What is EQ?

EQ stands for “emotional intelligence.” (You’ll also see it abbreviated as EI.) Think of it as a sibling to IQ, or one’s intelligence quotient. 

Emotional intelligence “is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions,” says John D. Mayer. He, along with fellow psychology professor Peter Salovey, coined the term in 1990

Where IQ tests measure how well a person solves problems, understands complex ideas, and uses logic, EQ tests evaluate one’s ability to sense emotions in themselves and others and respond appropriately, as well as learn from these mental states. EQ is also more flexible; we can gain emotional intelligence skills and improve them over time, whereas our ability to learn (IQ) tends to remain static throughout our lifetime. “There is no known connection between IQ and emotional intelligence,” says Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman expanded on the concept—and brought EQ into the mainstream—by developing the emotional intelligence quadrant. These are the four main elements of EQ:

Self-awareness—the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and how they impact others
Self-regulation—the ability to manage one’s emotions, especially when anxious or stressed
Social awareness—the ability to recognize and understand others’ emotions (empathy is key here) 
Social skills—the ability to successfully and effectively interact with others

The 4 Quadrants of EQ (emotional intelligence)

Why does EQ matter? 

We sense, evaluate, and respond to emotions all day long. Which means that EQ impacts our interactions at work, at school, at home, and, importantly, in our interpersonal relationships.

People with lower EQs tend to become overwhelmed by their emotions, have difficulty being assertive, get easily upset or frustrated, and often feel misunderstood. Those with high EQs, on the other hand, tend to remain calm during stressful situations, relate to and collaborate well with others, have excellent communication skills, are good at helping others achieve their goals or resolve conflicts, and understand how their emotions are linked to their actions. 

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence is high among effective leaders and is the strongest predictor of workplace performance (which can, in turn, result in higher salaries).

How do you improve EQ?

As we mentioned before, emotional intelligence can be learned and improved over time. 

Though you won’t see a class called “emotional intelligence,” EQ development is infused throughout Equinox’s treatment program

You don’t have to be in treatment to work on upping your emotional IQ, though. You can train your brain by doing things like:

Name your emotions. What are you feeling in this moment? (Use “I feel” statements instead of “You should or You did.) When something stressful occurs, what emotions come up for you? How would you prefer to react at those times?
Take responsibility for your actions. Did you make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings? Apologize.
Be an active listener. Don’t just wait for the other person to stop talking so you can chime in. Truly listen to what’s being said. Pay attention to nonverbal cues too. 
Practice responding instead of reacting when conflicts arise. That means remaining calm and thinking through your response rather than acting impulsively.
Be empathetic. 
Ask others for feedback. Consider it a quick check on your self-perception.