Emotional Intelligence: The Social Skills You Weren’t Taught in School

You’re taught about history, science, and math when you’re growing up. Most of us, however, aren’t taught how to identify or deal with our own emotions, or the emotions of others. These skills can be valuable, but you’ll never get them in a classroom.

Emotional intelligence is a shorthand that psychological researchers use to describe how well individuals can manage their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. People who exhibit emotional intelligence have the less obvious skills necessary to get ahead in life, such as managing conflict resolution, reading and responding to the needs of others, and keeping their own emotions from overflowing and disrupting their lives. In this guide, we’ll look at what emotional intelligence is, and how to develop your own.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Measuring emotional intelligence is relatively new in the field of psychology, only first being explored in the mid-80s. Several models are currently being developed, but for our purposes, we’ll examine what’s known as the “mixed model,” developed by psychologist Daniel Goleman. The mixed model has five key areas:

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of, when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are.
  • Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic.
  • Motivation: Everyone is motivated to action by rewards like money or status. Goleman’s model, however, refers to motivation for the sake of personal joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive.
  • Empathy: While the three previous categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately.
  • Social skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others, managing others in a work environment, and being persuasive.

You can read a bit more about these different categories here. The order of these emotional competencies isn’t all that relevant, as we all learn many of these skills simultaneously as we grow. It’s also important to note that, for our purposes, we’ll only be using this as a guide. Emotional intelligence isn’t an area that most people receive formal training in. We’ll let psychologists argue over the jargon and models, but for now let’s explore what each of these mean and how to improve them in your own life.

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