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  • Writer's pictureJoel Werner

IQ Gets You in but EQ Leads You through - How Successful People Connect

The average number of emotions people can identify in themselves and others is a measly three—bad, glad, and sad. Yes, it's a shocking indictment of our vocabulary, but the ramifications are far broader.

Studies indicate that the most significant indicator of success is not IQ, as one might expect based on our curricula, but EQ—emotional intelligence. And at its heart, EQ is about recognizing emotions in ourselves and others and consciously choosing how to respond to them.

The term Intelligence Quotient was first coined in 1912 by German psychologist William Stern. And for close to a century now, these problem-solving tests have been widely used as the gatekeepers to higher education and employment opportunities. But we all know brilliant people who've performed well academically and yet fail to succeed professionally.

This is because IQ only measures one predictor of success. It doesn’t, for example, measure one’s physical capabilities. It also doesn’t measure the ability to perceive and identify emotions, or how well we use emotional information to adapt to and manage our environments.

While traditional IQ or problem-solving skills may be critical to success, it's the people that also have high emotional quotients who ultimately succeed. Fortunately, emotional skills can be acquired and honed.

The Five Aspects of Emotional Intelligence

Peter Salovey and John Mayer developed the theory of emotional intelligence, but it was first popularized by Daniel Goleman, the New York Times science journalist. Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence was a best seller for over a year and translated into 40 languages. He made the concept of EQ accessible to the non-scientific community by breaking it down into five elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

1. Self-Awareness

“We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” This quote from Antonio Damasio, Professor of Psychology, Philosophy, and Neurology, at the University of Southern California sums it up. Our emotions drive us, and one poor experience can cloud an entire day.

Perhaps a client meeting doesn't go according to plan, or the markets plummet, and next, we’re losing our temper with the kids when we get home. We convince ourselves that they’ve never been nosier or more irritating. However, in reality, our feelings in that moment have little to do with them.

Acknowledging our emotions is the first step to overcoming the way they dictate our behavior. We can do this by developing reflective practices such as meditation and journaling. Or by having the discipline to “slow down” before we react. Developing an emotional vocabulary is also essential because it's challenging to think about something if we can't name it. And "bad, glad, and sad” won’t hold up for very long.

2. Self-Regulation

Thoughtful, intelligent decisions characterize successful people—they don’t allow themselves to respond on a whim to emotional cues. And they don’t compromise their values. Yet Goleman incorporates flexibility and willingness to accept personal accountability in self-regulation.

Sticking to your values doesn’t mean imposing them on others. Instead, it means finding ways to maintain your integrity while still moving forward with others who don’t always prioritize the same things you do.

Living in a way that limits regrets requires that you know your values. If you’re clear on your boundaries and act consciously and consistently to maintain them, decision-making will become much more manageable. And holding yourself accountable for your actions and reactions puts you in control. If you constantly blame others for the position you find yourself in, you deny your capacity to respond and control your environment.

3. Motivation

Do you have a passion for work that extends beyond money and status? Emotionally mature people tend to be less driven by external validation. Instead, they find joy in pursuing an activity for internal motivations—the pursuit of continuous improvement or curiosity in learning, for example.

These internal motivations allow us to pursue our objectives in the face of adversity, maintain optimism, and persevere without external validation. Sometimes success is all about tenacity—staying the ground and seeing the "cycle" through without panicking or giving in to fear.

4. Empathy

Dr. Brené Brown, a prominent sociology researcher synonymous with EQ through her vulnerability research, says empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. To a great extent, empathy involves making ourselves vulnerable because it requires us to connect personally with what we're observing in others. You might not have experienced the same circumstances, but we've all experienced fear, loss, and anxiety.

Theresa Wiseman, a nursing scholar who studied a wide variety of professions where empathy was relevant, established the four attributes of empathy. She describes them as the ability to see the world as others see it (perspective taking), be non-judgmental, understand another's feelings, and articulate those feelings.

But empathy is relevant to every profession and every individual. Looking beyond the words someone is saying to understand their feelings through their expressions, body language, and demeanor allows us to respond accordingly.

5. Social Skills

Goleman’s fifth element, social skills, is the trait that pulls all the rest together. It allows us to build meaningful networks and relationships by establishing common ground. Successful people usually have high persuasive abilities; they can bring about change because their EQ allows them to navigate the competing commitments of different stakeholders. In addition, they are capable of managing diverse teams and maximizing their effectiveness through successful conflict resolution.

Emotionally intelligent leadership has been particularly important during the pandemic. Leaders have been forced to acknowledge the extent to which personal circumstances and mental health impact their own and their employees' work performance.

The organizations that survive and thrive through this period will be the ones in which leadership is prepared to venture into the unknown. Those that dare to go into "messy" situations, not knowing the outcomes but confident in their ability to improve a situation through connection.

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