If I asked to identify how the person in this picture is feeling, could you?  How would you know?

It is the same skill that explains why some people atrophy while others thrive. Why some people have lasting, meaningful relationships and others don’t.  It is a concept called Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviors and relationships.  It determines how you make decisions, interact in social relationships, and how you relate to others.  People with a higher EQ are better able to form lasting, positive relationships, adapt to changing conditions in their environment and be a positive influence on others.

Your IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is your ability to learn.  It is fixed at birth and is not flexible (this means you currently have the same capacity to learn as you did when you popped out of the womb.  Comforting huh?).  Your EQ, however, is flexible and is a skill that can be learned.  In essence, a high EQ can be developed even if you are not born with it.  There is no known connection between IQ and EQ.

EQ accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs, and the link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.  EQ is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal success.  (Bradberry and Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0)

So how does EQ work?  Basically, our brain stem takes all of our senses and puts them in the brain for processing.  It goes first to the Amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) in the Limbic Center and then to the Neocortex (the logical thinking part of the brain).  When we interact with other people, the first place the data goes is into our Amygdala and then to the Neocortex,  which means that reason without emotion is neurologically impossible.  We have emotional reactions to almost everything that happens in our lives, whether we aware of them or not.  And the more intense your emotions, the more likely they are to dictate your actions and behavior.

So how can you harness the power of your emotions in order to get the most from yourself and the people around you?

First, you have to assess your current level of EQ (there are a plethora of on-line assessments, simply Google “Emotional Intelligence Test”.)  In essence, you must first be aware of your emotions and emotional responses, your traits and the characteristics of you personality (what makes you unique).  This includes values, fears, beliefs, what you need from others, passions, etc.

Next, improving EQ is about dialing in on your strengths.   If you don’t know your weaknesses, you don’t know what you need to improve, if you can’t pinpoint your strengths, you’ll never be able to leverage them

It is also helpful to know your triggers (an external stimulus that causes you to have a knee jerk reaction that might not be the best reaction to a situation) and your blind spots (areas of your personality and behavior that you are unaware of – just ask those close to you, they’ll be happy to point them out All of us have triggers that stimulate emotions such as anger, jealousy, embarrassment, and guilt, and all of us have blind spots.

Your brain is capable of becoming more emotionally intelligent over time, as it continues to develop and form new connections.  This process is called neuroplasticity.  We can learn self-mastery around our emotions if we take ownership and realize that we, and no one else, are responsible for our emotions.  It takes a great deal of practice, choice, awareness and a constant commitment, but over time, you can form new habits.

Use emotional intelligence to connect with others.   Do others believe you know and care about them?  Do you listen attentively and truly empathize with people?  These are the things that build emotional connections with others.

Be aware of the mood you bring into the room when you show up.  Is the room better when you enter or when you leave?  How does your mood show up at work, and how does it impact the people around you?  What percentage of your day are you happy, sad, glad, or mad?  Make conscious decisions about how you’re going to show up.  Your mood matters.  You get to decide the kind of mood you are in, and that mood will translate to the people you work and live with.

How can you accelerate your EQ?  Become more self-aware, learn to master your emotions in the moment, practice making deep connections every day, and create a habit of being positive and optimistic with the people around you.  Think about emotions that detract from your effectiveness (annoyed, angry, gloomy, anxious, fearful, nervous) as opposed to emotions that enhance your effectiveness (joyful, playful, inspired, adventurous, grateful, amazed, imaginative, cheerful).  With awareness, commitment and hard work, anyone can improve their EQ.

Just remember, if you want to be the person you have never been, you must do what you have never done before.


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