What is Emotional Intelligence & why is it important to cultivate it? – Part 1

By Sarah Saffold, MSW, LMSW

What exactly is Emotional Intelligence?

Simply put, it’s the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions with the ability to understand the emotions of another. 

Emotional intelligence is:

  1. Emotional awareness: to be able to identify and name one’s own emotions
  2. The ability to understand those emotions and apply them to tasks such as problem solving
  3. The ability to manage emotions which includes regulating one’s own emotions and then helping others to do the same

Why is it important to cultivate Emotional Intelligence? 

Having higher emotional intelligence leads to:

  1. Increased self confidence
  2. Having a realistic view of one’s own strengths and weaknesses
  3. Being less impulsive with our actions
  4. An ability to regulate our emotions
  5. An ability to empathize
  6. Greater social awareness

Greater emotional intelligence equates to having an increased capacity in self confidence, an ability to accurately interpret one’s own strengths and weaknesses and own those things about ourselves. We then become less impulsive with our actions and think more before we do. Learning to regulate our emotions is an important skill within emotional intelligence and means the ability to reduce how intense an emotion feels on our own. When we regulate our emotions, we are able to quickly shift gears, lighten the mood – both internally and externally. 

Cultivating emotional intelligence leads to developing greater empathy. This means we are in tune with the emotions that others experience and can understand the emotions of another person and their point of view. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or even agree with it, but you can understand or put yourself in their shoes. 

When talking about emotional intelligence, there are 5 pillars that describe what it encompasses:

  • Self-awareness – we understand our own strengths and weaknesses & know how to act accordingly
  • Self-regulation/management – we learn to be aware of what we are feeling & experiencing and are able to identify if we are acting too strongly out of emotions or logic. When we become aware of our tendencies, we can go to a wise mind which is somewhere in the middle.The ability to become aware when we are in each state of mind allows us to know when we need to regulate back to the middle to decrease the intensity of what we are feeling
  • Motivation – self-motivation, knows how to push oneself and when to pull back to achieve one’s goals
  • Empathy – allows for better connection to others when we can step back and understand or listen to/relate to others lived experiences and connect to them regardless of our own experiences and knowledge 
  • Social skills – we enjoy being around others, know how to read verbal/nonverbal communication in others, understanding that connection brings happiness as humans

Studies show that kids who have a higher emotional intelligence (EQ/EI) have a higher IQ, do better on standardized tests, have better relationships, have improved mental health, and experience more success during adulthood. We are naturally drawn to people with high EQs, and feel more comfortable and at ease when with them.

As we enter into a busy holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in all the artificial intelligence our society and the social media world has to offer. Maybe we can commit to taking some time to get in tune with our emotions, understanding what they mean and how we can learn to regulate them to become better humans.

Stay tuned for part two next week when we will discuss how to cultivate emotional intelligence in our children.

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