How many times have you had an interaction with someone who is really smart (in terms of IQ) but has no clue as to how you are feeling, what you are thinking or how to handle a challenging situation? The person may have gone to all the best schools and even have a fancy degree and title, but they lack emotional intelligence (EQ). When this happens at home relationships become strained and can fall apart. When it happens in the workplace it’s really frustrating and causes many people to want to quit their jobs.

Dan Goleman brought the concept of EQ to the main stage with his book, Emotional Intelligence, which changed the way we think about what makes people and leaders successful. Having talent, skills and knowledge is a good start but not enough — you need to be able to effectively deal with all types of people. Building your EQ is available to all of us regardless of your age, education, financial status or background, but only some of us invest the time and energy to leverage this essential component.

IQ and EQ are very different. Many people may have a high IQ with impressive analytical and technical skills. The question we now need to ask is what’s our EQ and how am I showing up as a leader at home and work? Specifically, employers are now focusing on EQ rather than just IQ. They would prefer to have someone with a good attitude and teach him additional skills.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and why do we care?

Per Dan Goleman, Emotional intelligence is the “ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.” This includes not only the easy relationships but the challenging ones too. The term empathy is important too and takes into consideration understanding not just someone’s feelings but a different perspective they may have as well as their drives and needs.

There are four main areas to better understand and explore EQ:

1. Self-Awareness: The ability to realistically understand your strengths and weaknesses and recognize their impact. Think of the term “know thyself.” This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any weaknesses or areas to improve just that you understand yourself and your capabilities. It can be very frustrating to work with or be friends with someone that has no awareness of how others perceive them. And as a result, the person does not effectively use his or her strengths and know which areas to focus on for improvement.

Q: How are you using your top three strengths on a daily basis and are you aware of your strengths that may go south and derail you both at home and work?

2. Self-Management: The ability to control your disruptive emotions and impulses. We all have that person in our life who is overly dramatic about every single situation and therefore derails most situations. People with high EQ are able to match the emotion with the situation to keep things on track. It’s tough but it can be done.

Q: How well do your friends and co-workers think you match an emotion to a situation to keep things on track instead of derail it?

3. Social awareness: The ability to accurately understand other people’s emotions and perspectives as well as their needs. This also includes accurately assessing what happens in a meeting or the dynamics of a team or organization. Recently, I had a situation where I spoke to three people to understand what happened and one person had a completely different and unrealistic account of what happened due to low EQ.

Q: How accurately do you understand a conversation? Would others agree with your perceptions?

4. Relationship Management: The ability to cultivate relationships plus manage and resolve the difficult ones with grace. I’ve had a few bosses that were masters in handling a difficult situation or even firing someone and still managed to maintain a friendship or professional relationship with the person. That’s a skill that people with high EQ succeed in.

Q: How well do you manage the difficult conversations and what impact do they have on your relationships?

A few gentle signs that you may need to work on your EQ:

  • You get impatient and frustrated when others don’t understand something
  • You don’t care if people like you
  • You find others are to blame for most of the issues on your team

Emotional intelligence is an essential component to focus on as you strive to develop better relationships whether you are an entrepreneur, student, mom, business professional, artist, writer or musician.

The effectiveness and meaningfulness of our interactions will dictate the success and engagement of our lives. @AlissaFinerman (Click to Tweet!)

And similar to becoming a master in anything, this too is a process and takes time and awareness.

What’s a simple step you can take today to build your awareness and emotional intelligence?

Alissa Finerman is a Professional Business/Life Coach, motivational speaker, and author of Living in Your Top 1%. She works with individuals and organizations to help them think bigger, redefine what’s possible, and get results. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has appeared on national radio stations such as CBS and Clear Channel Radio and has worked with the Milken Institute, LA Business Journal, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and NBC Universal. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Viktor Hanacek.