Emotional intelligence (EI) skills are a great indicator of success (and failure) in both life and business more so than IQ. Yet, many of us are reluctant to believe that by learning and building EI skills, it can drive positive results in all aspects of our lives. EI is often looked at as too ‘fluffy’ and unmeasurable.
I’m here to tell you that the idea of not being able to measure EI is a myth. Unlike IQ, EI is measured by qualitative data. There is no score for EI, but there are ways to measure the strength and weaknesses of a person’s EI, based on their values, whether those values are good or bad, and how true they live by those values.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand your own emotions and be more aware of the emotions in others. EI is also an ongoing personal measurement of oneself. It forces us to constantly check in with what we value most in life and make changes based on our actions and our end-experiences.
Two different types of personal values
There are two different types of values a person can have, and it’s fairly easy to identify what makes them different.
Values are either good or bad.
Although the type of values you set for yourself are entirely up to you, personal values will make a tremendous impact on your life as they become your compass. Values guide you towards making the right decisions based on what you value the most, so it’s important to create values that stear you towards the North Star, rather than lead you down the wrong path.
What are good values?
Good values are realistic, socially constructive, controllable, and process-oriented. A great example of a good value is ‘honesty.’ If you value honesty, it will be much easier to build trust with the people in your life, and, as a result, build closer and stronger relationships.
Certain life events will offer you the choice whether to be honest or not. For instance, if you make a mistake at work, are you going to be honest with your boss and say you messed up? If you value honesty, the hard choice would be to tell the truth. But if honesty is not one of your values, you will most likely be tempted to take the easy route and lie.
No matter what challenges come your way, good values help you make the right decision, even in the toughest situations.
What are bad values?
Bad values are easy, so it’s tempting to stick with them. Marketing and ads force bad values on us every day to feed on our insecurities, give us an easy out on tough situations, and to make profit. Bad values are the complete opposite of good values as they are socially unaware and are not immediate or controllable.
Compared to honesty, an opposite value would be ‘always getting ahead.’ At work, if your value is to always get ahead of everyone else, it would be hard for anyone to trust you because you’d most likely do anything to keep your number one position — even if that means stealing someone else’s work.
Putting our personal values to the test
EI can be measured by how you want to show up in the world compared to how you currently are showing up in the world by tracking your behaviors and analyzing them.
Think of a life value as a hypothesis. It means nothing unless you realize the impact that it can have on your life. But you have to be willing to test it by experimenting with your actions. Your actions will drive certain thought patterns and feelings that you can track, which helps you draw an analysis of your value’s impact. Below is an example along with a more in-depth overview.
|Set of Values
|Actions & Behaviors
|e.g., reading books, taking a class, asking for feedback
|Emotions & Thoughts
|e.g., accomplished, motivated, stimulated
Personal values = hypotheses
Although a person’s values can change over time, you can test them based the actions and decisions you make in your everyday life.
For instance, going from single to a committed relationship might change one’s values, or going from a full-time professional to a part-time parent might change your values. We all have a set of values, whether we realize it or not, but since change is constant, our values might change over time. They can even ebb and flow, with one taking priority over the other.
We know when our values need to change when we start to feel discontent, lost, anxious, and unfulfilled. This gives us the opportunity to reshape and reprioritize our values, so we can manage the constant change of life, and make choices based on our current life situation, goals, and desires.
If you constantly feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, then it might be a sign that it’s time to reevaluate your values. It’s unrealistic to feel good all the time, so this isn’t about constant happinesses (more on that in a later post). We are faced to make choices every day, and our values simply help us make the right choice based on what we value, not by how good it makes us feel.
Actions = experiments
We have the choice to live out our values several times a day. In fact, studies show that we make an average of 35,000 decisions a day. Although many of them are minor (eating eggs or cereal for breakfast). Others are bigger decisions (quitting a job, getting married, etc.).
Our values drive our actions. For instance, if you value ‘learning’ and you fail an important exam, you will feel a negative emotion because the exam mattered to you. Despite the bad feeling, you’d still take action. Since learning is a value of yours, you’d put your energy towards finding a tutor, taking the time to figure out what you did wrong and how you can improve, or come up with a better studying ritual.
If we value ‘fast results,’ you’d give up on education after one failed example. Our actions are the experiments. If you value something and it pushes you forward, then the value is benefiting you. But if you’re constantly feeling frustrated, discontent, and unsatisfied, then the value is no longer benefiting you.
Emotions & thought patterns = data
Like mentioned earlier, bad values put us in a hampster wheel. You will constantly spin and be miserable, because your values are driving your actions. Self-awareness, the first component of emotional intelligence, teaches us how to identify our emotions and learn from them.
Like taking the exam, if you didn’t know how to manage the feeling of being let down because you failed the exam, it would be easy to tell yourself that ‘you’re stupid’ and that you don’t have what it takes to do well. You would quit instead of putting in the work to do better next time. Emotions have the power to drive our actions, and we must learn how to fully understand our emotions so we learn from, rather than allow them to lead out behaviors.
To learn from actions, we must track our emotions. Like all good experiments, we need to record our data. Since it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day, many of us even on autopilot, journaling has become highly recommended by therapist. It’s a great way to record our experiences, how they made us feel, and how we responded, so we can start to see patterns and make changes accordingly.
Define your personal values
Based on what you learned in this article, take some time to really think about your values. Write down your values and put them somewhere that you’ll see them every day as a constant reminder. To track your experiences, get a designated journal every night and think through your actions and responses to situations that occur.
EI is not something you just learn but continuously practice. It’s like a muscle, and we need to put in the work to build upon our biggest strengths.