What is emotional intelligence?

This has been a bit of a buzz word over the past few years… emotional intelligence, or EQ. But what does it mean?

Much like your IQ (intelligence quotient) looks at your overall intellect and knowledge base, your EQ (emotional quotient) looks at how well you handle emotions – identifying them, managing them, and harnessing them. Can you typically identify how you’re feeling? What about how other people are feeling? How successfully can you approach people during different emotional experiences?

Emotional intelligence considers your strengths and weaknesses both with your own emotional experience and with others’ emotional experience. There are several skills that impact our emotional intelligence:

  • Awareness of emotions – your own emotions, and those of others
  • Ability to harness and apply emotions appropriately to handle tasks (like staying calm enough to problem-solve a difficult issue)
  • Emotional regulation for yourself
  • Managing others’ emotions, to approach them appropriately given their emotions

We all have situations where our EQ is strong, and areas or situations when it is weaker. But emotions are important, and we cannot care for others well if we are emotionally bankrupt, manipulative with others’ emotions, or ignorant of how to engage with people struggling with a difficult experience.

Building your emotional intelligence

If you read the Psalms, there is a lot of emotion. This can be a great place to start – have you felt similarly to these psalmists? God has created us with emotions, and they are important to who we are and how we relate to others.

This recent Christianity Today article points to important information for pastors about their emotional intelligence, but the wisdom applies to all of us. The author recommends three strategies that he uses to build his own emotional intelligence: reflect on the gospel daily, receive correction and instruction, and resist the ego.

Is this easy? Of course not. But God does not call us to live an easy life where our top priority is what flavor of lemonade we want to sip on while we’re laying on the beach. He calls us to humble ourselves to Him, to love and help others as He directs, and to grow more and more like our Savior Jesus Christ. Understanding and strengthening your EQ will help you to do this better and better, day by day.