How does one develop EQ?

Answer by Ellen Vrana:

This is a great question, implicit in it is that you actually care to develop EQ, which is great!
 
As I write, I have Big Bang Theory on.  I realize Sheldon Cooper is the best pop-culture example of someone without ANY emotional intelligence. He has no concept of what other people might be thinking or feeling other than what they actually say. The hidden subtext of human emotions is just that, hidden.  
 
I cannot tell you how to develop an EQ, there are brilliant psychologists on Quora who can take up that mantle.
 
But I can give a personal anecdote, I hope it helps.
 
I have an ok EQ, in fact, I think it is what has contributed to the few successes I've had.  Not my IQ.  I'm smart enough, but nothing amazing. School was hard for me; I relied on extra credit, easy classes and, at times, even mild cheating to get mediocre results.
 
My husband is a genius.  He can do math sums in his head faster than I can name my favorite food.  He is so smart that he relied on his data-driven intellect and as a result, his EQ was bad.  (And when I say bad, I mean almost Sheldon Cooper- bad.)  To be fair, he didn't ever need it to be successful and I'm NOT saying that he – or others like him – are bad people.
 
Then he met me, I demanded a slightly higher awareness of others' emotional subtext than he was used to.
 
This awareness included:
 

  • being aware of how his thoughts and actions affected others and that if they are acting in a way he didn't like, it might be because of a way he acted first
  • recognition that just because he intended to be helpful/kind/nice does not mean that the other person interprets it that way
  • being aware of people's unspoken motivations that might actually contradict their actions
  • being aware that sometimes people are not aware of their own motivations
  • being aware of how his own prejudices and experiences influence his opinions in a way that is not universal nor universally understood.

We approached it together.  I was responsible for not judging him as he tried to improve.  He was responsible for asking himself, in difficult moments, whether one of circumstances above was happening. 
 
The more he practiced, the better he got. The better he got, the more he cared.  The more he cared, the more he practiced.. and so on.  To the point where just this week, I was acting ornery and I got "Honey, you're acting out because you're really worried about your life goals and lack of fulfillment. Let's talk about that instead."  And he was RIGHT!  Damn this Frankenstein.
 
Having a good EQ means being sensitive to others' emotional needs.  If you don't do it naturally, it doesn't mean you can't, doesn't mean you're a bad person.   What worked for my husband was to literally write a list of questions (above) and to revisit them when he felt a pang of guilt, anger, etc.  His analytical mind is his best gift, so he approached it analytically.
 
 If you want to develop your EQ, find an approach that works best for you, this is just one example.

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