We’ve all seen those movies - you know, the one’s where a Bradley Cooper type somehow gains total awareness in his brain. This enhanced self-control, social awareness and wisdom is something we all dream about. After all, who wouldn’t want to take some magic pill in order to gain superhuman abilities in math, art, business, psychology and more?

While things like acquired savant syndrome do exist, in which some trauma enables previously inactive savant skills to emerge - there is no sure-fire way in the present day to trigger enhanced performance in the brain. While society tends to prize skills relating to academics, such as finance or physics, there is more than one way to be intelligent.

Emotional intelligence is a diverse umbrella term for identifying and improving emotional self-regulation, self-management, and social skills. While skills like managing emotions or moods and having empathy may not seem that important to job performance, organizations and journalists like the Harvard Business Review have conducted research and written about how developing yourself emotionally can improve your professional and interpersonal skills.

From understanding the origins of the emotional and personal quotient, to materials you can read to get yourself acquainted with the concept, diving into the broad topic of emotional intelligence can be overwhelming. This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about emotional intelligence in the 21st century.

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What is an Emotionally Intelligent Person?

If you’re interested in developing emotional intelligence, you should start by understanding the development of the discipline itself. While the idea of having multiple intelligences, or competencies, isn’t a new one - observe, the phrase “Renaissance woman” or man - the subject was thrust into the mainstream by the help of journalist Daniel Goleman.

Published in 1995, Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence is largely recognized as responsible for popularizing the new science and approach towards looking at intelligence, leadership skills and more. The book, while accepted by the large portion of the population who were craving new definitions of society’s intelligence quotient, was received rather sceptically by the scientific community. While the importance of being empathetic and self-aware has been studied by countless psychologists and psychiatrists, the concepts of emotional learning were and continue to be relatively new.

Expanding on their research from 1990 and the work that Goleman largely based his book after, professors John Mayer and Peter Salovey took advantage of the subject’s exponential rise in popularity and created an emotional intelligence test in 2002. Wanting to inject more legitimacy into a subject that was being largely waved off by scientists as a mere fad, Mayer and Salovey started to use the rebranded term for emotional literacy: the emotional quotient.

Their intelligence test is called the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, or MSCEIT for short, and currently involves about 141 questions that take 30 to 40 minutes to complete. The test is sort of like the equivalent of brain science but for emotions, striving to measure aspects like how well people manage negative emotions or sense the emotions of others. The test tries to determine a person's emotional intelligence based on what Mayer, Salovey and Caruso have identified as the four branches of emotional intelligence:

  • Perceiving Emotions: the degree to which someone can perceive emotions in themselves, other people and in things like art, stories and music.
  • Facilitating Thought: a person’s ability to feel and use emotion in order to correctly communicate to others or use them to solve other cognitive processes
  • Understanding Emotions: the degree to which a person is able to process emotions, emotional information and how emotions evolve
  • Managing Emotions: a person’s ability to communicate their feelings openly, process them with mental and social tools, and to help others process their emotions

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how something like achieving high emotional intelligence gained more popularity at one point than attaining a high IQ. The controversy surrounding the subject, however, comes largely because of its comparison with general intelligence.

While it is helpful to think of the emotion quotient in contrast to and IQ, the relationship between intelligence and successful work performance has been scientifically proven while the EQ is something that still lacks much of the scientific foundation general intelligence has. If you’re looking something to improve your social competence, help you empathize with others, give you access to a diverse range of leadership styles and more - emotional intelligence can be a great place to start.

It’s important to keep in mind that emotional intelligence hasn’t been scientifically proven to boost your managerial skills or leadership performance. However, working on your emotional state and understanding can help refine your abilities in the personality traits and general intelligence that have been shown to improve your personal moods and work performance. Get to know yourself through a self-report, identifying the areas in emotional intelligence you’d like to start developing. You’ll be able to enjoy the diverse range of skills and competencies enjoyed by gardeners, CEOs, teachers and astronauts alike!

See why emotions is important here.

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How to Start Developing Emotional Intelligence Skills

Whether you want to learn a particular social skill, improve your abilities to control your facial expressions or even just become a more effective leader - there are many different ways you can start to develop your emotional intelligence skills. While aspects of general intelligence can seem easier to measure and test, such as with standardized and IQ tests, quantifying someone's emotional intelligence can be a bit more troublesome.

Luckily, there are plenty of bestselling books, helpful podcasts and advice form great leaders available to help you start developing your skills in understanding and perceiving emotions. One simple way to develop a skill in a particular aspect of emotional intelligence is to identify what emotional intelligence skills are. These can be:

  • Identifying what triggers particular emotions such as stress and anger
  • Understanding how to deal with your emotions
  • Being an effective listener
  • Communication skills

Why is it Important to Master One’s Emotions?

If you're still not convinced as to why it is important to improve your emotional intelligence, you can take a look at some of the reasons why it can be important to take part in social emotional learning. While feelings and emotions tend to be perceived as aspects of our mental processes that go against reasoning and logic skills - success in life is often found by those with a high emotional intelligence.

While much of the scientific literature surrounding the emotional quotient do support the ideas behind the subject, the strength of emotional intelligence as a predictor of success tends to be more linked with the characteristics of emotional intelligence rather than the actual concept itself.

This means that cultivating these skills can lead to more authentic leadership, help you develop better mental habits, improve your health and much more! The concept is so popular that people such as Harvard professor Bill George have written about the links between emotional intelligence and leadership for years.

Developing EQ Skills for Self-Awareness

If you're interested in expanding your emotional intelligence but aren't too interested in topics such as leadership and job performance, developing your emotional quotient can also be great for your mental health and general wellbeing as well. By practicing things like mindfulness, journaling and active empathy, you can better the relationships between you, your friends and family.

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Best Online Resources for Emotional and Social Intelligence

Whether you're interested in building a better rapport with salespeople, want to improve your emotional awareness or simply want to enhance your relationship management, social and emotional learning can be a great solution. The problem can often be knowing where to start. Luckily, there are plenty of intelligent people who have written about the theory of multiple intelligences, created intelligence tests for emotions and soft skills for decades.

The best place to start your search for more material on the subject is online. From podcasts about emotional intelligence to websites dedicated to spreading scientifically backed information, you'll be sure to find exactly what you need. Here are some of the best resources you can check out for emotional intelligence:

  • Goleman's bestseller Emotional Intelligence
  • HelpGuide
  • Six Seconds

The last two sites in particular are perfect for those just starting out on their emotional quotient journey. Non-profits dedicated to spreading knowledge and research on the subject, these websites hold a fountain of information and advice relating to the betterment of emotional skills.

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