“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
—attributed to Theodore Roosevelt
When was the last time you looked someone in the eye and really listened to their words? Take a moment to reflect on your past two weeks. Was there an opportunity to pause and listen to someone who needed your time? Did you? For many of us, time is of the essence as we move from one responsibility to another, according to our many roles: parent, spouse, provider, colleague, sibling, adult-child, or friend. Truly listening doesn’t always fit into our daily routines.
The Oxford Languages online dictionary defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” The example sentence notes, “emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.”
How does emotional intelligence, or EQ, equate to success in both personal and professional settings? The answer involves awareness: first, being self-aware of one’s emotions and any physical responses to them; and second, being aware of the emotional responses of others. If awareness is the foundation for healthy emotional intelligence, then management is what builds the next levels: management of both self and interpersonal relationships. The final piece to the EQ framework is establishing healthy habits. This includes wellness in all aspects of the whole person: mental, emotional, and physical.
A user-friendly competency framework for EQ starts and ends with one’s self. This is practical advice we hear but don’t always pay attention to. Recall the last time you flew. During the pre-flight safety instructions, the airline crew always reminds each traveler to put on the oxygen mask before helping others. We cannot give away what we do not have.
In a nutshell, to build an EQ competency framework, do the following:
- Develop self-awareness and self-management. This is the ability to name and understand emotions and recognize the physical cues that relate to them. For example, the statement, “I was so scared I almost peed my pants,” connects the emotional response to an unexpected situation (fear) to a related physical response. Many of the phrases we use to describe a physical or emotional response help us recognize self-awareness. Understanding the emotion is the first step to managing the response to it. How we respond can make or break a situation! The philosopher Socrates passed on the maxim, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
- Empathize. We do not have to agree with someone to understand their point of view or like their situation. Empathy is the ability to understand or be aware of another person’s emotions. It is easy to come alongside someone we like or have a positive relationship with; it is a more challenging situation when all we see are our differences. Working on one’s EQ allows for empathy no matter the relationship with another person.
- Practice social awareness. This is when empathy and organizational awareness walk hand-in-hand. One way to think about social awareness is the ability to “read the room,” being alert to an interpersonal situation and possessing the skills to navigate it at the same time.
- Manage relationships. A big part of being human is experiencing relationships with others, and it is not always easy. Conflict management, coaching, and mentoring can all be powerful ways to help others. Relationship management looks for the best possible outcome for both sides of a relationship.
- Cultivate healthy habits. The mantra consistency beats intensity is a good approach for being healthy. Finding an exercise you like and sticking with it, getting quality sleep, observing a rest day, and eating good food all add up to a recipe for success. To riff on the airline safety instructions, you must take care of yourself first. This includes your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and nutritional needs. We can best support our communities in our many commitments when we prioritize self-care.
“If we lack emotional intelligence, whenever stress rises the human brain switches to autopilot and has an inherent tendency to do more of the same, only harder. Which, more often than not, is precisely the wrong approach in today’s world.”
—Robert K. Cooper, PhD, neuroscientist and author
How successful do you want to be as a person and professional? The first approach to success is knowing what triggers your emotional response to a situation. Socrates was right, knowing one’s self is the beginning of wisdom. The next step is practicing empathy in any situation. Woven into this equation is both social awareness and relationship management; being able to proactively practice EQ no matter the situation. Finally, one must maintain good health. To be human is to evolve as we learn and experience life.
For Further Reading
Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. New York: Avery, 2018
Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. New York: Bantam Dell, 2005
Images from iStock/syahrir maulana (main), Benjavisa (figures listening and speaking), amoklv (couple walking).