What IS “Emotional Intelligence”?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this experience. Someone asks what I do, and if my answer includes something about teaching emotional intelligence, they respond by crossing their arms and saying, “Are you telling me I’m emotionally stupid?”

The answer of course, is “Of course not!” (Besides, that’s not for me to say!) Yet I could see how they got there.

When placing myself in the other person’s shoes, it brings to mind some other questions.

What is it? Why would I want it? And how do I get more of it?

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) . . . Certainly there is what has become a “traditional” definition:

“Emotional intelligence” is having the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

And then there’s my definition:

“Emotional intelligence” is being able to respond to challenging people and challenging situations in a way that honors your best self and the “best” of all involved. What can be difficult about this is it often means responding in a way that’s outside our comfort zone. Having emotional intelligence means having the flexibility to not always respond that way we’ve always responded. It may not always work! And that means we have to increase our emotional range and comfort zone.

Ahhh, there’s the rub. And that is indeed the challenge. You mean we have to change an old habit, a pattern, a way of responding that we’ve always done?

Have you ever said, or heard someone say, “Well, that’s just me. If you’re going to __________ (fill in the blank — raise your voice, be late, not call me back right away, etc.), then I’m going to __________ (fill in the blank — raise my voice back, be angry at you, shut down and not talk to you anymore, etc.). That’s just me; deal with it!”

I would say that’s a great example of NOT having emotional flexibility, probably not having emotional range, and therefore not having emotional intelligence.

Stay tuned to my blog on tips for how to increase emotional range and flexibility, the foundation of increasing emotional intelligence.

 

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