Well here we are at the beginning of a new year! Are you a New Year’s Resolutions adherent? Are you still looking for something meaningful for this year’s resolution(s)? I’d like to propose a whole new area of exploration for your consideration when setting this year’s resolutions! The realm of emotional intelligence or EQ!
There’s a growing understanding that EQ is more important than IQ in determining our success at work, in relationships and even our own happiness! And there is better news than that. While our IQ is relatively static after adolescence, we can continually work to strengthen our EQ through practicing new behaviors and accessing our emotions.
“We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve.”
– Albert Einstein
It does take some focused attention, and thus this is a rich realm for someone who is good at picking a few themes for a year and sticking to them.
Here’s five suggestions for practices and habits that can build on the core dimensions of your EQ over time. Pick one or two that resonate with some inner part of you, a resonance that you may not totally be able to articulate but just feels right!
“IQ alone is not enough; EQ also matters. In fact, psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else—including EQ.”
– Michael Akers & Grover Porter
- Increase your access to your feelings – our emotions are the drivers of everything we do, yet we often learn from a young age to “park our feelings at the door”. Let’s stop doing that. Set aside a regular time or two each day (perhaps mid-day and evening) to practice noticing and naming your feelings. Think of situations that stand out for you from earlier in the day. Write down the situation and then look inside it and notice what you were feeling. Give that feeling a name and write it down. Over time notice what feelings you have access to and what is conspicuously missing. As you get good at this, start to notice what feelings might be hidden under the first one you noticed.
- Focus on your happiness – according to Mira Kirschenbaum, of all the energy we need to get through our day, at most 30% will come from physical sources such as diet and exercise … the rest comes from our emotional energy. Joy is the source of this emotional energy. To create more, first identify things that make you happy. These might be things like exercise, laughter, nature, meditation, reading / quiet time, etc. Next, build time into your daily routines to incorporate one or more of these things. Don’t let you tell yourself you don’t have time. That is what is depleting your energy in the first place!
- Practice appreciating others – if you are someone who tends to look yourself for action or to assign responsibility, then perhaps being curious about others is a worthwhile exercise. There are a couple of easy ways to do this. First, commit to being curious about someone new every day, and pay attention to what it feels like to notice something new or wonder about someone else. Second, make a list of things you don’t know about people who are important to you and would like to know. Just doing this will increase your focus on others, but it will also lead to actions that help create positive relationships.
- Develop a healthy optimism – having a capacity for “practical optimism” is a core part of a robust EQ. Jan Johnson, the developer of the EQ In Action profile, describes this as someone who brings an ideal blend of positive (75%) and negative (25%) orientation into difficult situations. When one is below that ratio, it typically means that when we are challenged we see the problem more than the relationship. A great habit to develop is that when you sense you are doing this, look for someone you trust who was a part of the same situation and ask them about their experience and notice how they may have experienced it differently.
- Notice how you participate in decisions – there are three ways we make decisions when connected to someone else. We can share the decision-making power, we can take it ourselves, or we can give it to others. Ideally, we share our power more than half the time and divide the rest equally between the other two. Practice noticing how you share this power. How much do you collaborate? Do you hang on to joint decision-making longer than effective? Do you move quickly to try to make the decision yourself or do you first look to defer to others? Notice your pattern. Where you over-utilize a strategy, notice what is happening internally for you that moves you to that approach. The next time you sense that feeling, ask yourself to consider the right approach in this circumstance.