6 Benefits of Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

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Emotions are one of the most fascinating and complex phenomena that the human brain can generate.

In essence, human emotions are a quick and relatively rudimentary form of information processing that can play a significant role in many areas of your life.

Emotions can prompt decisions, strengthen interpersonal relationships, signal potential threats to your physical or mental well-being, and help you adapt to your environment.

And yet, some of us lack a profound understanding of our emotional universe.

The fact that you are not in contact with your emotions prevents you from exercising control over them, resulting in all kinds of problems on a personal, professional, and social level.

Today I want to share with you some of the fantastic benefits of emotional intelligence in hopes of helping you realize what you can gain from investing in your emotions just as much as you invest in other aspects of life.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

You know those people who somehow succeed in keeping stress under control and manage to regain emotional balance relatively easily?

How come they navigate uncertainty and adversity so quickly while the rest of us wallow in self-pity or remain stuck in frustration and regret? What’s their secret?

One answer may be emotional intelligence.

In essence, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and manage both one’s own emotions and others’.

This concept has gained massive popularity over the last decades. Many experts believe that people who show emotional intelligence can easily adapt their mindset and behavior to an ever-changing environment and gear their emotional resources towards achieving specific goals.

People with high emotional intelligence:

  • Say what they feel and are not afraid to be vulnerable.
  • Are good listeners.
  • Are seen as empathetic by others.
  • Are not afraid to admit their mistakes and apologize.
  • Can accept and provide constructive criticism without blaming others, apologizing, or adopting a defensive attitude.
  • Feel comfortable setting boundaries and are not afraid to say ‘no’.
  • Can navigate adversities without feeling overcome by negative emotions.
  • Have an internal locus of control, meaning they’re self-motivated.

But despite all the research that has been conducted, experts have yet to develop a reliable, standardized tool to measure emotional intelligence.

Allow me to elaborate.

You’re probably familiar with IQ, which stands for ‘intelligence coefficient.’ The IQ is a numeric representation of your overall cognitive abilities, with most people scoring around 100.

Theoretically, the same logic should apply to emotional intelligence as well. In other words, building an instrument that can ‘distill’ EQ into a numeric representation would allow us to assess emotional intelligence objectively.

The tricky part about emotions is that they’re harder to assess and measure than abilities because emotions are highly contextual and profoundly subjective experiences.

But this hasn’t stopped some companies from designing and integrating their own emotional intelligence tests into the recruitment process, believing that people who demonstrate a high level of EQ will be better employees and leaders.

In my opinion, just because we can’t measure emotional intelligence the way we measure cognitive (mental) intelligence doesn’t mean we should abandon our attempts to understand this concept and apply it to our everyday lives.

Long story short, emotional intelligence begins with the ability to accept your emotions and manage them in order to eliminate stress and handle life’s difficulties.

The Five Pillars of Emotional Intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman, the author who popularized emotional intelligence worldwide, there are five critical elements that all people with high EQ share.

1. Self-awareness

Involves awareness of one’s feelings and an innate desire to explore the impact of emotions on everyday events.

People with high EQ will also exhibit a high level of self-knowledge. They understand how emotions affect both their own lives and the lives of others. Furthermore, they don’t allow feelings to take full control over their decisions and actions.

2. Self-control

Another characteristic of people with high EQ is self-control.

People who can control their thoughts and impulses rarely make hasty decisions because they anticipate the consequences of an action before launching it.

As you can imagine, this ‘superpower’ can be extremely useful in many situations, as it allows you to pursue goals in a disciplined manner, recover from setbacks relatively quickly, and successfully adopt new habits.   

3. Empathy

Emotionally intelligent individuals are less selfish and more willing to empathize with others and their problems.

They listen to understand and can easily put themselves in other people’s shoes.   

This attitude that revolves around empathy and understanding makes them loyal friends, inspirational leaders, and reliable life partners.

4. Motivation

People with high EQ can look within themselves and find the motivation to work on their goals, achieve insane productivity, and turn dreams into reality.

They stick to long-term plans and constantly think about how different actions can contribute to their overall sense of satisfaction and well-being.

Given their internal locus of control, people with high   EQ are less likely to sabotage themselves and thus more likely to follow through with their plans.

5. Social skills

Some of the major benefits of improving your emotional intelligence are best reflected in interpersonal relationships.

For instance, it’s easier for a person with high emotional intelligence to collaborate and work in a team.

