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In work, it’s often thought that IQ is the most important factor for success. But in reality, EQ – how you process, use and control your emotions – can bring you a lot further, experts say.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

“What is EQ, really? Isn’t this pseudoscience? And how does it affect me in the workplace?”, you might think.

First of all, good questions! And very wise of you to be a bit skeptical about language and terminology used by non-scientists. So, check if your sources are quoting actual experts. Licensed psychologists or researches in psychology, is this case.

What makes up EQ?

After some short desk research, you will find: EQ is here to stay. It is an established answer to IQ-measuring, and a result of hundreds of years of searching how to define intelligence. IQ simply doesn’t cover it all.

While googling EQ, you will find more articles than you may be able to read. But once you’ve seen a few, you will agree that the latest EQ-models – invented and used mostly since the 90’s – resemble each other greatly.

Where some state that EQ is about ‘self-awareness’, ‘self-regulation’, ‘motivation’, ‘empathy’ and ‘social skills’, others, like Mayer, Salovey and Caruso (2002) present the following list:

  • Perceiving Emotions
  • Facilitating Thought
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Managing Emotions

Not a great deal of difference, is there? The researchers that came up with the latter even invented a tool for measuring EQ. Neat!

A man sitting right across his therapist in a mostly empty room with an old wooden floor.

Measuring EQ

What good is discussing your capabilities, if you can’t compare it to other’s? In other words: how do you know if a score is high or low? We need a standard for measuring those things.

Life we mentioned before, there are tests like the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). How does that work? Well, in short: you do stuff, while being observed by a mental health professional.

With the outcomes of you EQ test, you will have tools to work on your EQ, if you’d like, or to makes choices accordingly, like choosing a different job or managing expectations.

For example: maybe you don’t score great on the ‘empathy’ part of EQ but you rock at ‘self-regulation’, you may be more fit for working as a business analyst than for working as team lead.

Tips for improving your EQ

Whatever your outcomes are, you can always improve your skills. Like, EQ-skills in general or ‘social skills’ in particular.

Here are 3 quick tips that will help you in the workplace.

Tip 1: Understand thyself

Practice self-awareness. Identifying your emotions can help prevent to feel overcome by them. So try to think about the following:

  1. What are you feeling?
  2. How does your body respond to it?
  3. What words do you know that are applicable to your feelings?
  4. Where were you doing, that may have triggered that emotion?

There are no wrong emotions. Just acknowledge them and you’ll probably feel more space to do like you please, instead of like you feel you must.

A woman looking at herself in the a round mirror she is holding up herself.

Tip 2: Channel those emotions

When you feel an emotion, it’s not always the best idea to immediately express all of it. At least, not in all cultures. So, identify your emotions, decide if it’s appropriate and act accordingly.

Tip 3: Recognize emotions in others

Learn to understand when someone is hurting, sad or just happy and act on those emotions.

Whenever it doesn’t feel appropriate to communicate with others around, maybe a genuine text message will do the work, afterwards. You can describe what you saw and check if your interpretation is correct. Then, share your wish or sympathy.

Don’t shy away from valuable interactions or valuable learning opportunities like these. Small gestures can have a big impact. For them and for you.

Arjan van Rooijen