What’s your emotional intelligence quotient?
Ever since Daniel Goleman’s international best-seller Emotional Intelligencewas released in 1995, interest in this quality has risen dramatically. Many psychologists and other experts claim that higher emotional intelligence (also known as EI or EQ) leads to better performance, better pay, and overall success.
But is emotional intelligence really all that it’s cracked up to be?
As a long-time student of EI, I’ve learned a lot over the years. (It’s also the topic of my forthcoming book.)
Here are nine brutal truths I’ve discovered about emotional intelligence.
1. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s real.
Some claim that emotional intelligence doesn’t really exist, that it’s a myth. The study of EI as a science is relatively new, and many psychologists disagree on its application.
But the general idea of EI has been around as long as we have. To boil it down to basics, ask yourself:
- Do emotions influence your thinking and decision making?
- Can awareness and deliberate efforts to control emotional reactions make a difference in behavior and outcomes?
The resounding answer to both these questions is yes.
Refusing to acknowledge this can lead to your emotions controlling you (instead of the other way around), and leaves you open to be unwittingly manipulated by others.
2. There’s no quick way to develop it.
When it comes to emotional intelligence, there’s no microwave way to success. Like any skill or ability, developing EI takes time and dedicated effort.
3. It’s easy to regress.
Since myriad factors influence your (and others’) emotions, it’s easy to fall back into bad habits or have a bout of bad decision-making.
Further, when it comes to understanding others’ feelings and emotions, time works against us. Research proves that even if we’ve experienced the same situation as another, we don’t remember it as well as we think we do.
4. It’s more about actions than feelings.
Are you the type who cries whenever you watch a sad movie? Do you get easily excited or angry?
Humans vary greatly in the way they experience emotions. Even after practice and effort, you can’t really control how you feel.
But you can control your reactions to those feelings. For example, you’ll still get angry. But by developing a method to deal with that anger, you work to avoid hurting yourself (and others).
5. It affects every. Single. Decision.
Does the question “What could go wrong?” lead to impulsive decisions you later regret? Or, in contrast, are you often paralyzed by an inability to move forward?
From helping you avoid major debt to helping you manage fear of the unknown, emotional intelligence touches practically every avenue of life.
6. It has a direct effect on your physical health.
Doctors and scientists have proved that stress can cause a variety of health problems, including headaches, muscle pain, stomach problems, and fatigue. It can even increase the risk of heart attack and other serious diseases.
This is all the more reason you should learn how to manage stress properly.
7. It can save your relationship.
Think about the last argument you had with your significant other. Where did things go wrong?
Emotional intelligence can help you:
- see the big picture;
- approach sensitive issues in a calm or rational manner;
- respond in a way that diffuses volatile situations.
Using EI to deal with disagreements turns potentially destructive conversations into opportunities to learn–and will help you and your partner discover new ways of working together.
8. Thoughts matter.
Emotional intelligence manifests itself in our actions, but it begins in the mind. Why?
So remember: If you dwell on something long enough, your behavior will eventually reflect those thoughts–for better or for worse.
9. It can be used for evil.
It’s important to know that, like any ability, emotional intelligence can be used both ethically and unethically. Every day, certain politicians, colleagues, and even supposed friends use emotionally intelligent skills to manipulate others.
Of course, this is just one more reason why you should work at raising your own EI, to protect yourself.
Because in the end, that’s what emotional intelligence is all about: making emotions work for you, instead of against you.
Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.