Emotional Intelligence is still a new term, but it’s important. Knowing your emotional intelligence is key to increasing it. Having strong emotional intelligence is key to staying cool and taking control of yourself and the situation around you.
Sound like something you want? Then read on.
But before we dive into what it is, what it means, and why you need to know yours, let’s go through a scenario.
Let’s say you’re working a shift at your department. You and your partner are finishing up a report from a recent run-of-the-mill call. Nothing exciting. You two crack a few jokes and laugh.
Your superior officer calls you into the office and starts talking about a coworker needing a day off. You could care less but you politely listen. Now the story comes around to you and, before you know it, you’re told you have to come in tomorrow for an extra shift.
But you have plans… tomorrow…
You can feel the temperature rising as your face gets hot and you form fists. You shake open your hands and look towards the window to take a breath. How can you calmly tell your superior that tomorrow is out of the question on such short notice? You want to rant about this coworker always having issues and calling out, but you zoned out and didn’t catch all the details.
Did you miss something? Why you? Why tomorrow? How can you handle this without flying off the handle?
This is why knowing your emotional intelligence is important.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
No one likes surprises, but they happen all the same. How you get treated by peers and superiors in stressful or demanding situations could depend on how well you handle those moments.
If you were to react with ranting and raving, getting defensive, and demanding your needs first, chances are your superior wouldn’t take it well.
If, however, you calmly express empathy for your coworker’s situation and explain your own concerns in an intelligent and thorough manner, there’s a chance another solution could be found.
You also gain respect from those around you by maintaining control and communicating with a calm demeanor instead of acting like a twelve-year-old.
In short, your emotional intelligence is based on your ability to handle change, stress, and relationships by recognizing your and others’ emotions and dealing with them in a calm, communicative manner.
So what can you do to measure your own emotional intelligence and, if need be, improve it?
Take an Emotional Intelligence Quiz
Since there’s no guide around scoring emotional intelligence like there is for IQs, there are several versions of tests out there. Generally speaking, they all get the point across. Here are a few you could try to get an idea of where you might stand.
Be aware these quizzes all vary in length and style. One might feel better or have choices more accurate to your answers than another. The good news is they’re all short and easy to complete, so you can take all three and pick the one that feels right for you.
Improving Your Score
Now, it’s all good to know where you stand. You might discover you have a high emotional intelligence and handle things well. You might find out there’s loads of room for improvement. Wherever you are on the scale, everyone has a chance for growth. But how, you might ask.
You may learn and study to increase your intelligence and knowledge. You can work out to increase your strength. But to increase your emotional intelligence, there are a few other things to work on.
Know Your Emotions
Knowing your own emotions, being able to recognize them, and being able to express them correctly and calmly is a huge facet of emotional intelligence. Ever tell a little kid how he’s acting and have him deny it? Little ones often don’t recognize their own emotions and sometimes that’s true for adults.
When something happens suddenly, or something becomes more burdensome than before, we need to stop and recognize how we’re feeling.
It’s okay to be mad, sad, confused, scared… Just don’t unpack and live there. Recognize and move on. Express and communicate if needed, but that expression or communication is not the point. It’s simply a stepping stone to the next part of the solution.
Say to yourself – or someone, “I’m angry. This is upsetting.” Or, “I’m so confused about this.”
Hey, it’s not all about you. Maybe the person upsetting you really is a jerk, but why? What’s that person feeling? What drove him or her to act or say or do the thing you don’t like?
Empathy isn’t about agreeing; it’s about understanding. Yes, you can understand where a person is coming from without agreeing on their stance.
Once you understand a person and show that empathy, communication becomes far more productive.
“I see you’re struggling with this situation. It must be difficult to deal with.”
A few simple words – and be genuine – can diffuse a larger situation. Your superior officer will thank you.
You don’t need to solve the issue with empathy, but sometimes that happens. Empathy is more about lessening the tension in communication. When we have the emotional intelligence to recognize others’ distress and express that understanding, we are better heard as well.
Next is your “now what” moment. What are you going to do about it? (Psst! Coaching comes in handy here!)
The first step in your “now what” is always, always, think first.
But, you say, I’m literally already thinking.
Yes, but you need to think more deeply.
Why is your boss mad? How did you run out of money? What made your coworker complain about you? Why did your spouse change her mind?
Remove the emotion for a moment and think realistically about what’s happening. Then, start to think about what options you have. Yes, it’s upsetting, but what’s actually going on outside of your emotions? Can you do anything about it?
If yes, then what, how, and then do it. If no, then express what you may or may not need to express by communicating kindly, fairly, and clearly, and move on.
Sometimes the “now what” is frustrating because things can’t be undone or fixed. Maybe your “now what” is simply adapting or moving on.
The last piece to work on when improving your emotional intelligence is your emotional agility. Physical agility allows you to move and shift quickly, changing your position or weight to adapt to situations. Emotional agility is similar.
Change happens, sometimes by surprise, and it’s not always pleasant. Our ability to move in different directions quickly keeps us safe physically, and the ability to shift emotionally quickly might just keep us sane.
Remember the above scenario? Not throwing a tantrum to your superior officer about coming in on your day off is key. In the scenario, you recognized your temper and found a way to calm yourself.
What might you do next? How could you shift to think clearly about what to say?
“I’m sorry to hear about [insert coworker and situation]. I want to help. I have [insert plans] set for tomorrow. Can I swap [insert other shift option] with someone to make that work?”
Maybe it works, and maybe it doesn’t, but you kept cool and communicated wisely.
Using Emotional Intelligence
There’s still a lot to learn about emotional intelligence but it’s making its way in the mental health world. When we can recognize our own emotions, recognize emotions in others, and steer our way through a situation with clarity and a sound mind, we become better decision-makers. We will react less and act more.
Everyone can improve their emotional intelligence. Just like a fitness level or knowledge base, our emotional intelligence can go up with training and practice.
Get your score, learn more, and see what you can do to improve your emotional intelligence. No matter where you start, you can only get better.