Emotional Intelligence

Honest Assessments

Let's just dive in, shall we? Travis Bradberry notes that, "Emotionally intelligent people don't just understand emotions; they know what they're good at and what they're terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EQ means you know your strengths and how to lean into and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back."

Those with a high EQ know and accept themselves.

In summary, those with a high EQ know and accept themselves. They are honest with who they are and don't hide it from themselves or others. Which is a bold move.

Our culture promotes strengths and shames weaknesses and we have internalized this to the detriment of our own emotional health. You are not allowed to be weak. Weakness is viewed as a liability. So we learn to hide it or seek to compensate for the areas of which we are ashamed. 

When the StrengthsFinder personality assessment came on the scene several years ago, it turned everything around. It allowed for people to accept the areas they were not naturally strong and pay attention to where they were naturally gifted and talented. The example author Tom Rach gives is that not everyone can be Michael Jordan. I will never be Michael Jordan even if I practice 16 hours a day; I simply do not have what is needed (the natural ability, the height, etc.) to play at that level of perfection. Instead of trying to be him, can I divert that level of energy and commitment to hone in on and improve the skills that I already have? 

There must be an acceptance of natural limitations which can be difficult. We may dream of the type of person we want to be or believe we should be and to find that reality doesn't reflect our fantasy can be painful. We can fight it. We can try to be what we think should be. But you can only do so by shaming yourself for not living into what this fantasy is. 

What if you take an honest look in the mirror, bravely accept that you are finite and limited as a human in what you can do? What if you take stock of the incredible strengths you've been given, celebrate those, and cultivate them? 

Oh, the real and available possibilities...

Accepting The Unacceptable

The art of life is constant readjustment to our surroundings.
— Kakuzo Okakaura

We're still looking at Emotional Intelligence...and we'll be looking at it for a few weeks. Next up: Those who have high EQ embrace change.

Travis Bradberry explains this attribute this way: "Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur."

The opposite of change is stagnation. You cannot grow without change. Growth reflects life. Without growth, there is no life. But we like the status quo. We try and maintain it; it gives us a feeling of power and control. Life sometimes acts as status quo's arch nemesis because it allows the unforeseen, unexpected, and unwanted to take place. Change can leave us feeling small, helpless, and powerless. But not all change has to be awful. There are many times we may even anticipate the change and want the change (marriage, child's birth, a new job, a move) but it still disrupts what was familiar and comfortable and requires adaptation to the new. 

You cannot grow without change. Growth reflects life. Without growth, there is no life.

How do we deal with any form of new, whether wanted or not?

We can lock down and refuse to move with the current fighting with all your might. This will cause some pain. The refusal to see and face what is happening around you requires a denial that disengages from the present. Worst of all: you stay the same. Stuck. 


You can acknowledge the fear, sadness, anger, confusion, conflicted emotions, happiness, elation that is occurring because of the shift in what was once your normal. You learn how to control what you are able to and how to best take care of yourself, what you're needing to thrive, not just survive this transition. You discover that, though it is not always pleasant, you have the capacity to adapt and it didn't kill you. This informs how you walk through the next change. Best of all: you learn and you grow. Your story becomes more dynamic and rich. 

Digging Deep

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

In looking at what it means to be a person of emotional intelligence, another characteristic is possessing a curiosity about others. 

Travis Bradberry says, "It doesn't matter if they're introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they're going through, the more curiosity you're going to have about them."

A desire to know about another suggests that other people's stories matter to you and you give time and place to ask questions in order to understand. There is an openness to others' behaviors and wondering what is tucked behind their words, choices, and actions rather than a rigid and closed judgment. 

When we close ourselves off to what another’s life can teach us, we miss out on how our lives can be stretched, challenged, grown and enhanced.

Those who make snap judgments about other people remove the option of curiosity. They have already decided about that person and denied themselves the rich opportunity of learning. This will affect not only how they see and relate to people but also themselves. When we close ourselves off to what another's life can teach us, we miss out on how our lives can be stretched, challenged, grown and enhanced. It also begs the question whether or not those who lack curiosity about others' possess it for themselves. I doubt it. I don't think curiosity can be confined or contained. I think that if you are curious about your own story and how it informs the things you see, hear, say, do and believe, that self-curiosity will externalize beyond yourself. You also cannot be known if you are unwilling to know (yourself or others). 

Will you explore within and without?

Get Smart

Emotional intelligence: "the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people's emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s)". 

Unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.
— Travis Bradberry

Research has shown a correlation between emotional intelligence (EQ) and greater mental health, leadership skills, and job performance. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, through data analysis, has identified hallmark behaviors of the emotionally intelligent.

I'd like to look at these features he's listed, one at a time, here. 

According to Bradberry, the first core behavior is having a robust emotional vocabulary

We all experience emotions and science has shown how necessary they are. However, the majority of people have difficulty clearly identifying what emotions they are experiencing in the moment or even upon reflection. People tease that counselors want to know and look at how you feel. However, there is scientific merit to giving space to exploring one's emotional reactions. 

Bradberry and his team found that "only 36 percent of people can [accurately identify their emotions as they occur], which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions."

He explains that those with high EQ's are not overrun by their emotions because they understand what they are feeling. They are able to locate the source of the emotion by utilizing an extensive emotional vocabulary to specifically capture and identify what it is that they feel. The majority of people may generalize their emotions to a few categories: "bad", "sad", "happy". But that generalization can make it difficult to gain insight into what is happening internally.

For example, I can be sad for multiple reasons: conflict with a friend, being misunderstood by my boss, losing a special memento, a friend's cancer diagnosis. Even listing only a few probable situations, there is a wide range of sadness that is possible. Associated with each of these different situations, there are varying degrees of how the emotion is experienced. Feeling misunderstood by my boss is not the same depth of sadness as learning of a friend's grave health status. Labeling one as "disappointing" and another as "sorrowful and grievous" gives the appropriate weight to what is being internally experienced. Having access to this insight and self-awareness allows me to respond appropriately to each situation because I understand what is occurring and why.

In their New York Times bestseller (and one I highly recommend!), The Whole Brain Child, Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson, have a strategy for emotional regulation called, "Name it to Tame it". They are employing the same idea that in identifying one's emotion we can have mastery over the emotion. For many, you may feel like you are tossed and turned (emotional dysregulation) by what you are feeling because there is a lack understanding of what and why something is happening. Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson recognize what Bradberry does, "The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you should do about it."

To be emotionally healthier individuals, it's crucial you expand your emotional vocabulary. Most often it is beneficial to do so in the company and presence of one who will help you find this language to give more texture and depth to your life and relationships. We name to not only tame but to honor.