The study of “emotional intelligence” began in the 1980s as a way to measure one’s ability to identify and manage both his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
In the business world, people with high emotional intelligence, known as a high EQ (emotional quotient) are known to be more empathetic to others, which enables them to more effectively manage conflicts, read and respond to co-worker needs and keep their own emotions from disrupting their performance.
A high EQ is particularly important in consulting professions; it’s a skill that we as financial professionals work on as much as understanding financial trends. That’s because we must do more than educate and evaluate our clients’ finances; we must understand the pressures you feel and how you cope with volatility and change in order to offer guidance for your personal situation.
In the corporate world, a high EQ can have as much impact as experience and expertise, particularly in today’s global economy. Studies have found that one of the core competencies of a global executive is the ability to modify his or her leadership style based on cultural expectations. For example, while an authoritative style is effective in the U.S. and the U.K., other cultures, such as China, Japan and India, require a more reserved, respectful approach.
Developing a higher EQ also has become an issue in the classroom. Children today are suffering from stress and stress-related disorders in growing numbers, so much so that educators have introduced coping skills into the curriculum — a process called S.E.L., which stands for social and emotional learning.
Today’s schoolchildren are more likely to experience stress due to the exhaustive testing environment mandated in schools and the demands of time management due to a full schedule of after-school and weekend activities — not to mention school shooting drills that have sadly become a necessity to help protect children from the pervasive threat of violence.
Unfortunately, the part of the brain that deals with stress is the same as that used for learning, so introducing coping skills is necessary to help students achieve more academically. The S.E.L. program helps students become more aware of their feelings and learn to relate more peacefully with others.
The good news is our level of emotional intelligence can be improved with more awareness and training. For example, it’s better to recognize and explore why we have certain feelings rather than (or before) we tamp them down.
We also should pay more attention to the clues our body sends, such as why you get a knot in your stomach in anticipation of seeing a certain person. One interesting tactic is to ask a co-worker or loved one to describe how they know when you’re angry or stressed out — you may discover consistent patterns of behavior of which you were previously unaware.