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EQ: The Swiss Army Knife of Life-Part 1/Introduction

Without any show of hands, if I were to ask if you were familiar with the term IQ, the answer would likely be yes. And if I were to ask you to define IQ, it would probably be something like: “IQ is a numeric score derived from a test designed to assess intelligence”. Or put simply, one could summarize, “IQ is a number that determines how smart someone is”. Even if we have never taken an IQ test and have no idea what our actual IQ score is, we have been conditioned throughout life to understand that being born with a high IQ is a good bit of luck indeed. It’s widely recognized as a desirable, door-opening attribute associated with paving the way to success. Right or wrong, IQ has long been held as a sort of measuring stick for how much potential someone had to rise through the ranks of life, including professional careers.

This traditional line of thinking is coming into question as more attention is given to the significance of Emotional Intelligence, commonly referred to as EQ. One crucial distinction between EQ and IQ is that EQ is a score that can be increased over time, whereas IQ is considered to be a fixed point throughout our life.

I spend a fair amount of time speaking about EQ to individuals as well as groups. In this six-part series of Bar Talk, I would like to share some of the main components and approaches that you can easily incorporate into your life to elevate your personal and professional results along with your relationships with others. One of the reasons EQ is such a critical topic to learn more about is that it plays a central role in our lives on a daily basis, both in managing our thoughts and mindset and our interactions with all of the people in our life. To underscore the level of significance it plays, Dr.Daniel Goleman, widely considered the pioneering voice and researcher of EQ consider these skillsets the defining factors in determining our level of health, wealth and happiness in life.

Whether or not you have heard the term ‘emotional intelligence’, you see it (or a lack of it), continuously, even if you haven’t consciously recognized it as EQ. For example, maybe you work with someone who is incredibly bright and a subject matter expert in your industry. They are also a nightmare to deal with by being argumentative, condescending, and always ready to criticize. Generally speaking, they could be described as having a toxic personality. On the other end of the spectrum is a co-worker who has a magnetic personality, seems to be known and loved by all, and has every door and opportunity open to them. They can diffuse stress, effectively communicate with any audience, create collaboration, and move through the world with ease and a smile. Perhaps you know someone like this and have thought at some point, “they’re so lucky!”. It’s not luck if it’s repeatable, and it’s likely that person has a high level of EQ and puts the work in to stay sharp in all of the areas that shine through. Or in other words: “do what others won’t, get results that others don’t”.

Before we dig into the various areas of EQ, let’s first pause to consider how our fantastic human brain is wired up. All of our senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) enter our body as signals that travel through our spinal cord into our brain. Once the signals come into our brain, the first stop is our limbic system, where our emotions are created. Following that, those signals travel to our neocortex, where the rational part of our brain is, and logic prevails. Here’s the problem, before all of these input messages coming into our body have a chance to arrive at the rational part of our brain, we are already having an emotional reaction to them. This default brain setting served our ancient ancestors well when they were facing mortal dangers hunting for food and fending off predators which required making instantaneous fight or flight choices, but in the present day we are most often best served by thinking before reacting. Our brain has not changed with the times, so it’s up to us to develop the practice of recognizing the fact that emotional responses are always occurring, but without being hijacked by them. Think of it this way, on the great road trip of life our emotions are always along for the ride. We choose whether to let them drive or keep them in the passenger seat.

EQ can be broken down into four distinct areas: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, and Relationship Management. In next week’s’ Part 2 edition I’ll provide an overview of the first personal competency: Self-Awareness. In each of the sections we will cover some straightforward techniques that can be put into practice immediately if you start developing the habit. Like many other self-development concepts, these are easy to do and also easy not to do, but I’m confident the result you will start seeing early on will motivate you to want to continue developing these powerful skillsets.


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