CHOOSE THE PATH TO A HAPPY LIFE

Reader's Digest International - - Contents - BY SU­SAN­NAH HICKLING

Many psy­chol­o­gists now be­lieve that emo­tional

Many psy­chol­o­gists now be­lieve that emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is more im­por­tant

than IQ—both at work and at play

GLENN HINDS WAS ANX­IOUS AS HE PRE­PARED to play in the first round of his golf club’s sin­gles cham­pi­onship. But rather than ig­nor­ing his nerves and get­ting on with it, as he had al­ways done, the 50-year-old train­ing con­sul­tant from Derry in North­ern Ire­land ap­plied some of the lessons he’d just learned on a work course.

He got into his car and con­sciously took a mo­ment to no­tice how he was feel­ing. This prompted a series of small re­al­iza­tions. “First of all, this was just a game of golf,” Glenn says. “Sec­ondly, I wanted to win but could lose and, thirdly, the chances were that I’d get some stick from my mates. But in terms of the big pic­ture I would be OK.”

He was a man trans­formed. “My fear went away and I went out there re­laxed.” Not only did he win

game, but he was vic­to­ri­ous in the next six matches and be­came club cham­pion for 2016.

Glenn was draw­ing on his train­ing in emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, the abil­ity to per­ceive and man­age emo­tions in our­selves and oth­ers. Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence—or emo­tion quo­tient (EQ)—is a rel­a­tively new branch of psy­chol­ogy, first de­fined by US re­searchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer in the 1990s and pop­u­lar­ized by sci­ence jour­nal­ist and psy­chol­o­gist Daniel Gole­man in his book, Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence: Why It Can Mat­ter More Than IQ.

Gole­man iden­ti­fies sev­eral key char­ac­ter­is­tics of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence: self-aware­ness (un­der­stand­ing our own emo­tions); self-reg­u­la­tion (stay­ing in con­trol); mo­ti­va­tion (self­dis­ci­pline); em­pa­thy (un­der­stand­ing and shar­ing the feel­ings of oth­ers); and so­cial skills (build­ing self-con­fi­dence). See panel on p.xx.

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, EQ has lit­tle to do with show­ing your feel­ings or with na­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics.

“Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is re­lated to the ca­pac­ity to see what is hap­pen­ing in the face of a col­league and to un­der­stand what you are feel­ing in a given mo­ment,” ex­plains Dr Edgar Bresó, a so­cial psy­chol­o­gist at the Jaume I Univer­sity in Castel­lón, Spain.

It’s of­ten as­sumed that women, tra­di­tion­ally car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate, are more emo­tion­ally lit­er­ate than

Emo­tional lit­er­acy is par­tic­u­larly prized in the work­place.

“Feel­ings are much more im­por­tant than data.”

men, but it’s not that sim­ple.

“Women are stronger in em­pa­thy but men are stronger in nav­i­gat­ing emo­tions,” says Maria Ols­son, Eu­ro­pean re­gional net­work di­rec­tor of Six Sec­onds, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to emo­tional in­tel­li­gence.

EMO­TIONAL LIT­ER­ACY IS PAR­TIC­U­LARLY prized in the work­place. It’s now con­sid­ered that EQ, rather than IQ, is what de­ter­mines suc­cess, with in­tel­lec­tual abil­ity ac­count­ing for only about 10 to 25 per cent of the vari­ance in job per­for­mance.

“Knowl­edge on its own is not enough to be com­pe­tent in to­day’s world,” says Dr Bresó. “Phones and PCs can pro­vide more knowl­edge than you can learn in your life­time. We are more com­pe­tent in some in­tel­lec­tual tasks if we are more com­pe­tent in our emo­tions, be­cause when we have a clear idea about our feel­ings, it’s eas­ier to make de­ci­sions. Emo­tions are much more im­por­tant than data.”

Stud­ies have shown that work­that

ers with a high EQ tend to be more pro­duc­tive, stay in their jobs longer and earn more than their less emo­tion­ally lit­er­ate col­leagues. Peo­ple with good emo­tional in­tel­li­gence are more likely to be pro­moted, be­cause they can iden­tify the emo­tions of their su­pe­ri­ors and con­tin­u­ally adapt to other peo­ple.

While emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is con­sid­ered in­nate, many psy­chol­o­gists be­lieve it can be im­proved. “You can train peo­ple to be more emo­tion­ally aware,” says or­ga­ni­za­tional psy­chol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Sir Cary Cooper from Manch­ester Busi­ness School in the UK. “You don’t ei­ther have it or not have it. It’s a con­tin­uum.”

Dutch bank ING pro­vided EQ train­ing for its fi­nan­cial mar­kets sales staff to build trust and tem­per the kind of greed and fear that can lead to knee­jerk re­ac­tions on trad­ing floors. Staff en­gage­ment was higher af­ter­wards and sales rev­enue in­creased faster than the in­dus­try av­er­age.

Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is also help­ful in the car­ing pro­fes­sions. “Peo­ple in medicine, so­cial work, nurs­ing and clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy need to have a sub­stan­tial amount of EQ to do their job ef­fec­tively,” says Pro­fes­sor Cooper. Re­search in Nor­way, for in­stance, sug­gests that train­ing health staff to take emo­tions more se­ri­ously could help pre­vent de­pres­sion in new mothers. BUT EQ IS ALSO IM­POR­TANT IN ev­ery­day life. “Good emo­tional in­tel­li­gence makes us hap­pier and more sat­is­fied and of­fers pro­tec­tion against psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems such as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion,” says Moïra Miko­la­jczak, pro­fes­sor of emo­tion and health psy­chol­ogy at the Catholic Univer­sity of Lou­vain in Bel­gium.

