What's your EQ score?

What's your EQ score?

What's your EQ score?

Emotionally intelligent people use emotions as a road map to guide them to their destination. Don’t worry if you aren’t born with a high EQ, you still have hope, affirms Rachna Chhabria.

“Once I made the mistake of telling dad my marks the moment he reached home. I was grounded for days. After that incident, I watch out for the warning signs. If dad is in a grouchy mood, tensed, tends to snap when asked a question or get irritated, I know he has had a bad day at work. I postpone showing him my report card. On a late Sunday afternoon, I am less likely to get a lecture.”

This confession by a teenage boy got me thinking about emotional intelligence. It is “the other kind of smart” goes the popular definition. Most people tend to mistake it with IQ or personality. While Intelligence Quotient refers to our ability to learn and is constant at different stages of our lives, personality is what we call ‘style,’ that defines each person. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved upon with practice.

It’s intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour (not just our own but also others). It helps us walk the tightrope of social situations, teaching us how to interpret other people’s emotions, so that we can capitalise on it and make personal decisions accordingly.

“Emotional Quotient (EQ) is as important as IQ for meeting the demands of social life,” says Dr Chitranjan Andrade, professor and head of the department of psychopharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore. Instead of measuring one’s general intelligence, it measures one’s emotional intelligence. “It is a measure of an individual's ability to control and use his emotional skills in personal and interpersonal contexts,” he adds.

Call it EI or EQ, it means the same thing: the ability to perceive, to study and later, analyse one’s own, as well as other people’s emotions. And use this knowledge to achieve personal as well as professional growth. Emotionally intelligent people use emotions as a road map that can guide them to their destination, depending on where they want to reach and what they want to achieve. The goal could be success in personal relations, or achievement in professional life, or then, better social interactions or something as simple as identifying triggers that affect one’s own emotions and resulting behaviour. 

An emotionally intelligent person can detect emotions in faces, pictures and voices. What it means is that they are able to get a good measure of someone’s emotions by studying their body language, facial expressions and voice. Then, they process this information and use this knowledge in problem solving and thinking.

For people managing large teams, it’s advantageous to get a grip on what keeps the team members ticking emotionally. The same holds true for joint families, where the head of the family - be it the matriarch or the patriarch - needs to keep all the family members finely tuned like the strings of the guitar, so that the result is a pleasant melody and not noise. 

Difficult though it may sound, it’s quite simple actually. Once you know what sets off another person and puts them in a negative frame of mind, you can avoid those behaviours and actions.

Some people can study the storm signals (negative emotions) and use it effectively. Someone I know, professionally, tells me that when she is in a bad mood, she avoids tasks that are mentally demanding. Instead she resorts to activities like pulling out weeds in her garden or whipping up the batter to bake a cake or then, simply ironing clothes – anything that’ll exhaust her excess negative energy.

“A person who is socially mature, confident and street smart is one who has a high EQ. Such persons have better self-control, are comfortable with their strengths and weaknesses, form good relationships with peers, superiors and juniors, liaise well with other people and are good in groups,” explains Dr Andrade.

Can EQ be bettered? While some experts believe that emotional intelligence is an inborn characteristic, there are others who feel that EI can be learned and strengthened like other skills.

“Both genetic and environmental sources are responsible for one’s EQ. Just like there is an extent to which one can enhance one's intellectual performance – say by diligently doing sudoku everyday - there is a limit to which one can enhance one's EQ. First, we need to become aware of our limitations. Next, we need to work on these limitations, one at a time, using self-help materials or with the assistance of a counsellor or a psychotherapist,” says Dr Andrade.

The first step in the journey of raising one’s emotional intelligence is to start perceiving emotions. This is done by understanding body language, facial expressions and voice, which are important markers of emotions. Now that the emotions have been identified, the next step is reasoning with emotions. We have to understand the other person’s emotions. If the person is angry, what could be the cause and what does it mean? Now that’s the tricky part: Analysis of the anger. What could have made the person angry? One has to be smart and respond appropriately or else they may well be at the receiving end of the wrath. 

The ability to express our emotions and also, control them is important. But equally important is our ability to study, understand and interpret other people’s emotions and respond in an appropriate way. Just imagine a scenario where people fail to understand the emotions of others around them. We would all be stumbling around in the dark, never realising when a parent is feeling sad or a close friend angry, a colleague is being anxious or a sibling jealous. And we would, perhaps, continue doing things that go on to worsen their emotional state.

Researchers say that a high EQ increases one’s self-awareness, as one is able to recognise and understand one’s moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. And like any other skill, this self-awareness can be effectively transformed into self-regulation so that one can control and re-direct negative impulses and moods and postpone hasty actions. There’s no denying that some people are lucky to be born emotionally intelligent. But there’s hope for others, too. Make emotions your allies. Get to know them better. And see how this journey called life becomes a lot more meaningful.  

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