The University Record, May 22, 2000

Practice five key concepts to improve your EQ

By Britt Halvorson

Do you have a high EQ? EQ has nothing to do with knowledge of start-up Internet companies or the functions of e-mail, but everything to do with your understanding of emotions.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) was the focus of a Workplace 2000 program led by Janell Kilgore, a staff counselor in the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. EQ, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book of the same title, refers to people’s awareness, management and expression of emotions within themselves and others.

People often feel uncomfortable when discussing their feelings because they think negatively of expressing emotions or see them as problematic, especially in the workplace, Kilgore commented. To better understand emotions and the behaviors that result from them, Kilgore said, we must turn to biology and the evolution of man. “We learned to feel before we learned to think,” she said, describing the evolution of the human brain and the instinctual behaviors “primitive” man exhibited. The strong physical reactions we have when we feel anger, happiness, love, surprise, disgust and sadness, for example, illustrate the idea that emotions preceded intelligence.

“IQ is not the determining factor for success,” Kilgore said. IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces, including EQ, she noted. Goleman writes that “the vast majority of one’s ultimate niche in society is determined by non-IQ factors, ranging from social class to luck.” Emotional intelligence is one of those factors that can be improved or enhanced.

According to Kilgore, understanding and practicing five key concepts can improve your emotional intelligence.

Knowing one’s own emotions

Recognize and name emotions you feel; understand why you feel that way; and distinguish between feelings and actions. “As a parent, you can begin now with your children, teaching them about their emotions. But first you have to know your own. You have to be able to tell yourself what you’re feeling,” Kilgore said.

Motivating oneself

When considering how to productively harness your feelings, practice some emotional self-control and delay gratification, Kilgore advises. Stanford University researchers tested children’s impulse control by placing a marshmallow in front of them and telling them that they would receive a second one if the first remained when the adult leading the group, who needed to leave the room, returned.

The longitudinal study found that, overall, the children who delayed gratification and did not eat the marshmallow were more successful later in life—as measured by a range of factors including happiness, income and job satisfaction—than those children who ate the marshmallow.

Recognizing emotions in others

The ability to take another person’s perspective, Kilgore said, is a skill that effective managers and supervisors possess. Emotionally intelligent individuals also are sensitive to other people’s feelings and listen well. Kilgore led workshop participants through an exercise designed to illustrate these ideas. She showed two emotionally charged clips from the movies Parenthood and E.T., asking individuals to write down emotions they saw exhibited by the characters’ body language. Participants also wrote down their own feelings during each scene. The group’s list demonstrated the many emotions seen through the films’ characters, as well as the different ways people felt about the same scenes.

Parents also can help their children connect feelings with labels so they can express them more effectively.

Managing emotions

Accept your feelings, but find a balance between over sensitivity or over expression and emotional suppression. Kilgore said her teenage daughters, when angry, have sometimes stomped up the stairs in their home. While some people may find this behavior unacceptable, Kilgore said she finds it healthy for them to express their emotions rather than suppressing them.

Handling relationships

Being perceptive, applying conflict management skills instead of ignoring conflict, and being considerate and cooperative are part of maneuvering relationships from an emotionally intelligent perspective. Kilgore also stresses that communication skills are essential to healthy relationships. She suggests that individuals practice using “I” statements more often when describing feelings.

“You have to find a balance [of emotions]. Motivate yourself to do something about it,” Kilgore said.