Intelligence quotient, or IQ, was the standard way we measured a person’s job capability for more than a century. The resume, the number of academic degrees and other metrics came into play, too. It all began with the IQ test, brought to America in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard. But the term “IQ” became shorthand for talking about someone’s relative intelligence.
Then an amazing thing happened a quarter of a century ago: We started to care about a person’s emotional capabilities, too. This was called EQ.
Emotional quotient was popularized by Daniel Goleman in his best-seller, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.” The term EQ was coined by academic psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer and represents your wisdom about your emotions and how well you take into account other people’s emotions in everyday situations.
IQ represents what you know. EQ represents how you actually apply it.
Imagine if you were passed over for a promotion and your colleague ended up with the position. Intellectually, you may see that he or she was equally, if not more qualified for the job. You probably know you should be happy for their success, and ill will toward the person would do more harm than good.
But emotionally you must first admit and then navigate potential feelings of jealously, anger and frustration — while still holding a place for joy, excitement and pride for your friend’s opportunity. Without EQ, all the intelligence in the world couldn’t prevent your potentially destructive emotions from doing damage.
The challenge is EQ, unlike IQ, can’t be measured as easily as comparing test results. EQ is a relative rather than objective idea. IQ, for instance, can be measured by how well you solve math equations or understand the context of a sentence. EQ is much trickier since the signs of a strong emotional intelligence are a reaction to the environment instead of a static concept.
Emotional intelligence can change based on circumstances.
Your EQ may be high most of the time, but being around a specific person who aggravates you or a situation that annoys you could cause your emotional intelligence to drop. In fact, the ability for you to navigate uncomfortable emotional circumstances may be the ultimate measurement of EQ — which is why it’s so difficult to quantify.
To best understand EQ, workplace experts recommend avoiding traditional approaches to competence and instead focusing on more dynamic experiences. Interviewing people in a group rather than individually, asking more open-ended questions during the interview process, and giving people additional freedom during work hours provide keen opportunities for people to reveal, express and manage their EQ.
Learn to understand your own EQ.
Take a moment to observe yourself during particularly high-stress situations. Even better, lean on a trusted coach, mentor or supervisor to help track your reactions, your consideration of other people and your ability to bounce back from uncomfortable moments.
Be gentle on others as you build up your own emotional intelligence.
When it comes to EQ, each person has his or her own Achilles heel. Having strong EQ means taking the higher road, even as others react in insensitive or extreme ways in the process.