As part of our Back to Basics series, there’s one critical human skill that often helps or hurts us in life and our relationship with others; That skill, which we are not born with is, how we deal with and react to others and events in life. It’s often been said that 90% of life is how we deal with what happens to us and only 10% of what actually happens.  Most would agree that an over reaction can make things worse.

Have you ever wondered to yourself why people do the things they do or say the things they say? Have you ever met someone who was constantly negative or complained about anything and everything? Have you ever wished you could of handled a situation better than you did? We all have! A lot of our success or failure in life is due to something called “Emotional Intelligence”.

I like to consider myself, what one of my favorite leadership gurus Chris Brady calls, a “Prodigious noticer”. I find it interesting, sometimes comical, sometimes disturbing, to watch people’s reactions and interactions with situations and others around them. Whether it be close family members, friends, people at work or those you meet for the first time, it seems even the most intelligent (IQ) people struggle in Life simply because they lack Emotional Intelligence. I know that in my professional and personal life, one of the main things I try to work on every day is to increase my EQ. Let’s go over what EQ is and how growing your EQ skills can radically change your life.

Ok, so What is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional Intelligence as defined by Wikipedia is: (EI or EQ) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

One of my favorite books, Emotional Intelligence, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, truly captures the essence of how important it is to deal with not only your own emotions, but of those you interact with on a daily basis.

When Emotional Intelligence (EQ) first garnered significant media attention back in the 1990s, it really hit home for people. For the first time we all had an explanation for an unusual finding: people of average intelligence outperform people with the highest levels of intelligence the vast majority of the time (70% to be exact). Suddenly we had a name for the main determinant of success in life: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is critical to managing your behavior, moving smoothly through social situations, and making critical choices in life. There are four emotional intelligence skills and they group under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.

What to know:

Self-Awareness is how accurately you can identify your emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across time and situation.

Self-Management is how you use awareness of your emotions to create the behavior that you want.

Social Awareness is how well you read the emotions of other people.

Relationship Management is how you use the first three emotional intelligence skills to manage your interactions with other people.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Intelligence (IQ), and Personality Are Not Connected. The three do not go together in any meaningful way. Emotional intelligence explains a fundamental element of your behavior that is unique from your intellect. You cannot determine someone’s IQ based on their EQ and vice versa. Intelligence is how quickly you absorb new information and it does not change throughout your life. Emotional intelligence is unique because it is a flexible skill that you can improve with practice. Anyone can develop a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Like IQ, your personality does not change. Personality is the style with which you approach the world: what motivates you and the people and situations that give you energy (versus those that drain it). One example of this is the tendency we all have to be introverted or extroverted.

Emotional Intelligence Dictates Performance. Emotional intelligence has a massive impact upon personal and professional success. TalentSmart has measured the EQ of close to a million people now and we find that this skill accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs. Emotions are the primary driver of our behavior. Working to improve your emotional intelligence results in improvements in many areas of your behavior. We’ve found that more than 90% of top performers have high EQs.

High EQ individuals make $29,000 more on average than those with low EQs and every point you add to your EQ adds $1,300 to your annual salary.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Increased With Practice. Your brain is hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand. The limbic system (the emotional brain) reacts to events first before we have the opportunity to engage the rational brain. The communication between these two areas of the brain is the very definition of emotional intelligence. EQ requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.

“Plasticity” is the term used to describe the brain’s ability to grow new connections between neurons that facilitates the use of new behaviors. Your brain loves efficiency: the skills you practice are the skills your brain will make it easier for you to repeat. When you work to increase your EQ, the billions of microscopic neurons lining the road between the rational and emotional centers of your brain branch off small “arms” to communicate with the cells around them. A single cell can grow upwards of 10,000 connections to the cells around it.

In a separate article written by Dr Travis Bradberry, the author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, he explains how a lack of Emotional Intelligence, negativity and complaining can literally rot the brain.

Rodent studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of the neurons in the hippocampus—an important area of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that neurons use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons.

Stress is a formidable threat for those of us who want to think clearly, reason effectively, and have a decent memory.

Most sources of stress are easy to identify. If your non-profit is waiting to land a grant that your organization needs to function, or you are working on the biggest project of your career, you’re bound to feel stress, but the unexpected sources of stress are the ones that can take you by surprise and harm your brain.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to negative emotional stimuli—the same kind of exposure you get in the presence of complainers and otherwise negative people—caused subjects’ brains to have the same emotional reactions that they experienced when stressed. Your brain gets sucked into a negative emotional state when exposed to negative people, and—just like a stress response—the longer you endure this state the worse it is for your brain.

Here are some strategies that author Bradberry suggests:

1. Set Limits with Complainers

Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

2. Squash the Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people, and other times you create it for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about something, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either magnify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs. Be wary of the following two types of negative self-talk in particular and try the alternatives:

Turn I always or I never into just this time or sometimes.Your actions are unique to that particular situation, no matter how often you think you mess up. Make certain your thoughts follow suit. When you start treating each situation as its own animal and stop beating yourself up over every mistake, you’ll stop making your problems bigger than they really are.

Replace judgmental statements like I’m an idiot with factual ones like I made a mistake. Thoughts that attach a permanent label to you leave no room for improvement. Factual statements are objective and situational, and help you focus on what you can change.

3. Quit Focusing on Problems—Focus on Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions.

4. Get Some Sleep

A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to problems. Being well rested helps you deal with your own negativity, and gives you the perspective you need to set limits with complainers and negative people.

There’s a reason the squeaky wheel gets the grease—complainers are hard to ignore. Whether you or they are the source of your stress, apply the strategies above, and you’ll remove the power that complaining and negativity hold over you.

I hope this information helps.  Anyone can achieve what they focus on. You will be amazed what you can achieve when you apply the right information over time. The key is to learn on a regular basis, with the intent of improving in the area you desire. All of us can benefit from learning success principles, many of which were never taught in school or purposely learned in life.  Considering how challenging life can be sometimes, I know this information has made a difference for me.

Stay safe, stay healthy, God Bless.

Ben Stern

REALTOR®RE/MAX Prime Properties


Ben Stern

RE/MAX Prime Properties

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