Furthermore, emotionally intelligent people develop sharp communication skills by prioritizing empathy and understanding, making them the ideal leaders, friends, coworkers, and life partners.

Six Reasons to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

1. You navigate social situations with ease

For many of us, new social contexts can generate a certain degree of anxiety. It’s absolutely normal to want to feel accepted within a group and enjoy a pleasant social experience.

The only problem is that sometimes, we’re so preoccupied with how others see us that social interactions become these awkward encounters where we desperately try to keep anxiety under control and act ‘normal.’

Fortunately, emotional intelligence may hold the solution.

It appears that people with high emotional intelligence experience less anxiety in social situations. [1]

In other words, they can easily adapt to new social contexts and manage to navigate interpersonal relationships successfully.

2. You become a better entrepreneur

As I mentioned before, emotional intelligence has significant implications in most areas of life, including your career path.

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There is a higher chance of having a successful career path if you put more effort in understanding and mastering your emotions.

If you have a passion for entrepreneurship or wish to achieve professional growth, emotional intelligence should be a top priority.

One literature review which explored the benefits of emotional intelligence in entrepreneurship revealed some fascinating insights. [2]

For instance, entrepreneurs who invest in their EQ will:

  • Gain emotional resilience, which helps them handle intense emotions well.
  • Have better relationships with their employees, clients, and stakeholders.
  • Develop better negotiation skills.
  • Become inspirational leaders who can help employees cope with stress.

The more effort you put into understanding and mastering your emotions, the higher the chance of having a successful career path.

3. You become more resilient

In essence, emotional resilience is the ability to tolerate painful un uncomfortable emotions and push through with your goals, regardless of the discomfort you might experience along the way.

Most experts agree that high emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with resilience. [3]

In other words, people who know how to navigate their emotional spectrum can keep stress under control, work well under pressure, and overcome the frustration that life sometimes forces us to endure.

All and all, emotional resilience is one of the ingredients of a happier and healthier life.  

4. You’re less aggressive and more empathetic

Let me start by saying that anger is a perfectly normal emotion.

Anger is one of those fundamental human emotions that transcend culture, gender, social status, and education.

Anger is what drives you to take a stand against injustice. It’s what motivates you to protest against government policies that you believe are not in your favor.

By anger can also be a destructive emotion, especially when it leads to conflicts that involve verbal or physical aggression.

Just as in the case of stress, frustration, or anxiety, emotional intelligence can be a viable solution for keeping anger under control.

Intervention programs that cultivate emotional intelligence can decrease aggressive behaviors and increase empathy among adolescents. [4]

By cultivating emotional intelligence, you are less likely to experience a nervous breakdown that could escalate into a conflict or respond in a manner that could turn a heated debate into something worse.

5. You enjoy healthy romantic relationships

Resilient couples who manage to stay focused on the positive aspects of their relationship and successfully negotiate their differences are emotionally intelligent couples.

In such partnerships, respect, empathy, and understanding are vital. But to reach this point, both partners must focus on cultivating emotional intelligence.

This often involves learning how to deal with your feelings so that you can create a safe and emotionally validating environment for your significant other.

Current evidence suggests that emotional intelligence may play a key role in couples’ overall sense of satisfaction. [5]

When both partners are actively involved in cultivating emotional intelligence, there’s nothing but wonderful things waiting for them at every step of their journey.

6. Your sense of well-being remains constant regardless of age

In theory, your ability to understand and handle emotions should get better with age.

The more time you spend living, the more experience you gain. And with experience comes plenty of valuable lessons and opportunities to sharpen your emotional intelligence

One study revealed that emotional intelligence fosters life satisfaction and affective well-being across all age groups. [6]

Your ability to understand and handle emotions should get better with age.

But this doesn’t happen by miracle.

You must be aware of the lessons that each life experience holds and remain in contact with your emotions.

In other words, emotional intelligence grows just like a muscle, so it’s vital to nurture and train it constantly to grow.

From this point of view, we could argue that cultivating emotional intelligence is a reliable long-term investment.  

Here’s How You Can Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

1. Listen to your body

In essence, every emotion is a collection of physical reactions, thoughts, memories, and mental images that communicates something about you or your environment.

Since emotional intelligence begins with a profound understanding of your own emotions, the best way to start is by listening to what your body has to say.

The psychical reactions (cold sweats, shaky hands, butterflies in the stomach) that accompany emotional experiences (both pleasant and unpleasant) will almost always tell the truth.

