Imagine having grown up with the tools to be able to understand and verbalize what you were feeling, or being able to understand and handle your emotions as you navigated adolescence, college, and adulthood… What if you’d learned the tools to discern between different feelings, properly label those feelings, and been able to adjust your emotions as you faced different environments and situations?
Although most of us did not have the opportunity to grow up with the education, vocabulary, tools, or ideal childhood or adult experiences to know and properly manage our own emotions, we are not fated by our past. It’s never too late to gain greater knowledge and tools to better understand ourselves; and emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) provides an incredible opportunity for transformation.
What is EQ?
There are five basic components of emotional intelligence:
- Knowing my emotions
- Managing my emotions
- Recognizing emotions in others
- Managing relationships
- Motivating myself to achieve my goals
Learning more about EQ as well as how to foster this intelligence is becoming increasingly important in our stress-driven, anomalous twenty-first century world. And the good news is that since emotional intelligence is learned, rather than inherited, it can be improved.
There are numerous factors affecting EQ. Heredity does play a role in EQ, although children generally learn emotional intelligence – or a lack thereof – from their parents. Childhood experiences also have a major impact. Sexual abuse during childhood causes a series of negative responses to a child’s brain, which can make developing EQ more difficult, but certainly not impossible. [i] Your current level of emotional support affects EQ, as do physical factors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition. But the most significant contributing factor to EQ is simply what an individual is thinking.
EQ is influenced by your thoughts and beliefs
EQ empowers you to be in control of how you feel and teaches you how you can change how you feel through how you think. Your thoughts tremendously impact your personal EQ. Negative, turmoil-producing thoughts nearly always contain distortions. While the thoughts appear valid on the surface, they are actually irrational, twisted, and wrong. In order to begin improving your EQ and achieve lasting change, you will have to consider both the words you are using and the thoughts you are thinking. The good news is that straightening out thinking can improve moods, personal relationships, and life in general.
What are the benefits of having a higher EQ?
EQ is, in a sense, emotional maturity or an openness and willingness to develop, grow, and be mature in our interactions with others and how we handle ourselves. Individuals with high EQ understand their emotions and feelings and can express, control, and manage them. They usually have insights into the feelings and views of others, and they more easily understand the dynamics of a group and how they fit into it. They are willing to delay gratification in favor of the greater good. Those with a high EQ are also more likely to motivate themselves to achieve goals and maintain a positive but realistic attitude. As a result, they often earn promotions more quickly than those with a higher IQ.
Why should EQ matter to me?
Having a high EQ means you’re in control of your emotions and thoughts! It also means that you have the power to make wise decisions, develop quality relationships, advance in the workplace, make better grades, break abusive cycles, and build a healthy community.
How will having a higher EQ impact my relationships?
Yes! Having a higher EQ means we are more sensitive to changes and needs in our relationships – both in ourselves and others.
Can children learn EQ too?
Yes! Children can learn how to identify their emotions and put them into words. As they learn more about their emotions and the emotions of children around them, they can be instructed how to let their emotions be based on helpful, true, and accurate thinking. This can empower them to voice their needs, understand their power to change how they feel, and learn how to be resilient. Children learn EQ from their parents and teachers, so it’s a community effort to teach children how to be emotionally intelligent. Millie and Her Tangled Thoughts: A Book to Help Catch, Check, and Change Distorted Thinking artistically combines principles of cognitive behavior therapy from a Christian perspective with a children’s picture book.
Will it be difficult for me to increase my EQ?
If you’re a willing student, you can increase your EQ. Education gives you tools, and practice helps you make the tools your own. If you use the tools, you will increase your EQ!
The word “emotion” is in three of the five components of EQ. If you take the “e” away from the word “emotion” you get “motion,” which is related to motivation (we need motivation to begin, focus, and continue goal-oriented behavior). Motivation, which has everything to do with EQ, is also a critical component to success and achievement. Improving EQ takes motivation, but we promise it’s well worth the effort.
What are some practical steps I can take to increase my EQ?
Plan to practice EQ-building principles at different times throughout each day. With time, you’ll notice significant changes; but as with many new behavior changes, give yourself grace as you implement EQ-building behaviors. Give yourself 20 weeks of practicing these principles to notice a change in how you feel and think. After 20 weeks, you will have made many new, healthy habits from the principles of improving EQ that will be second nature to you. For a structured approach to learning and practicing EQ-promoting principles, enroll in our 6-week e-course Optimize Your Brain Online. From each of us at Nedley Health, we wish you the best of body, mind, and spirit as you learn how to grow in the area of emotional intelligence.
Portions of this article are taken from The Lost Art of Thinking by Neil Nedley MD
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[i] Spates, C. Richard & Samaraweera, Nishani & Plaisier, et al (2007). Psychological Impact of Trauma on Developing Children and Youth. Primary care. 34. 387-405; abstract ix. 10.1016/j.pop.2007.04.007.