Can Emotional Intelligence Be Learned?

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Emotional intelligence is something that not only can be learned—it is something that should be learned.

Wondering what emotional intelligence or EQ looks like practically? EQ can be broken down into 5 main components: self-awareness, personal motivation, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills.

And unlike IQ, you are not born into this world with a predetermined capacity for emotional intelligence. In fact, the only way to develop emotional intelligence is through practice.

Now, some of you may have grown up in families with a high EQ. That simply means you started building the components of emotional intelligence at a younger age.

It still was something that had to be practiced as it was modeled. It is also something you can train your children in right now.

You have been learning EQ most of your life, but you may not recognize it as that.

Think about your teenage years. As you learned to relate to your peers, there was assumably feedback. You were told what you did well, what you didn’t do well, and through inclusion or seclusion—you found out specifically the impact you had on others.

Life experiences will give you feedback.

But do you know how to use that feedback to grow? Where to start learning?

People are not completely void of emotional intelligence. All of us have it. The key is that we need to strengthen it.

One of the greatest training grounds for building emotional intelligence is found in our interpersonal relationships.

We don’t strengthen EQ just for the sake of strengthening it.

We want to further develop EQ in our life because we want to thrive in relationships and how we manage our internal reactions to those around us.

As I mentioned earlier, there are always data points present in relationships if you know how to look for them.

There are data points about who we are, and what we do well.

In the midst of conflict, there are data points related to how we regulate what is going on inside of us.

Now, as any data analyst will tell you—your data is useful only to the degree you know how to interpret and implement it.

To illustrate this another way, I want you to think about muscle training.

When you begin the quest to build muscle, you start with isolating the muscle you want to strengthen.

Once you have isolated the targeted muscle, you begin a regimen of strengthening and rest.

You find an exercise that fully engages the muscle, and then after a certain number of repetitions, you rest it. You repeat the process of engaging the muscle and resting it until you reach the desired result.

Anyone who has gone through this cycle will tell you—the more you fully engage the muscle, the stronger it gets.

The same principle applies to the components of EQ.

The more you isolate a component of EQ, and work to apply it to a real-life relationship—the stronger that component will become.

When you think of self-awareness, self-motivation, and self-regulation, it makes sense.

The more we connect with people on a genuine level, the more we are able to process how we react to things internally as well as our fortitude to take feedback from the relationship and grow.

Life is as difficult as it is wonderful. Relationships are the same.

Being teachable and humble enough to learn from those experiences will help develop and grow your emotional intelligence.

If you feel stuck in finding everyday data points, ask yourself the following questions: How do I process failure? How do I process disappointment?

If you see your relationships, or personal motivation breaking down related to these questions—there may be an opportunity to grow in EQ.

Some people ask me how long it takes to learn emotional intelligence.

My answer to this question may seem trite, but I don’t mean it to be.

You can learn and implement EQ in one day, but it is a life-long journey of growth and discovery.

I personally believe I am good at a lot of components of EQ. I get feedback about it and it is what makes my consulting practice so successful.

Even so, I am constantly learning about myself.

Every day I learn more about what I do well, and what I don’t do well. What others think about me, and the impact I have on them.

When I am open to that feedback and receive it well, there are pearls of data that lead me to continued growth.

For example, I do a lot of training on how to have successful difficult conversations. It is one of the things I am known for.

That doesn’t mean that they are easy for me to have.

When I am in a difficult conversation, I choose to look for data points that can clue me into areas I need to develop and grow in.

When I feel pain or frustration, I ask myself—where is this coming from?

I choose to be honest about the areas I lack in, isolate them through self-awareness, and commit myself to strengthen that area through practice.

EQ is something we all can and should continue to learn.

Sometimes it is a simple task, other times it takes a bit more bravery.

Regardless, it is essential to healthy living.

Emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, is an essential quality of effective leaders, employees, and people.

But, how do you practically go about increasing awareness of both yourself and your surroundings?  

We’ve created our free guide entitled, “10 Things You Can Do Today To Increase Emotional Intelligence” to help you begin to learn how to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and leverage this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Download it here.