The concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) has been around since at least 1995 when Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book was published. For me–someone who aced school and showed signs of a decent IQ yet struggled with life—the concept of EQ explained a lot. I was excited to read Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves’ Emotional Intelligence 2.0  based on its promise to help us improve our EQ.

As a baseline, and perhaps as motivation to better understand EQ, here is some background:

  • Research has shown that emotional intelligence is more important in determining our success and satisfaction with life than IQ.
  • EQ is far more than charisma and gregariousness.
  • Whatever level of EQ we start from, it can be learned and improved.

Intense emotions can and will override our rational thinking in driving our behavior. When that happens, it undermines our effectiveness and damages our relationships. This is the opposite of EQ.

The benefits from improving our emotional intelligence show up in many other critical skills. Better decision making, time management, stress tolerance, communication, anger management, and trust are just a few of the side benefits. EQ impacts our careers, friendships, and our most intimate relationships.

The Four Emotional Intelligence Skills

The authors break EQ into four skills—two personal and two social competencies. Personal competence comes from the ability to stay aware of our emotions and manage our behavior. Social competence is made by social awareness and relationship management.

Self-awareness begins with being able to accurately identify what emotion we’re experiencing. Then, it requires us to tolerate negative, uncomfortable feelings. Taking time to recognize our emotions and figure out where they’re coming from is the key to not doing something we regret.

Self-management is developing the ability to direct our behavior based on what the best course of action is. To self-manage requires us to put our desire to react on hold until we’ve had a chance to think through our options. By not allowing our emotions to determine our path, we are free to pursue larger, more important goals—like maintaining intimacy with our partner.

Social awareness means perceiving other people’s emotions and situations. Listening and observing, without letting our own emotions and biases get in the way, is essential. The ability to figuratively step out and study others objectively—much like a scientist would—helps us to be more socially aware.

Social management relies on the first three skills to guide our interactions with others. It’s expressing empathy, communicating clearly but kindly, and accepting differences from those around us. In doing so, we build high-quality, deep connections that grow our influence and bless us in return.

Improving EQ Skills

Book purchasers get a code which allows them to complete an on-line assessment of their four emotional intelligence skills. Regardless of whether you take the test or not, the majority of the book has numerous strategies to help build each skill. The authors recommend (and I agree) to choose one skill and focus on just three strategies at a time.

They also suggest finding a mentor—someone who demonstrates good competency with that particular EQ skill—and meet with them regularly. Practice is critical in rewiring our brains. Measuring progress gives us a sense of accomplishment and motivation to apply other strategies or work on other skills.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 lays out fundamental building blocks needed for those of us working to stop behavior that hurts our partners and damages our relationships. By understanding and building our EQ, we’re better able to manage our emotions and choose our responses to difficult and stressful situations.  That not only stops us from causing harm, but it frees us to enjoy success at work and at home.

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