If IQ is “Intelligence Quotient,” then EQ is “Emotional Quotient.” Put simply, this measure represents our ability to understand other people and to influence their decision-making processes for our own ends. While this might sound like manipulation — and it certainly can make manipulation easier — it’s also important in aiding the development and strengthening of relationships and in helping us to get along with others.
The Power of EQ
In many areas, Emotional intelligence can be more valuable than IQ, especially in business settings.
Think about it for a moment. As an employer, who would you rather work with? Someone who is attentive, who listens to what you have to say, who communicates well and who is able to change the opinion of others? Or someone who is great at math but can’t get along with the team? Much of business has to do with communication and working with others, so EQ is a highly valuable skill.
Outside of work, emotional intelligence is also highly important. It makes someone a better parent who can sympathize with their children and motivate them to behave in certain ways. It’s also undoubtedly the biggest factor when it comes to finding and securing a romantic relationship.
The Neuroscience of Emotional Intelligence
While emotional intelligence can certainly be broken down into a series of learnable abilities, it’s also strongly linked to our personalities and to neurological processes. In many ways, our capacity for understanding emotions and controlling our own is biological. Let’s look at how all this works.
Our emotions are generally regulated by neurotransmitters and hormones that our body releases in response to different stimuli. A good example is when the body releases endorphins or “feel good hormones” that act as antidepressants, which help us to combat pain and stress. These are produced when we think about people we love, when we’re very happy and when we exercise.
We also produce cortisol — the stress hormone — when we think about things that make us anxious like waking up to an alarm. We produce norepinephrine when we’re scared, melatonin when we’re tired and dopamine when we’re focused and motivated.
Ultimately, these chemicals tell our brain how we should feel about certain things, whether we should remember them and how our body should respond.
However, everyone has different levels of these chemicals meaning some people are naturally “happier” than others. The good news is that tools like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach us to control our reactions to things by seeing them in a different way. This is the first step towards better emotional intelligence.
Empathy, it seems, is controlled by “mirror neurons,” which fire in the brain when we see other people. When we see someone rejected by their crush on TV, our mirror neurons fire and we feel sad. Likewise, when someone smiles at us, our mirror neurons fire and we produce serotonin and feel happier. This is what gives us empathy and it’s largely what makes many of our social interactions possible.
At the same time, when you see someone smile, you automatically tend to copy that gesture and smile yourself. This, in turn, can lead to something called “facial feedback,” which basically means we produce neurotransmitters that are in keeping with the expression we are exhibiting.
So, if you want to feel better, just try smiling!
Donna S. Vieira is a certified Gentle Trauma Release Practitioner and Astro-Empowerment Coach who uses her knowledge of Astrology in sessions with her clients. She’s also a published freelance travel and lifestyle writer, blogger, and editor who has traveled the globe. You can read about some of her travels at FromMyTravelBag.com. She and her chef husband, Fernando, own Globetrotters Bed & Breakfast/Gallery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, where they have been welcoming guests from around the world since 2002.