Am I Emotionally Intelligent?

Illustration of two men heads with a heart and gears
Jimese Harkley, CUDE, J.D., SPP, CCE Photo

4 minutes

How to assess your current EI status and then take it to the next level

Isaac Newton is said to have said, “Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.” With this statement, Newton, famous for inventing calculus and for his work on forces during the 1600s, seems to have been well ahead of his time in understanding emotional intelligence.

The idea behind Newton’s quote is the now much-discussed “emotional intelligence,” defined by this Harvard Business School blog as “the ability to understand and manage your emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.”

According to the Harvard blog, the term emotional intelligence was first coined in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey, and popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman, who wrote a book on the subject.

It makes sense that having emotional intelligence would serve not just important scientists but also credit union leaders and team members. Let’s dive deeper into what it is and how to measure it, plus how to develop it further in yourself and your organization. 

5 Characteristics of High EQ

According to this article by Cornerstone University, emotional intelligence has five foundational characteristics:

  1. Self-Awareness. People who have a high EQ know what they’re feeling. 
  2. Self-Regulation. Emotions can hit people hard—and sometimes they come out of nowhere. A person with a high EQ can make choices about what they do with their emotions. They often have techniques at their disposal, such as breathing or taking a walk, that help them diffuse any emotion they’re feeling and effectively address it.
  3. Motivation. People with a high EQ can consistently move toward a positive attitude because they are regulating and reframing any difficult emotions they may be feeling. 
  4. Empathy. People with a high EQ are good at recognizing how others are feeling—they’re empathetic. And they can treat people accordingly. 
  5. Social skills. Finally, a person with high EQ will usually have solid interpersonal skills that they are constantly developing further. “It used to be that access to the greatest amount of information would allow you to succeed, but now that everyone has immediate access to knowledge, people skills are more important than ever,” the Cornerstone University article says.

Are you wondering how much emotional intelligence you have? Gauge it by taking a free online quiz, such as one of the following:

Growing Your Emotional Intelligence and That of Your Team

According to an article from The Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University, developing emotional intelligence is an ongoing and very individual process. However, three key steps might help you on your journey.

1. Recognize and name your emotions. Try doing these exercises right now. Notice what emotions you are feeling. Ask yourself: “What are the emotions I typically feel in a stressful situation?” and “How do I usually respond in those situations?” Practice taking a moment to name your feelings. When you can pause and think before you act, you are developing emotional intelligence.

2. Ask for feedback. Audit your self-perception by asking people around you to rate your emotional intelligence. Find out how they see you responding (or reacting) to difficult situations, how empathetic they find you and how well you handle conflict. Don’t discount what they say! Reflect on it and find ways to let that information help you grow.

3. Read fiction. Studies show that reading books with complex characters can help us understand real people.

Building emotional intelligence is an important task for everyone and especially for leaders. To create an emotionally intelligent team, managers and supervisors must model the desired behavior, the Harvard article asserts.

“If you want to change how your organization does in EI, you can set norms for how people communicate and how they disagree,” Margaret Andrews, instructor of emotional intelligence in leadership, says in the article. 

Andrews recommends recognizing and celebrating team members who demonstrate emotional intelligence. “Start making heroes of people who help other people,” she says. “It’s not just the person who got to the top of the mountain first—it’s all the people who helped them. If you want to encourage good team behavior, recognize it, and call it out for what it is.”

Membership in industry associations like CUES can help you with your efforts to build your emotional intelligence and that of your team with things like online courses and networking, in-person events, and informative content. Let me know how I can help you join.

Jimese Harkley, JD, CUDE, SPP, CCE, is VP/membership for CUES.

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