As a student attending a fairly preppy Catholic grade school, I became intimately familiar with IQ tests early in my life. But I never learned about EQ, aka emotional intelligence, and it seems plenty of other people haven't either. So you may be wondering how to know if you have high emotional intelligence, and if there are ways to boost your EQ the same way parents are urged to pump up their new babies' IQs.
Now that many of my friends are having kids of their own, it's impossible for me to avoid noticing that the focus on IQ begins almost immediately after a child is born. I see fresh-from-the-hospital baby announcement posts rife with well-meaning relatives telling new parents to play a certain kind of music, to watch only the "right" kind of TV programming, and to make sure babies are engaged with developmental activities that will make them smarter.
Never once, though, have I seen a comment about improving a baby's emotional intelligence quotient. Helpguide describes emotional intelligence as "the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict."
Lifehack posits that people with high emotional intelligence have more success socially, physically, and financially, because these areas of life involve interacting with other people. Which means that figuring out if you have high emotional intelligence and knowing how to increase your EQ if you don't can be helpful in improving everything from your relationship with your partners to your performance at work.
Here's the easiest question to begin telling if you have a high EQ: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Introverts tend to be less emotionally intelligent — not because we're stunted in some way, but because we usually prefer to spend time with ourselves than with other people. Emotional intelligence develops and improves the more you spend time with other folks, so if you avoid them, you're automatically at a disadvantage.
However, your answer to that question doesn't determine the end-all be-all of emotional intelligence, and your answer may not be one or the other. Extroverted introverts and introverted extroverts exist, and there are certainly introverts who have developed high emotional intelligence.
According to Helpguide, emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes: Self-awareness, which means you recognize your own emotions and see how they affect your thoughts and behavior; self-management, which means you're able to control your impulses, manage your emotions in a healthy way, and that you take initiative, follow through, and adapt easily to change; social awareness, which means you understand other people's emotions, can pick up emotional cues, and that you feel comfortable being social; and finally, relationship management, which is what it sounds like — you know how to form and maintain relationships, including working through communication issues, teaming up effectively, and managing conflict.
If you see many of the above qualities in yourself, your emotional intelligence level is likely high. Unlike IQ, the amount of emotional intelligence you have can be fairly easy to self-determine just by recognizing qualities you possess, and qualities you don't.
While there are conflicting opinions on how IQ can change or be changed over time, with emotional intelligence, it's a little simpler. Improving what we generally think of as "social skills" — the ability to hold a conversation, keep your emotions in check, and keep going when social situations are difficult — will increase your EQ. Also, there's evidence that your emotional intelligence naturally develops as you age.
If you want to start raising your emotional intelligence level now, though, Psychology Today offers a six-item list of things to focus on, and chief among them is the ability to manage your negative emotions. Preston Ni, writing for Psychology Today, advises that to improve negative emotion management, you should consider situations from other people's points of view, especially if you're being annoyed by them.
"People do what they do because of them more than because of us," Ni writes. "Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding."
Ni also suggests prioritizing stress management, learning the difference between being assertive (which is positive) and reactive (negative), learning to set boundaries with others and express difficult emotions when those boundaries are crossed, knowing how to react to a difficult person, and better understanding how to maintain emotional health in close relationships.
This may seem like an overwhelming list of things to learn if you have a low EQ, but many of them are related to one another. And you can start doing all of them by remembering to take a step back in social situations and evaluate how other people are affecting you, and how you're reacting to them.