Feeling Great

Mind Over Matter

How you score on intelligence tests may have little to do with what you achieve in life.

We all have that one friend who is a font of knowledge. They’ve read War and Peace, watch the Discovery Channel and know all the high-scoring words in Scrabble. And then there’s the friend who seems to always get free upgrades, asks the waitress how her kids are doing and occasionally shares nuggets of wisdom that change your whole perspective. The difference? Book smarts versus street smarts—or, in scientific terms, IQ versus EQ.

By the Numbers

IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is a measure of intellect, based on your ability to reason and solve problems, as well as the knowledge and skills you have picked up over the years. Various standardized tests are used to measure IQ, with most people scoring around 100. (A genius IQ is 132 or above.) IQ is largely dictated by genetics, researchers believe, although exercising the brain by reading, solving puzzles and other cerebrum-flexing activities can help boost your score.

A person’s EQ, or Emotional Quotient, reflects their capacity to connect with other human beings, their communication skills, and the ability to manage their emotions. As authors Steven J. Stein, Ph.D., and Howard E. Book, M.D., write in their book The EQ Edge, “It has to do with the ability to read the political and social environment, and landscape them; to intuitively grasp what others want and need, what strengths and weaknesses are; to remain unruffled by stress; and to be engaging. The kind of person others want to be around and follow.”

Deeper Connections

Both IQ and EQ have their merits; however, a person’s Emotional Quotient is often a more accurate predictor of success, whether professionally or in personal relationships. After all, puzzle-solving skills and book smarts won’t get you very far if you don’t do well with people. Fortunately, there is no limit to how much you can increase your EQ, since our capacity for human connection has no boundaries.

Here are four ways to further your emotional intelligence

Examine Your Reactions

When you have strong feelings about a person or an event, take a close look at your response to see what’s at the root. If you receive a complaint from a customer, do you feel unfairly criticized? Do you respond with anger when another driver cuts you off? Observing how you react in different situations can help you learn to manage emotions more effectively.

Put Yourself in their Shoes

There’s a saying that we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. How would you feel if you were in the customer’s position? Maybe the other driver is rushing to pick up a sick child. Try to assume the best of people and demonstrate empathy rather than defensiveness.

Ask others for Perspective

Just because you disagree with someone’s opinion or decisions does not make their viewpoint any less valid than your own. Ask questions to try and understand wh someone holds the values and beliefs they do. Whether or not you change your mind, you can establish a dialogue and strengthen the relationship.

Recognize that People are Complicated

Feelings change, as do circumstances. Knowing that people will react differently as events unfol —and that we are all learning as we go—can help you to see the big picture and not make snap judgments in any given situation.