The post was written by Tracey McEachran.
Tracey is a regular attendee at The Weekend University, and the Director of Curious Minds Consulting.
She specialises in coaching individuals and teams in emotional intelligence, diversity and creativity. Tracey is also a professional artist working to help others develop their creativity.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to be self-aware, to notice how you are feeling in the moment and what may be driving those feelings.
Having good EQ will allow you to put those feelings into perspective and to respond appropriately.
How do we define EQ?
A basic definition of EQ is the ability to recognise one’s own feelings and the feelings of others, to self-regulate and build relationships.
EQ is made up of internally focused aspects such as; self-awareness, motivation, managing stress and building resilience and externally focused aspects such as; recognising the needs of others, awareness of cultural differences, setting and managing clear boundaries
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each aspect of EQ.
The foundation of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.
EQ is the ability to recognise that there is always a gap between reality and perception, our perception of an event or a conversation is coloured by our own view of the world. Self-awareness is the ability to have insight to our own lens.
I heard a lovely quote from an artist “I am the unreliable witness of my own life”. If we are self-aware we diminish naïve realism, which is thinking that every ‘sensible’ person experiences and sees things the same way we do.
We move through life at breakneck speed, which results in us spending the majority of our time functioning on autopilot. The problem with autopilot is we can easily lose our ability to be self-aware, which has a negative impact on our levels of EQ.
The motivation we speak of here is knowing your purpose and giving meaning to what you want to achieve in the world.
Most people have an innate sense of their personal purpose but have great difficulty in articulating it.
Motivation comes from knowing what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. A person with high levels of EQ will understand the why behind their ambitions, goals and actions.
Managing Stress and Building Resilience
All of us behave differently when we are stressed.
The more stressed we are, the more dysfunctional our behaviour can become.
EQ allows us to better understand what causes us stress and what effects stress has on our behaviour. We can then better reduce and manage the triggers to stress and find effective coping mechanisms.
Our motivation can act as an anchor in times of stress. If you are always aware of your personal purpose then you are more able to push through any stressful situation because instead of focusing on the difficultly of a situation, you can focus on what you want to achieve.
Recognising the Needs of Others
If we want to recognise the needs of others we need to be in open mode.
Autopilot is a disaster for building relationships as it leads to us seeing the needs of others through our own lens. I think this story is the most useful example of this.
There was a monkey sitting in a tree as he looks down into the pond at the bottom of the tree he sees a goldfish splashing around. He gasps and jumps down from the tree, in one swoop he gathers the goldfish and places it on a branch of the tree saying, “There, now you are safe, you won’t drown.”
The monkey was responding to his own needs not the needs of others.
Understanding Cultural Differences
Understanding cultural differences requires us to be in open mode.
There are many studies that demonstrate we all use stereotypes to negotiate the world; sometimes these stereotypes lead to unconscious bias.
With high levels of EQ, we can be open to the possibility that we may have unconscious bias and instead of reacting or denying them we can question our emotional responses to people with different cultural backgrounds, allowing us to both see the challenge of and embrace cultural differences.
Setting and Maintaining Clear Boundaries
Clear boundaries are essential in building healthy relationships with your environment. It is about being clear on the things that are important to you, your purpose, values, and expectations you have for yourself and of others. We are able to build healthy relationships only when there are clear boundaries.
The key to higher levels of Emotional Intelligence is greater self-awareness.
In other words, once you have insights to yourself and your behaviour you will have a greater capacity to understand others.
To increase your levels of self-awareness, I recommend you start by getting clarity on your motivation and then work on setting clear personal boundaries. These two areas of EQ are foundational and will help you develop all the other building blocks to EQ.