Perhaps you have heard the hot term “emotional intelligence” floating around before, but have you truly stopped to consider what that means- and if you have it?
Emotional intelligence, or E.Q., measures the qualities that individuals have that enable them to understand, regulate and convey their emotions, as well as to recognize these traits in others. Unfortunately, emotional intelligence is not something that can be measured by the SAT’s, and rarely does it reflect in your grades and college applications. But it will affect how far you go in life, and catch the attention of those around you (including your friends, family members, employers and college admission officers…)
The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman in the 1980’s, who explored the brain science behind our personal and inter-personal skills- i.e. how we deal with our emotions internally, and how we interact with the world around us as a result. Within one of Goleman’s models of emotional intellgence, the mixed model, there are 5 key areas worth exploring: Empathy, Self-Awareness, Self Management, Motivation, and Social Skills. Below is a jumping off point of these categories for you to examine- and build upon- in your own life:
Self Awareness. If you are self-aware, you understand when you’re not really angry with your mom- you’re just really really hungry. Just that simple ability to know when to grab a banana rather than launch an attack on your little brother for singing too loudly in the car can solve a lot of day to day problems and ease antagonism in your life. Sounds simple- but many people lack this trait, and alienate others when they don’t understand their own feelings. Teens who are self aware know who they are, which ultimately builds confidence. If you understand your deepest emotions, you can start to regulate them–and recognize the same emotions in others. This leads to greater empathy…
Empathy. Teens who demonstrate empathy have the ability to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes.” Once you are self aware, you come to understand your own emotions well (jealousy, love, excitement, pride, anger…) and therefore gain access into the inner-lives of others: you can recognize the same feelings in your friends and loved ones. Having this trait involves being a good listener and problem solver. If you possess empathy, you can think objectively and offer solutions to a problem, often without judgement. Those who are empathic connect with people from all walks of life and often display patience- qualities that ultimately gain trust and win friends.
Self Management. Being able to recognize your emotions- and the emotions of others- is just one side of the coin. Those with self management skills are able to actually deal with their emotions- they know when to seek help, or brain-storm to overcome a problem. Recognizing a shift in your mood, or the mood of your best friend, and knowing the appropriate response and steps to take to avert crisis is a skill critical to achieving success. When you understand yourself and how to put your best foot forward in a social situation- or even how to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down- you have the ability to take positive action and enact real change.
Motivation. This is a powerful trait in teens; you may recognize this one in your class president, the varsity quarterback, the star of the musical. Those teens with motivation dedicate themselves to achieve their goals, making them become realities. Desire is one thing, but following through on your desires is the trait that sets you apart from others and connects you to success. Those with motivation have a physical drive- a literal section of the prefrontal cortex that lights up- when considering a challenge or obstacle they want to overcome.
Social Skills. This trait isn’t just reserved for the class clown, but hey- even she ignites those around her and makes friends wherever she goes. Social skills, or interpersonal skills, enable you to talk, brainstorm, and execute ideas with classmates and teachers, as well as smooth things over with your parents if you forget to clean your room. Possessing this particular skill attracts other people to you like a magnet- you make them feel comfortable, you make them laugh, and you always know the right thing to say in most situations. Teens with social skills are successful in that they are not just seen, they are heard- leaders with the ability to gain favor and approval when it counts.
Truly successful people aren’t just book smart; it takes more than just a deep knowledge of math and science to make yourself heard and convey your ideas to the world around you. Emotionally intelligent people are true leaders; they have the qualities that enable them to connect with others and share their thoughts and skills, and to ultimately achieve success in many areas of life.
For more insight on the nature of emotional intelligence- and how to cultivate emotional intelligence within your own life- check out Goleman’s recent article in the New York Times, How To Be Emotionally Intelligent.
Add to the list! Share the traits you feel make up an emotionally intelligent and successful person in the comments below.