Our culture places a high importance on intelligence (IQ) when determining a person’s ability to be successful in the professional world. In reality, IQ is not the only prerequisite for success, nor is having a high IQ the most important skill when it comes to succeeding in life. Life is all about decisions, and new research is showing that having the ability to understand yourself, your emotions, and the emotions of others is the key to making the best choices for yourself.
That ability to understand your emotions and the emotions of others is known as emotional intelligence (EQ).
An experiment published on Psychological Science conducted by Jeremy Yip and Stephanie Cote of Yale University gathered some compelling insights into the reasons why a person with a high EQ is more likely to achieve success in life.
“In two experiments, we examined how a core dimension of emotional intelligence, emotion-understanding ability, facilitates decision making. Individuals with higher levels of emotion-understanding ability can correctly identify which events caused their emotions and, in particular, whether their emotions stem from events that are unrelated to current decisions. We predicted that incidental feelings of anxiety, which are unrelated to current decisions, would reduce risk taking more strongly among individuals with lower rather than higher levels of emotion-understanding ability. The results of Experiment 1 confirmed this prediction. In Experiment 2, the effect of incidental anxiety on risk taking among participants with lower emotion-understanding ability, relative to participants with higher emotion-understanding ability, was eliminated when we informed participants about the source of their anxiety. This finding reveals that emotion-understanding ability guards against the biasing effects of incidental anxiety by helping individuals determine that such anxiety is irrelevant to current decisions.”
People who have a well-developed understanding of emotions do not remove all emotions from their decision making, but they do remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision before them.
A reason why a person with a high EQ tends to execute better decision making is they tend to have a well-developed observing ego. An observing ego is the part of your intellect that allows you to observe what you are feeling objectively, almost as if you are having an out of body experience with your emotions. As the study says, the participants with a low EQ needed to be told by Yip and Cote that their anxiety to perform a 2nd task was actually due to the fact they could not separate their feelings from the 1st task they were asked to complete.
So, how does your EQ effect your life?
Let’s assume a person with a high IQ / low EQ achieves professional success in life, as they so often do. They have a good job, marriage, and children, life is good. Now, let’s say for the purpose of this example, that stress from that good job manifests itself (as we all know it does), and it continues for a long period of time. That stress eventually bleeds into other aspects of life. A person who has an under-developed understanding of their emotions tends to make a variety of bad decisions due to an inability to understand what is going on internally. Alcoholism, infidelity, and domestic abuse are all symptoms of underlying emotional issues that go unchecked and manifest themselves as something completely different from the original problem.
In the same example, a person with a high EQ would quickly realize their stress and feelings of anxiety are only work-related. They would quickly detach their frustrations from other aspects of their life, and deal with their emotions constructively. Using healthy outlets to collect themselves or venting to their spouse or friends is a normal practice for people with a high EQ. Those healthy releases and emotional understanding would also help someone with a high EQ to return to work refreshed, ready make decisions to better their work situation and reduce stress in the future.
Understanding your emotions is really the only way to overcome them. I am not saying that you need to be a robot to be successful. I am, however, saying that taking the time to identify how you feel and why you feel that way is more constructive in life than avoiding emotions, or trying to dull them with drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs. Being successful in life is not a defined list of things to do or not do. It is a dynamic, ever-changing collection of skills to handle whatever life throws at you.
Emotional intelligence is just one of these skills, and quite possibly – one of the most important.
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