Most people know what an intelligence quotient (IQ) is: the score that averages a person’s overall intelligence with their peers based on a variety of standardized tests. What many may not know much about, however, is a newer term coined emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to understand and differentiate between their own emotions and the emotions of others and to express them appropriately. Emotional intelligence is basically a socioemotional skill that can help you to understand yourself and those around you in a healthy way. Those who have a lesser understanding of emotions and how they’re expressed can experience difficulty connecting and relating to other people, and they can struggle significantly with regulating their own internal emotions as well. The higher a person’s emotional quotient (EQ), the more likely it is that they are able to understand and use coping skills that improve, not only their relationships with others, but their own mental health as well
Emotional intelligence has been defined by American psychologist Daniel Goleman as involving these 5 main characteristics:
- Self-Awareness Skills- Being able to understand, process, and regulate thoughts, feelings, and emotions is a key sign of high emotional intelligence. People who understand that the way they are thinking or feeling is not directly related to how they have to behave often have a high EQ and less mental health symptoms.
- Self-Regulation- This involves using coping skills to help regulate emotions. Those who are able to identify healthy ways to cope with negative emotions (deep breathing, taking a break from stressful activities, using mindfulness or relaxation techniques, seeking support, etc.) generally feel more in control of themselves and their lives.
- Motivation- Many higher EQ individuals are the ones who seem to have more energy, more drive to accomplish tasks, more willingness to try things to see if they will work, and less inhibition and worry about the “what ifs” of life.
- Empathy- Because a person with a higher EQ is more understanding and connected to their own emotions and needs, they tend to be very careful, cautious, and aware of the feelings and needs of others. Empathy is something that results from being able to sense or feel another person’s emotions and to respond accordingly. People who are more emotionally connected and generally more able to access this social skill than others are people who understand their own thoughts or feelings well.
- Social Skills- General ability to connect and engage in comfortable and comforting ways with others is a skill that is easy for people with a higher EQ. They are generally more interested in being social and friendly, but also have more skills in conflict resolution and deescalating problems before they become more serious or difficult.
How Can I Increase My EQ?
Building a higher EQ and learning skills to understand the emotions of yourself and others is something that is doable, especially with the help of a professional. Mental health professionals specialize in helping people understand the way that thoughts, feelings, and behavior are connected to one another and can help a person understand how they may have developed negative interaction patterns based on not recognizing how they intersect. A therapist can help a person understand their own emotions and also the emotions of others. They can help a person see how their inability to communicate or their poor behavior choices can impact their emotional or mental health and potentially their relationships with others as a result.
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events