She likens this pro­tec­tive ef­fect to car­ry­ing a tray. “If the arm is strong— if you have good emo­tional in­tel­li­gence—you’re go­ing to be able to place a lot of glasses on the tray be­fore your arm gives way. If your emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is weak, the slight­est up­set can be a prob­lem—one glass is fine, but put another one on and crash!”

If you don’t rec­og­nize the early signs of stress, it’s much more dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late your emo­tions once

have built up to dan­ger­ous lev­els. You may end up over­re­act­ing when a part­ner or child says or does some­thing mi­nor and then re­gret­ting it. If a pat­tern de­vel­ops, it’s a recipe for un­hap­pi­ness.

EQ also af­fects our health. Pro­fes­sor Miko­la­jczak con­ducted re­search into the ef­fect of EQ for a large Bel­gian health or­ga­ni­za­tion. “The higher the level of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, the less med­i­ca­tion peo­ple took, the less they went to the doc­tor or were hos­pi­tal­ized,” she says.

While a high EQ doesn’t guar­an­tee you won’t fall ill, she says, poor emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is much more likely to lead to poor health, notably car­dio­vas­cu­lar and di­ges­tive prob­lems re­sult­ing from raised stress lev­els.

Where emo­tional in­tel­li­gence re- ally makes an im­pact is in our re­la­tion­ships. “In your friend­ships, with your neigh­bors, with peo­ple you’re in con­tact with at the school gate, wher­ever you are in life, hav­ing EQ can be a re­ally pos­i­tive at­tribute,” says Pro­fes­sor Cooper.

“If you de­cide you want to cut down a tree and it’s on the bor­der with your neigh­bor, if you have good EQ you will go to your neigh­bor and talk about it. They may like that tree. It’s about em­pa­thy. You may have to rely on that neigh­bor at an im­por­tant time in life.”

And let’s not for­get suc­cess in love. “Cou­ples where both part­ners are emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent last longer,” con­firms Moïra Miko­la­jczak.

BE­ING EMO­TION­ALLY IN­TEL­LI­GENT also helps us bring up our chil­dren to be hap­pier, more suc­cess­ful adults.

Nomeda Mara­ziene, a doc­tor and psy­chol­o­gist from Vil­nius, Lithua­nia, works to boost emo­tional in­tel­li­gence in young peo­ple in a coun­try that has one of the high­est sui­cide rates in the world and, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 Unicef re­port, high num­bers of un­happy chil­dren. She be­gins her EQ train­ing with the par­ents, teach­ers and other adults who act as chil­dren’s role mod­els.

“The work of EQ starts with us as adults to in­crease self-aware­ness, opthey

timism and in­ner mo­ti­va­tion be­cause we are re­spon­si­ble for the emo­tional con­tent we spread around us,” she says. “It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to be the best pos­si­ble ver­sion of our­selves in terms of at­ti­tudes, be­liefs and ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Other­wise, Mara­ziene fears, there could be a price to pay. Ego­cen­tric be­hav­ior is one pos­si­ble out­come. “If we don’t de­velop chil­dren’s em­pa­thy, that could lead to iso­la­tion and an in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic ap­proach which means team­work isn’t pos­si­ble.”

She em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of team­work and com­mu­nity. “Un­con­di­tional re­spect is the key in­gre­di­ent. Ev­ery­one has the right to his or her per­sonal opin­ion and then we can dis­cuss it and agree or dis­agree.”

Mara­ziene re­cently worked with a foster cen­ter to in­crease self-es­teem among chil­dren who had ex­pe­ri­enced psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal harm, and re­jec­tion. To build up their em­pa­thy and sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity, the young peo­ple helped out at a dog res­cue cen­ter, walk­ing and car­ing for the dogs.

These and other ac­tiv­i­ties bore fruit. In par­tic­u­lar, two very with­drawn girls opened up. “They started to de­bate, not only talk­ing but ex­press­ing their opin­ion and ex­pand­ing on it.” SO HOW CAN WE BOOST OUR OWN emo­tional in­tel­li­gence? “The most im­por­tant com­pe­tence is be­ing able to per­ceive our own emo­tions,” says Dr Edgar Bresó. “So be­fore a meet­ing, be­fore sell­ing a car, be­fore be­gin­ning

Let’s not for­get suc­cess in love. “Cou­ples where both

part­ners are emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent last longer.”

a task, just take a mo­ment to think, ‘Where am I? Am I in a good place? Am I too neg­a­tive or too pos­i­tive?’”

We can also de­velop tech­niques to reg­u­late our emo­tions. “If you know you are go­ing to get an­gry with your part­ner, just say to your­self, ‘OK, I’m go­ing to leave the room and take a deep breath,’” sug­gests Moïra Miko­la­jczak. “Then go out­side and do noth­ing for two min­utes.” And she points out that for some­one in a very stress­ful job, it could be worth tak­ing leave at fre­quent in­ter­vals—for ex­am­ple, a week ev­ery two months.

Im­prov­ing emo­tional in­tel­li­gence doesn’t hap­pen overnight. “It takes time and prac­tice,” says golf en­thu­si­ast Glenn Hinds. But there’s lit­tle doubt that in to­day’s high-tech, high-oc­tane world we should per­haps worry less about IQ and em­pha­size EQ if we want to lead a hap­pier, health­ier life.

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