I was sitting in a school board meeting. Things were getting heated. Voices were rising and heads were shaking as egos battled it out, and there was no agreement on the proposed motion.
I was agitated, and felt wronged as my opinion was being ignored. I was ready to scream at the next person who would speak out.
Suddenly, Tim, who was usually quiet, spoke up.
His voice was soft and calm, yet assertive. We all kept quiet and listened as he continued to moderate our arguments and followed up by explaining each viewpoint. Within 30 minutes, we all came to a consensus.
Tim was “emotionally intelligent,” and I was not.
This concept of emotional intelligence was championed by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., a well-known writer and researcher on leadership who wrote the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
He went on to explain why many people with a high IQ were outperformed by many with good social intelligence in the workplace, schools and homes. Emotional intelligence is intangible, and thus difficult to measure. It is a road map to achieving the results we want, and can lead us to live a fulfilling life.
What exactly is emotional intelligence?
According to Psychology Today, it’s:
“The ability to accurately identify your own emotions, as well as those of others.
The ability to utilise emotions and apply them to tasks, like thinking and problem-solving.
The ability to manage emotions, including controlling your own, as well as the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.”
However, in order to understand emotional intelligence we need to embrace the five components below:
People who are self-aware understand their emotions, and as such don’t allow themselves to let their feelings get out of control. They reflect on themselves regularly, recognizing what they are good at—and what they aren’t.
They know when to maximize their strengths, and how to manage their weaknesses so these don’t hold them back. They appreciate that there is nothing called perfection, admit their vulnerability and take responsibility for their mistakes as much as their successes.
In Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, she explains how embracing our imperfections raises our self-awareness.
Self-regulation is managing and controlling our emotions, moods and reactions. Emotionally intelligent people take a few deep breaths to think before reacting, and thus respond much better to challenging situations.
They don’t allow anger, jealousy or some other form of fear to affect their decisions. They are conscious of their reactions, knowing why they reacted in a certain manner. They are comfortable saying no, and lead well-balanced lives. They usually eat well, get plenty of sleep and have many interests outside their work or relationships.
In the above example at the school board meeting, Tim displayed his self-regulatory way of thinking by not only controlling his emotions, but also being able to direct all of us to an agreement.
This is the ability to push ourselves toward our goals, harnessing our emotions to take action, commit and follow through with them.
Self-discipline and willpower are important attributes of an emotionally intelligent person’s character, as they are willing to forgo instant gratification for long-term results. They are highly productive, effective and positive about life, and don’t allow people or situations to bring them down.
An emotionally intelligent person not only listens to others, but is also able to discern and understand their feelings to such an extent that they put themselves in the other’s shoes. They don’t stereotype and judge, but rather are willing to accept all kinds of opinions and viewpoints. They are open, honest and have a strong ability to manage relationships.
Mother Theresa, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are well-known symbols of empathy, but there are many around us who often surprise us with how genuine and empathetic they are. They make us feel safe, heard and important.
5) Social Skills.
These are the team players who park their egos on the side and focus on developing others instead. They are communicators, manage disputes and build and maintain relationships. They adapt quickly to situations, aren’t afraid of change and are curious about life and what it has to offer.
My colleague displays this kind of leadership; a smile is always on her face, making it easy for anyone to approach her. She continually asks after the well-being of her staff and is the first to praise them for doing a good job, yet she knows how and when to criticize them.
We can learn and cultivate emotional intelligence in our lives. We are usually stronger with one aspect than the others, but we can develop all five so that we become better leaders in our lives, whether at our workplace, our home or elsewhere.
These attributes can also help guide us in any circumstances we find ourselves, whether we are bankers, business owners, mothers, friends, artists or people living simple lives traversing the joys and vicissitudes of life.
It’s not something that is easy to accomplish within a few months but rather it’s a journey over many years. It’s a roadmap of “How” to live our lives, rather than the “Why” or “What” of life.
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Neill Kumar/Unsplash