Emotional Intelligence is a hot topic in today’s workplace – especially for leaders. What is it? Do you have it? If you don’t, can you acquire it? Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer first coined “emotional intelligence,” or EQ, in 1990, describing it as: “The ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions to assist thought, [and] to understand emotions and emotional knowledge.” Today, it’s come to mean anything from an aptitude for small talk to near-supernatural abilities to read people. What is it really and how do we engage it more meaningfully?

As a Gallup-certified Clifton Strengths coach, my insights into emotional intelligence are based on the work I do with both visionary leaders and growth-minded professionals. Strengths are our innate talents that guide our performance in the workplace. A keen understanding of our strengths enables us to harness our potential, yielding increased productivity, retention, sales, profit and engagement on both customer and employee side. Clifton Strengths thus nurtures an enlightened performance, which helps leaders to manage more effectively while fostering team development.

The language of strengths provides an important framework that significantly heightens performance-driven self-awareness of both ourselves and others. This understanding solidifies team unity by cultivating compassion; we become less judgmental and more accepting. When applying my strengths expertise, I shine a light on my clients’ unique talents, coaching them to more fully embrace who they and others authentically are – rather than stressing about who they are not.

What constitutes emotional intelligence and how can we strengthen our foundation of understanding before building on it? Let’s explore how we can weave a tapestry of awareness that is comprised of the four fundamental components of emotional intelligence.

The EQ Framework
Thread #1: Self-Awareness – Know yourself. Easier said than done. The most important factor in attaining a genuine and accurate understanding of yourself is to avoid making assumptions.

Taking a formal assessment such as the Myer’s Briggs Test, Enneagram Test or the Clifton Strengths Assessment (my personal favorite) is a great start. Such assessments unlock your unique talents and uncover triggers to discover areas of opportunity for self-improvement. Helping people reach this level of self-awareness is my core mission as a strengths coach.

Self-awareness is a constant work in-progress, dictating performance, growth and leadership development. We all need time to think and reflect, whether it’s about actions and behavior or managing situations and responsibilities more effectively. Vulnerability and self-awareness provide the strength to know yourself (without being punitive) so you may embrace who you are. For many, a huge sigh of relief.

Thread #2: Self-Regulation – Emotion regulation is the key to managing stress brought on by day-to-day challenging situations or change.

Stephen Covey, the author of the best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states, “We all have a responsibility to choose our responses.”  Mastery over self-regulation is a pivotal skill critical to success. With a solid understanding, you know how to proactively calibrate your emotions up and down accordingly. This is one of the sturdiest tools of self-mastery we can engage to achieve higher levels of awareness.

Thread #3: Social Awareness – When you take a deep dive to better understand yourself, you broaden awareness and develop more sophisticated skills for responding to others.

Imagine you just received some news. Your immediate inclination might result in an emotionally delivered response, solely from your own perspective. However, with a considered response, when you pause to contemplate the other party’s perspective, a more insightful conveyance is not only delivered, but also better received in turn. This shift in perspective demonstrates empathy, another essential component of EQ. When applied universally to your life, this behavior is highly effective in fortifying constructive communications.

Thread #4: Relationship Management – We are highly social creatures and our relationships shape our lives. Our interactions are often central to cultivating meaningful and genuine connections.

How do we create connections? By being vulnerable? Researcher Brené Brown, who studies vulnerability, shame and courage, distilled the importance of vulnerability into this powerful sentiment: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Putting away our armor and opening ourselves up to being vulnerable is another proven pathway to establishing deeper authentic relationships.

Your own tapestry is uniquely comprised of these colorful threads of EQ.
Understand them.
Embrace them.
Leverage them with intention.
Share them.
Celebrate them.
And do so with the realization that they will continue to evolve, which makes the dynamic nature of personal growth so vibrant and exciting!

As in the immortal words of Carole King,
“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view.”

So…enjoy the view.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Get To Know The Author

Wexner Heritage Alum Marsha Berkson (San Diego 03) is a Gallup-Certified Clifton Strengths Coach/Consultant and a member of the Wexner Foundation Coaching Faculty. Marsha elevates professionals and drives organizational performance by harnessing her extensive experience as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, business advisor and Clifton Strengths Coach.  Marsha is a consultant to many organizations in her community and nation-wide, including but not limited to: Jewish Family Service, United Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Foundation, Hazon, Hillel International, and Avodah. Marsha resides in San Diego, CA. She is the proud mother of two sons, Brandon and Jacob. To learn more about Marsha, visit her web site.