For instance, if you feel a knot in your stomach whenever you have to do something, you’re probably dealing with a stressful activity that’s making you feel nervous.

Or, if your heart is pounding and your pupils dilate when you talk about something or someone, then you’re probably feeling passion or affection towards the subject or person in question.

One practical way to use the mind-body connection as a reliable path to understanding your emotions is by linking emotional experiences to their respective physical reactions.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Whenever you experience a reasonably intense emotion, pay attention to what goes on within your body.
  • Write down the emotion and all the physical sensations you notice during that emotional experience.  
  • Remember those physiological indicators as the markers for that particular emotion.
  • You will eventually build a list of your common emotional experiences and their respective physical indicators by doing this regularly.

In time, this exercise will sharpen your ability to identify emotions based on what your body tells you.

Just keep in mind that we’re all unique individuals with relatively unique reactions. For example, the way anxiety manifests within my body is different than how it manifests within yours.  

2. Communicate your needs and emotions

In general, we tend to ignore or hide the feelings that we label as ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘negative’, believing they will simply go away.

To cultivate emotional intelligence, you need to do the exact opposite. You need to understand, express, and affirm your unpleasant emotions, regardless of how uncomfortable this act might seem.

A good starting point would be to check up on your feelings a couple of times a day. Simply ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and seek to understand why you’re feeling that way.

By shedding light on your emotions (especially the unpleasant ones), you can understand, manage, and master them.

Then comes the hard part – communicating your emotions.

Effective communication is one of the keys to success and an indispensable element for developing emotional intelligence.

Being able to express how you feel clearly allows you to build quality interactions with the people around you.

Furthermore, when you understand your emotions, the clarity that you get gives you the courage to speak freely. That way, you can provide honest and valuable insights on work-related projects, have meaningful conversations with your significant other, and live a truly authentic life.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a step-by-step strategy on how to communicate your needs and emotions.

You just have to take an ‘emotional risk’ and speak your mind (as politely and assertively as possible), knowing there’s no accurate way to predict how the other person will react.

3. Exercise empathy

For empathy to flourish, one must put aside their beliefs, emotions, and opinions and simply listen to the person in front of them.

If you manage to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, even for a moment, you will understand his reaction and avoid a possible conflict.

When talking to a difficult person, try to understand why he asserts a particular behavior or attitude.

Maybe you have a demanding boss who holds his employees to exaggerated standards. Often, such people are not just projecting unrealistic standards onto others, but themselves as well. That’s why they get frustrated when things are not going according to their expectations.

Once you understand what causes a person to say or do something, you will know how to approach the situation without getting angry or defensive.

Of course, this does not mean you must tolerate unacceptable or abusive behaviors.

Understanding will simply help you see things from a more objective perspective and communicate empathically.

The moment you feel the other person is ignoring or violating your boundaries is the moment when you need to assert your needs and restate your boundaries.

Final Thoughts on Emotional Intelligence

Based on all the amazing benefits we talked about, it’s obvious that emotional intelligence helps you become a happier human.

Emotional intelligence can:

  • Help you become a social butterfly.
  • Help you become a successful entrepreneur.
  • Build your emotional resilience and keep anger under control.
  • Enrich the overall sense of satisfaction that you experience in your relationship.
  • Keep you emotionally healthy and stable throughout all stages of your life.

Cultivating emotional intelligence is not a goal but a lifelong process, something that you work on each day.

Remain in touch with your emotional needs, offer empathy, and enjoy the results.

Alexander Draghici is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT practitioner, and content writer for various mental health websites. His work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common emotional problems – anxiety and depression.

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References

[1] L. J. Summerfeldt, P. H. Kloosterman, M. M. Antony and J. D. A. Parker, “Social Anxiety, Emotional Intelligence, and Interpersonal Adjustment,” Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, vol. 28, p. 57–68, 2006.

[2] R. H. Humphrey, “The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence and Empathy to Entrepreneurship,” Entrepreneurship Research Journal, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 287-294, 2013.

[3] T. R. Schneider, J. B. Lyons and S. Khazon, “Emotional intelligence and resilience,” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 8, pp. 909-914, 2013.

[4] R. Castillo, J. M. Salguero, P. Fernández-Berrocal and N. Balluerka, “Effects of an emotional intelligence intervention on aggression and empathy among adolescents,” Journal of Adolescence, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 883-892, 2013.

[5] J. M. Malouff, N. S. Schutte and E. B. Thorsteinsson, “Trait Emotional Intelligence and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis,” The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 53-66, 2013.