What is emotional intelligence?
We know that it involves having a deeper and more sophisticated awareness of human emotions which includes an innate knowing of oneself and what makes one tick as well as having insights into other people’s emotions that form the basis of their actions and behavior. But what are the finer points of having emotional awareness?
5 Types of emotional intelligence
Psychology experts have broken down emotional intelligence into five main categories. They are as follows:
1. Self-awareness, including emotional awareness and self-confidence.
Recognition of the self as being separate from another person (typically the mother or mother-figure) happens during our toddler years. Throughout our lives, we will strive, and at times struggle, to maintain equilibrium between our own impulses, wishes, wants, and needs and those of another person or group of people with whom we interact and relate.
Self-awareness, as it applies to emotional intelligence, is in part the ability to look at yourself through the eyes of someone else and recognize how you must appear to them and what emotions you are likely expressing that they are picking up.
Self-confidence has to do with your belief in your own capabilities. A person who has a good sense of their own emotions will be able to accurately predict the outcome of a situation and regulate their own emotions toward a favorable end. They will not be likely to flounder in self-doubt or excessively ruminate to the point that their emotions keep them stalled in inaction and incapable of moving forward.
2. Self-regulation, or the ability to control one’s emotional release.
Self-regulation is the term for emotional management coping skills which can help us gain control of feeling-based behaviors and actions that have gone out of control. For example, if you find yourself to be experiencing an extreme emotion, you can use techniques such as reframing the thoughts in a more positive light, taking a break to head out for a walk and compose yourself, or using mindful breathing to help bring your nervous system out of this state of high emotional arousal.
Self-regulation also has to do with knowing how to control your emotions. For example, you might be riding public transportation when a sad thought comes to mind that causes you to feel like bursting into tears. Because you would prefer not to expose your emotional fragility to strangers, you can do things like count to ten, take deep breaths, or distract yourself so that you may refrain from crying.
In order to successfully self-regulate, you must hold yourself in high enough esteem that you recognize your ability to make the appropriate choice at the time when it’s needed. People with low confidence may have less control over their own emotions. In addition, it helps to have an adaptable mind. Tunnel vision and black and white thinking tend to keep us stuck in undesirable emotional states. Being able to flex our mental muscles to pull ourselves out of a temporary emotion plays a big part in our ability to self-regulate.
3. Motivation, or the driving force behind our choice to act and behave as we do.
Motivation, as it relates to emotional intelligence, has to do with a constant striving toward achievements or a constant desire to improve. It’s also about commitment and the ability to set plans into place and let ourselves be depended upon by other people within our social circle. Initiative and optimism are two more ingredients that shape our motivation levels. Initiative is the incentive that propels us forward in our goals. Optimism keeps the movement going in a forward direction so that we are able to work through problems and move past obstacles that temporarily stand in our way.
Think of motivation in terms of an actual motive- what’s the driving goal or intentioned outcome that a person might have which compels them to control or direct their behavior? Your motivation might be driven by your personal values – for example, motivation for cooperating with your social group could stem from wanting to contribute to society in a positive way and wanting to get along well with others.
In your career, motivation might be a wish to rise to a position of authority in your field in order to command respect, gain experience and earn a higher salary in exchange for increased responsibility.
Maturity and wisdom could be two mind states that you might feel compelled to move toward as you age and gain experience in getting a handle on your own emotions as well as coming to understand the emotions of other people. These are all motivating forces – sound reasons why you might want to increase your emotional intelligence factor in life.
4. Empathy, or the ability to connect with other people’s emotions in a way that increases mutual understanding and acceptance.
Empathy has to do with recognizing and acknowledging the emotions and thoughts of other people. Empathy helps us feel connected to others so that we have the desire to work together with them to reach a compromise, set and achieve mutual goals, or negotiate on differences so that each person gets something they desire out of a situation. On a more superficial level, empathy can help us better understand what types of thoughts and emotions motivate people to behave as they do, so that we may be able to control our own emotional impulses toward them in the hope of getting what we want from them.
Empathy comes into play in our professional lives by enabling us to step inside the minds of our customers so that we may serve them better. It also allows us to understand what underlings might be experiencing on the job so that as their superior we may work with them toward a favorable outcome when problems crop up. Conversely, an underling might develop a sense of empathy toward higher-ups, enabling them to better understand why their supervisors do what they do, and therefore more readily cooperate toward a shared goal or outcome at work.
In personal relationships, empathy can help us bond more readily with other people, both in close interpersonal settings and in an expansive social group where interaction is limited to surface contact. While young people tend to need help in this area, mature individuals who have developed high emotional intelligence are more likely to value people who are different from them. Empathy helps us find common ground with people whose opinions, unique social practices, and/or political views do not match up with our own.
5. Social skills, or the ability to interact and engage with other people in a positive way.
The importance of social skills has become even more prominent over the last several decades as smartphones and the internet have made the world increasingly smaller. It seems that no matter where you go, someone, you meet is apt to know someone else with whom you have come into contact with before. What’s said often comes back around which can either help or hurt us depending on how well we’re able to employ emotional intelligence tactics.
Having refined social skills can be a huge boost in your ability to get along well with others. Someone who has mastered the art of effectively dodging emotional land mines can quickly become an influencer within social circles. Emotionally intelligent individuals rise to the forefront in their gift for bringing about needed change and may become an influential leader within their social sphere. In addition, the ability to manage conflict or know how to listen, cooperate, compromise, negotiate and resolve disagreements become tantamount to personal success. All of this has to do with rising above the impulses and urges of one’s emotional nature.