What is Emotional Intelligence - How does It Make You More Resilient?
General intelligence or IQ has been traditionally regarded as a means to predict one’s chances of success in life. However emotional intelligence as a new form of intelligence has been gaining a lot of popularity lately. It has come to be referred to as Emotional Quotient (EQ). Earlier emotions were looked upon as barriers to clear reasoning and logic, but now the ability to understand and regulate emotions is of utmost importance in coping with the challenges of this unpredictable world. This is especially true during this time of COVID-19.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990).
One of the most comprehensive models of emotional intelligence is the Competency model by Goleman (1995) which defines abilities such as being able “to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize, and to hope.”
He defined emotional intelligence in terms of
- commitment and integrity,
- an ability to communicate,
- initiate change and accept change.
He proposed five dimensions with 25 competencies under it, namely: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills. Thus, emotional intelligence involves a variety of components that include recognizing and understanding one’s and others’ emotions, regulating them, motivating ourselves and using them in meaningful ways to manage social relationships.
Emotional Intelligence and its Benefits
The components of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, self-control, empathy and social skills help individuals understand others’ emotions and needs. Research evidence has indicated that a person with high EQ has:
- better interpersonal relationships,
- communication skills
- practices pro-social behaviour.
Students high in emotional intelligence have been found to have:
- higher academic achievement
- better impulse control
- better stress management
- better workplace productivity,
A study by Bar-On (2012) found that people who are more emotionally intelligent felt healthier than those who were less emotionally intelligent. Nearly 25% of self-perceived physical health was found to be influenced by one's level of emotional intelligence. Through self-awareness, one can understand whether or not one is feeling stressed, and can also spot the causes of stress. An emotionally intelligent person can then engage in emotional self-regulation to manage their stress.
Another important component of emotional intelligence is self-control. This plays a crucial role in both physical and mental health in terms of:
- eating a healthy diet,
- not getting involved in substance abuse
- being assertive
- making the right long term choices
Emotional Intelligence and Resilience
Resilience refers to the ability to adapt and bounce back in the face of adversity.
The distress felt in times of adversity can
- cause problems in interpersonal relationships,
- problems at the workplace,
- health and financial problems
- Self-image and identity issues.
Developing resilience allows a person to effectively cope and bounce back from these setbacks and challenges. A vast majority of research shows that people with better EI have better resilience. Schneider et al. (2013) demonstrated that EI facilitates stress resilience.
The EI abilities believed to facilitate resilient stress responses include:
- challenge appraisals,
- more positive and less negative affect.
Daniel Goleman explained how emotional intelligence can be a critical factor affecting a person’s resilience during crises. He explained that a person who is self-aware, socially adept, and empathetic will be able to survive and thrive in a life crisis because of having the social and relational skills required to handle unexpected and unfortunate circumstances.
According to Salovey et al (1999) people with better EI fare better with the emotional requests of stressful situations as they are able to “accurately perceive and appraise their emotions, know-how and when to express their feelings, and can effectively regulate their mood states.” Emotionally resilient individuals are high in emotional self-awareness and believe that they are in control of all situations which makes it easier for them to adapt and handle challenges in times of crises.
Also read: Being Better: Mantra to a Better Life
COVID-19 and Resilience
Speaking of crises, COVID-19 has been one of the worst, unprecedented disasters to hit the globe in the past few years. COVID-19 is a novel infectious disease primarily affecting the lungs, which has caused a pandemic affecting 213 countries and territories. The pandemic and the laws imposed to curb its spread, mainly the lockdown, restrictions on the manufacture, air and travel, industries, offices, etc, have led to a social, psychological and economic crisis which has had an impact on the mental health of individuals belonging to various communities irrespective of age, gender, race, caste or class in some context or another.
During such a crisis, the term resilience and the need to foster it amongst ourselves has been discussed quite a number of times in order to successfully adapt and cope with the challenges set by this pandemic. Being resilient requires one to be emotionally intelligent, so here is a list of some important EI components and strategies to develop and become emotionally resilient during this tough time:
Self – Awareness
Emotional self-awareness refers to being aware of one’s feelings, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses. It involves trying to understand the causes of one’s emotional state and the physiological changes that occur while experiencing a certain emotion. It is important to understand the effect of certain emotions on oneself in order to manage them better.
