Emotional Intelligence: The Role of Emotions in Our Health, Happiness and Productivity

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emotional intelligenceWe don’t live in a society that is particularly comfortable with feelings. Talking about feelings, expressing feelings, and understanding feelings don’t tend to be sexy topics in today’s age. As a culture, we just don’t value emotions the way we value productivity or happiness.

But new research is finding that if we can understand our emotions, we can take steps to become much more productive and happy in life overall—and that’s sexy. I saw Marc Brackett, Ph.D. and the Director of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, speak at Wisdom 2.0 last week, and was inspired by the level of research done on this topic, among both kids and adults. Not only are studies validating the importance of paying attention to emotions (for a wide range of reasons, which I’ll dive into in a moment), but the Center is developing practical tools and strategies to increase emotional intelligence. They believe that if we can increase our emotional intelligence as a whole, we can create a healthier, more compassionate society.

Brackett began his presentation by talking about the importance of emotions; I’ll do my best to summarize and provide my take on the importance of emotional intelligence. But first, an important question…

Why Do Emotions Matter?

Twenty years of research done at Yale found that emotions matter for many reasons, five of the primary reasons they matter at work and school are related to:

  • Attention, Memory and Learning: If you’re feeling stressed out, it’s difficult to learn, be productive, and work effectively. If you’re feeling bored, it’s difficult to focus and pay attention.
    A recent study surveyed 22,000 high school students around the country and found that about 75 percent of the words they chose to describe their emotional states were negative, 23 percent were positive, and 2 percent were neutral. The top three emotions tallied were: Tired, stressed and bored. They correlated these negative emotional states to lowered academic performance. In other words, our nation’s youth is not learning in an environment (or in emotional states) conducive to learning.
  • Decision-Making and Judgment: Your mood affects the decisions you make. If you’re a manager interviewing candidates, you will likely have a very different perspective on your interviewee if you are in a good mood, versus if you are in a bad mood. The research at Yale found that teachers actually graded papers significantly higher in certain moods, than in other moods.
  • Relationship Quality: Emotions drive the quality of our connections, which impacts our happiness levels and quality of life. Wouldn’t you rather be in the company of a positive friend than one who is constantly complaining? Don’t you feel more inspired when around optimistic people?
  • Physical and Mental Health: Stress and anxiety cause a host of physical and mental health issues. When you learn to manage your stress and mental states in an effective way, you can manage them before they take a toll on physical and mental well-being.
  • Everyday Effectiveness: If you can understand the mental state you’re in, you can pair the type of work that would be most effective to match your mood.

When the research team at Yale found how large of a role emotions had on our lives, they sought to answer the question: Can you teach emotional intelligence?

And they found the answer to be: Yes, you can.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence, sometimes referred to as emotional quotient, or simply EQ, was a concept developed by two researchers named John Mayer and Peter Salovey in the early 90’s. In conversation one day, they were wondering how smart people can act dumb? And what they concluded was: “Smart decision-making requires more than the intellect as measured by traditional IQ.”

And EQ was born. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as, “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” Emotional intelligence is commonly associated with these skills: awareness of emotions, harnessing of emotions, and managing of emotions.

People can be skilled at any or all of these categories, and their proficiency of these skills translates to their EQ.

How do you teach strategies to improve emotional intelligence?

RULER: 5 Skills of Emotional Intelligence

Brackett said, “Labeling your emotions is key. If you can name it, you can tame it.” He and his team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence identified five skills that measure emotional intelligence and when practiced, they can increase EQ. They are easily remembered with the acronym, R.U.L.E.R. Here is what they stand for:

R: Recognizing emotions in self and others

This skill relates to being able to recognize the facial expressions, body language, physiology, and vocal tones in ourselves and others.

U: Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions

This skill gets to the bottom of what causes our emotional states. Do you often know where your emotional state is coming from? For example, the difference between anger and disappointment often is the presence of an unmet expectation. Can you identify the causes behind your emotions?

L: Labeling emotions accurately

This skill is in pairing words to accurately and specifically describe your state. Learning the right words to describe emotional states is important to express and manage emotions going forward.

E: Expressing emotions accurately

This skill is the ability to discern how and when to express emotions in various situations, with different people, at different times, and in different cultures.

R: Regulating emotions effectively

This is the skill of being able to tap into strategies that balance your emotions and teach others to manage theirs.

Through hundreds of studies and the application of the RULER method, the research has found that emotional intelligence level can predict everything from leadership skills, academic performance, job satisfaction, and overall health and well-being.

Emotional Intelligence at Work

The results from the research found that those with higher EQ levels are overall better employees and teammates. More specifically, what they found is:

Managers: Managers with higher EQ have increased empathy, are rated as more effective leaders by both peers and direct employees, and get better performance reviews and bigger raises

Teams: Teams with higher EQ levels are more productive, can do more in less time, are more satisfied, have better team communication, and receive more social support from fellow team members.

Want to boost your emotional intelligence? Read Part 2 of this series on emotional intelligence.

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Melissa Eisler

Melissa Eisler is an ICF Certified Leadership and Executive Coach, certified meditation and yoga instructor, and author. She created Mindful Minutes to offer practical, relatable anecdotes and tips on how to bring mindfulness into the busyness of the digital age. Her intention is to share what she learns about overcoming her own challenges with meditation, mindfulness, and life balance while maintaining a challenging schedule and career. Learn more about Melissa here.

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