you solve problems, increase your motivation, and make decisions that lead you forward in your life.

The Six Seconds Model of EQ

Six Seconds is the world’s leading non-profit organization promoting emotional intelligence and the scientific studies behind measuring and exercising it. The Six Seconds EQ model is based on a large body of research and is designed to help people put emotional intelligence to work in their daily lives.

The Six Seconds model identifies eight competencies that comprise emotional intelligence, and these are divided into three overarching pursuits: Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, and Give Yourself. Here’s how developing and increasing emotional intelligence in these areas can help you work through the practical problems in your life and get you unstuck once and for all.

Know Yourself

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, and the first two competencies for EQ center on helping you become more aware of your emotions, what triggers them, how you react to them, how they affect others, and where you feel them physically in your body.

Enhancing emotional literacy. Emotions are extremely complex chemical messages sent by the brain, and learning to decode and understand them is the key to using and managing them effectively. This means being able to identify your emotions, understand what they’re trying to tell you, and act in a way that aligns with your values and creates the most benefit for you.

Recognizing patterns in the way we react to our emotions. For example, maybe your behavioral reaction to high stress involves eating candy or smoking cigarettes. Maybe you react to feelings of anger by exploding or withdrawing. Recognizing these patterns is paramount to changing them and learning to react to an emotion the way the situation would ideally call for.

Choose Yourself

Once you become attuned to your emotions and patterns, it’s time to make a shift out of automatically reacting to emotions and into creating new habits that intentionally move you toward your goals. Four competencies help you do this.

Applying consequential thinking. Consequential thinking means you’re able to consider the consequences of your choices to manage impulsive behaviors that can get you into trouble, such as overeating, over-shopping, or over-imbibing. When you apply consequential thinking, you’re able to see a bigger picture and make decisions in the moment that align with your larger intentions and goals.

Navigating emotions. It’s important to realize that emotions like anger, joy, and fear are designed to provide insight to help guide you to make good decisions. Let them run roughshod over you, and you may end up suppressing them or taking them out on others. Learn how to listen to them, and the result can be transformative. Navigating your emotions means you understand where they’re coming from and what they want, and you can transform their energy and information into a productive force in your life.

Engaging intrinsic motivation. A lack of motivation is the bane of many an existence. Maybe you really want to go back to school or get out of debt or lose a few pounds, but finding the motivation to stick with a plan seems next to impossible. Engaging your intrinsic motivation is, in part, a matter of identifying your strengths and values. When you use your strengths and make choices according to your values, your inner drive is ignited, and it becomes easier to reach your goals.

Exercise optimism. Optimistic people are happier and live longer. People who are optimistic recognize that struggles and failures are temporary and can be overcome with effort. They’re open to possibilities. People who are pessimists often feel powerless and believe their obstacles to be permanent. I’ll never get the job of my dreams. I’ll never lose weight. I’ll never find happiness. Learning to see the world as an optimist can profoundly change how you feel about yourself and the world.

Give Yourself

The third pursuit in the quest for higher EQ is all about developing emotional wisdom, creating healthy, meaningful relationships, and pursuing goals that are in perfect alignment with your values and principles. Giving yourself is all about empathy and “noble goals.”

Empathy. Empathy is the ability to read and respond to the emotions of others. It helps us understand others and relate to them in a meaningful way. Empathy is at the core of trusting relationships, and it promotes better decision-making and problem-solving. Effective listening is central to empathy and helps you really understand others’ feelings and motivations, which fosters stronger connections and the ability to compromise and collaborate with—and even influence—your spouse, your children, and the people you work with.

Pursuing noble goals. Noble goals are overarching pursuits that give purpose and meaning to our life and which align with our passion and values. When you have a deep sense of purpose in life, you’re more motivated, have more energy, and feel more inspired in your life. Your noble goals activate all of the other components of EQ, including motivation, optimism, empathy, and consequential thinking. Noble goals provide direction, and they encompass the legacy you’ll leave behind.

How to Measure Emotional Intelligence

As an executive coach, one of my own noble goals is to help others find purpose and meaning in life and achieve the big and small goals that are near and dear to them. One of the ways I do this is by helping my clients increase their emotional intelligence, and one of the tools I use to do that is the SEI, which is an assessment that uses your own perceptions to measure your emotional intelligence in the eight areas we just explored. The research-based SEI was developed by Six Seconds and comes with a 22-page interpretation of your scores in each of the eight areas, along with developmental tips to help you increase your EQ in areas where you scored lower.

Increasing your emotional intelligence isn’t rocket science, and it can make an enormous difference in your life. Contact me today, and let’s talk EQ!

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