The Resilience Doughnut Model was proposed by Lyn Worsley to help young adults build resilience by accounting for an individual’s capacity, the availability of resources and the presence of adversity, considering the internal qualities and the environmental contexts in which an individual develops.
She used three phrases: I have, I am, and I can, to make young adults self-aware about their strengths, resources of coping and self-motivation, which are all essential components of emotional intelligence.
The three categories namely: I am, refers to accounting one’s personal strengths (eg, I am a strong and caring person); I have, refers to external resources promoting resilience (eg, I have people who help me when I am sick); I can, refers to one’s social and interpersonal skills (eg, I can find ways to solve problems that I face). Following these categories and reminding ourselves of our strengths, support systems, resources and abilities can build emotional resilience within and aid in fighting this pandemic.
This ability refers to managing one’s emotions in healthy ways, controlling impulsive feelings and behaviours, following through on commitments, and adapting to changing circumstances. Emotional self-management incorporates the ability to think clearly under stress and not let disruptive emotions and impulses take over us. It is the ability to channel our emotional energy into achieving our goals.
Self-motivation which is an important component of emotional self-management refers to the ability to have a sense of purpose and garnering resources to achieve goals in the face of adversity without being affected by emotions and impulses. Becoming skilful at emotional self-management requires one to think clearly, stay focused and calm in the face of adversity, and having control over one’s mood swings. During the pandemic, it is important to maintain self-control and adapt especially when nothing seems to be in control, it becomes essential to develop effective core life skills, set goals and achieve them by being self-motivated.
According to Anand (2016), effective ways to enhance emotional self-management are:
- Using emotions in a positive way.
- Reducing the intensity of emotion and trying to adopt a positive emotional state.
- Anticipating the negative consequences of emotions.
- Finding a safe outlet for venting.
- Writing down about emotional experiences
- Being aware of different words to describe our emotions or anxiety.
- Setting short term and long term goals and following up on them
- Seeking social support,
- Taking time out,
- sing effective coping strategies like humour.
Empathy refers to the ability of understanding others’ emotions, feelings, and needs from their frame of reference, and the capacity to place oneself in their position. Empathy forms an important component of EI as by understanding the feelings of others, we can effectively manage our interpersonal relationships and develop social skills.
By being empathetic, one can understand
- the perspectives, realities,
- needs and emotional states of the mind of other
- an increased sense of social awareness.
- an increased sense of social responsibility.
Combining social awareness with empathy has been the need of the hour for building resilient communities during COVID-19 pandemic. Emotionally intelligent individuals know how to provide empathy to those around them by being supportive and compassionate. Instances of individuals and communities providing beds, cutting rent for tenants, holding langar and providing food to the less fortunate, distributing PPE kits, providing transportation services for migrants, donating to PM Fund cares, etc., have been effective ways of fostering resilience in people. because helping others provides meaning to one’s life.
Social skills and relationship management
Goleman (1995) hypothesized that emotional intelligence plays a role in establishing and maintaining relationships, and Saarni (1999) posited that the related construct of emotional competence is a crucial component of social development and contributes to the quality of interpersonal relationships. The ability to understand emotions forms the basis for positive interpersonal relationship management and social skills such as:
- conflict management,
- change catalyst and teamwork.
Individuals competent in communication not only know what to say but also know what not to say or express so as to not hurt others’ feelings. They use open communication to resolve conflicts by reflective listening and reframing perceptions.
According to Anand (2016), there are strategies for developing and maintaining relationships that can aid in fostering resilience within relationships during this pandemic:
- Understanding the importance of social support in one’s life.
- Valuing the needs, values, and emotions of other people.
- Identifying potential in others and helping them develop it.
- Expressing care and love for other people.
- Not giving mixed signals and giving direct and constructive feedback.
- Practicing emotional self-management.
Understanding and using all the components of emotional intelligence can help one become resilient. Reflecting and reminding ourselves of our strengths and resources, and keeping the will to try, is the key to fighting any adversity that comes our way in life. As the author of Emotional Intelligence: Resilience, Daniel Goleman once said, “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering,, and then trying again.”
Edited by Bhavya Chauhan