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Get the feeling: emotional intelligence

"Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence."
Dr Robert K Cooper, Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations

Emotional intelligence (also referred to as EQ Emotional Intelligence Quotient to distinguish it from IQ Intelligence Quotient) is a relatively new concept. There have been many studies conducted into how people's EQ relates to what they do. All of them have come to a similar conclusion those who understand their own and others' emotions and know how to deal with them are measurably more successful in work and in life. This learning resource looks at three aspects of EQ: Emotional awareness: knowing what feelings we and others have Emotional literacy: expressing feelings and understanding others' expressions of theirs Emotional honesty: being open about our emotions and creating an environment in which people feel safe to do the same. These are some of the skills that help to make exemplary, authentic leaders who have motivated, engaged people behind them.

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Emotional awareness
"Knowing others and knowing oneself, in 100 battles, no danger. Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss. Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself, in every battle, certain defeat."
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Emotional awareness means being aware of one's own emotions and those of others. This can be seen as a number of levels of awareness, from less aware to more aware.

Knowing Acknowledging Identifying Accepting Reflecting Forecasting

Knowing the feeling is there realising you feel something in the first place Acknowledging the feeling and not trying to avoid it Identifying the feeling understanding what's causing it and where it's coming from Accepting the feeling allowing oneself to feel like this without suppressing it Reflecting on the feeling analysing the factors or situation that has led to it Forecasting the feeling predicting the situations and occasions that will cause it

Low awareness

High awareness

The ability to know and understand your own emotions is the key to empathy understanding how others might be feeling by putting yourself in their shoes. EQ may seem like an intangible thing. An IQ test works in a simple way you get the answers right or wrong, add up the correct ones and you get your score. But how do you measure your ability to deal with emotions and feelings? Emotional intelligence can be seen as one of the things that make up someone's personality. Psychologists have developed many ways of trying to measure aspects of personality such as extroversion, openness, and so on and the same is true of EQ. Researchers have concluded that there are two types of test that give scientifically valid data: Specific ability tests: these measure specific abilities related to emotional intelligence, such as accurately identifying emotions in human faces General integrative tests: these measure several different skills and give an overall picture of EQ. A scientific paper on the validity of these tests (and of the concept of emotional intelligence in general) can be obtained from the Annual Review of Psychology. If you prefer some lighter reading, you might want to look at an online EQ test: What's your EQ?

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Emotional literacy
"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill."

Being aware of one's emotions is very important but so is the ability to communicate them. This is the key to getting understanding and support from others, and empathising with their feelings in order to understand and support them. The inability to express emotions is called alexithymia a barrier to communication. Emotional literacy is the opposite the ability to express and understand emotions.

I versus you messages

Statements about feelings can be categorised into I messages and you messages using I messages to make it clear you're talking about yourself avoids the other party becoming defensive or feeling that they're having responsibility put onto them.

I messages
I feel stressed I feel attacked I'm happy

You messages
You're stressing me out Stop attacking me You make me happy

Obviously, life isn't always so simple. Being completely direct about our feelings isn't always appropriate (although some may argue that it's always the best way). There are various ways of getting things across indirectly that can work well: Comparatives: I feel more stressed than a fish in a frying pan" Scales: "On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel 11 points stressed" Metaphors: "I feel like I'm juggling 10 china plates".

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The words we use when expressing emotions are critical. Finding a word to describe a feeling isn't always easy, so having a wide range of adjectives to choose from increases the range and power of our emotional literacy. There are many thousands of words available to us in English, but have a look at these examples. Positive
Accepted Appreciated Comfortable Confident Encouraged Excited Elated Focused Happy Loved Motivated Optimistic Relaxed Satisfied Secure Supported Vindicated

Rejected Ignored Uncomfortable Insecure Discouraged Bored Depressed Confused Sad Hated Lazy Pessimistic Tense Unfulfilled Afraid Undermined Guilty

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Sometimes we deliberately distort our expressions of emotion to give a false impression of how we are feeling. This can be for societal reasons for example, few people want to be seen as sad or someone with problems, even if they are. In British culture it can be frowned upon to wear you heart on your sleeve when you should be keeping a stiff upper lip. It's interesting to look at a few ways in which we do this: Hiding them: simply lying. For example, claiming to be happy when it's not the case. People with highly developed emotional intelligence are particularly good at looking past the words and seeing if the body language and tone of voice actually correspond with what's being said Shrugging them off: people who are expected to be suffering when something has happened to them often try to give the impression they're coping "I'm fine. No really, it's OK..." This may be to try to convince themselves that it is OK, but it's also fear of their true emotions being seen Overuse: because some words express such strong emotions, we overuse them to the point where they have almost lost their meaning. Take love and hate. You love your country, but you also love chocolate. You hate human trafficking, but you also hate marmite. Understanding how these distortions work can help us to understand how others are feeling, giving us clues as to what's going on under the bonnet.

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Emotional honesty
"Be not disturbed at being misunderstood; be disturbed rather at not being understanding."
Chinese proverb

Our emotional intelligence is irrelevant unless we use it. Emotional honesty is about being emotionally aware, emotionally literate, and, finally, open about our true feelings. Obviously this won't always be appropriate in some situations you'll need to appear neutral or positive even if your feelings are strongly against what you're asking people to do but be as open as you can be. This means being honest with ourselves (which is key to personal development and effectiveness) and with others (which establishes credibility and authenticity leading by example). One encourages the other it's a feedback loop that can help create an emotionally intelligent working environment with a positive, non-threatening atmosphere where people feel safe to express themselves. Authentic leadership starts with emotional intelligence.

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