Understanding emotional intelligence and its effects on your life

By Erin Gabriel, CNN

Experts say emotional intelligence — the ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and others — is crucial in predicting our health, happiness and success.

It’s our emotional intelligence that gives us the ability to read our instinctive feelings and those of others. It also allows us to understand and label emotions as well as express and regulate them, according to Yale University’s Marc Brackett.

Most of us would probably like to think that we can do all of the above. We spot and understand emotions in ourselves and others and label them accurately in order to guide our thoughts and actions.

But many of us tend to overestimate our own emotional intelligence, according to Brackett, a professor in the Child Study Center at Yale and founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

That’s important because experts say the ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in ourselves and other people is a crucial factor in predicting our health, happiness and personal and professional success.
So maybe we all need to take a breath and invest a little more time in schooling ourselves on what it means to be emotionally intelligent.

What is emotional intelligence?

The theory of emotional intelligence — and the term itself — originated at Yale and the University of New Hampshire. Peter Salovey, the 23rd president of Yale University, and John “Jack” Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, wrote up the theory in 1990, Brackett said.
Their work demonstrated how emotions had a marked impact on an individual’s thinking and behavior, said Robin Stern, associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an educator, author and licensed psychoanalyst.
Experts have continued to build on that framework to refine definitions of what exactly is at the core of of emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence is being smart about your feelings. It’s how to use your emotions to inform your thinking and use your thinking to inform your emotions,” she said.
It’s having an awareness of how your emotions drive your decisions and behaviors so you can effectively engage with and influence others, said Sara Canaday, a leadership speaker and author. Individuals who are emotionally intelligent tend to be empathetic, can look at situations from an alternative point of view, are considered open-minded, bounce back from challenges and pursue their goals despite any obstacles they might face, according to Canaday.
“Some people think of emotional intelligence as a soft skill or the ability or the tendency to be nice. It’s really about understanding what is going on for you in the moment so that you can make conscious choices about how you want to use your emotions and how you want to manage yourself and how you want to be seen in the world,” Stern said.
“People with more emotional intelligence are healthier, happier and more effective,” Brackett said.

Why emotional intelligence matters

Canaday further suggests that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of career success than an impressive résumé or a high IQ score.
Wait, really?
Well … just reflect on your own work experiences, Canaday suggests.
Has anyone you worked with ever been let go or asked to leave, even when they had the competency or technical skills for the job?
“We might be hired for technical talents, but we are often fired because we lack emotional intelligence,” Canaday said.
Individuals with a low level of emotional intelligence can be successful, she said, but she argues that those individuals could be even more successful if they had a higher level of emotional intelligence.
“It is how well you can collaborate, how well you engage with others and influence. It’s the stories you can tell, the way you can bring data to life in a way that connects with others. Those are the things that are going to set you apart.”

Emotional intelligence tests

Behavioral scientists have created a number of emotional intelligence self-assessments, usually broken down into “your ability to manage yourself, your ability to manage relationships, your self-awareness and your social awareness,” according to Canaday.
Your results will be measured along with others who have taken the assessment to give some indication of where you fall on the spectrum from low to high emotional intelligence.
But Brackett warns that “measurement is a tricky subject.”
In his early research, he found that people tend to overestimate their emotional intelligence, which is why he believes you must measure it through performance assessments. In a performance assessment, people are required to problem-solve; they must decode facial expressions or strategize in an emotionally tense situation. That way, their knowledge and skills can be tested as opposed to their beliefs about them.
Another form of an emotional intelligence test is a “360 assessment.”
In the workplace setting, a 360 assessment is a process involving feedback from colleagues and supervisors evaluating a person emotional intelligence. Canaday believes that we often “see ourselves differently than others do.”
When a coworker takes the 360 assessment of you it provides an opportunity to compare it to your self-assessment. Another way to take a 360 assessment without undergoing a formal test is to ask a trusted adviser, perhaps a current or former boss, to evaluate your emotional intelligence, she said.
But, Canaday cautions, If you ask for someone’s feedback, be prepared to accept what they share. “This stuff can feel very personal. On one hand, we say we want to learn and grow, but on the other hand, we want to be accepted just the way we are, and those two human traits run counter.”

Can I improve my emotional intelligence?

So maybe you need to improve your emotional intelligence. How do you do that?
From the earliest ages, children should be taught how to recognize their emotions, understand what those emotions mean and label them accurately in order to to express and manage themselves, Stern said.
For adults who did not receive a solid education on emotional intelligence, improving will require some hard work. Canaday suggests creating an action plan including specific goals. “Pick one or two areas where you want to grow, and get some advice on how to best start to embody whatever factor of emotional intelligence you are trying to develop.”
If you are trying to gain better control of your anger, for example, you might find a healthy outlet for it — whether it be yoga, meditation or boxing.
Canaday also suggests seeking out perspectives from those who may not agree with you. “Be intentional about that. Take active steps to do that. If you constantly surround yourself with people who believe just like you do, then you are hearing the same conversations, and you are not growing, and you are not learning to be open to perspectives.”
Brackett advises seeking out strategies that are effective for managing emotions. Practice them and then evaluate how those strategies are working for you. It’s important to “spend time reflecting on and thinking about your influence and how people respond to your emotions, be more self- and socially aware about your presence.”
Stern suggests prolonging the time between when you are triggered by something and when you respond. Pause, slow down and take a deep breath. Imagine what your best self looks like. Taking the time to pause and think about what your best self would do in each situation may help you avoid letting your emotions control you. You are allowing yourself time to manage your emotions.

How we talk to ourselves can also have a huge impact on our emotions and our health if that self-talk is not positive, Stern says. She suggests that we would never talk to another individual the way we often talk to ourselves.
“There is no question in my mind that if people were to really appreciate how important emotions are, allowed themselves to have emotions, made space for other people to have their emotions and handled those emotions skillfully in the service of making a better world, we would in fact have a better world.”

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Mick Dalla-Vee

Early days 1976 - He moved to Western Canada, after leaving Bawating High School from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with the band Shama. Shama toured Western Canada and was managed by Bruce Allen (Bryan Adams, Martina McBride) before disbanding. 1981 -From that point he became the lead guitarist of Trama, managed by Sam Feldman (Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall), 1984 - then on to playing bass for the band Paradox which evolved into his current band Cease & Desist. 1989 - Cease & Desist has been described as "one of Vancouver's most popular bands" by Tom Harrison the rock music critic of The Province. He also plays the part of John in a Beatles cover band, Revolver, that was put together for Expo 86 Songwriting Mick has written or co-written many songs on albums for artists as diverse as country music's Brent Howard and Canada's Singing Cowgirl: Marilyn Faye Parney, the heavy rock sounds of Blackstone (released on the Delinquent label in Canada), the soul/R&B sounds Belinda Metz and 'Emily Jordan' to the 'smooth jazz' sounds of internationally acclaimed Lori Paul. 2005 - He co-wrote ten of the eleven songs on Paul's album Vanity Press. 1998 - His first country song 'The Wrangler' reached the country top 30 charts right across Canada. It also achieved 'Heavy Rotation' on C.M.T., Canada's country music video channel. One of the songs from Mick's 'A Whistler Christmas' album entitled, 'All I Want is You at Christmastime' has been recorded and released by Canadian country star, Brent Howard Currently - He has also written music for movies, television, videos, video games and promotional spots. His writing styles run the gamut from 'Smooth Jazz' to 'Heavy Thrash'. (A Whistler Christmas and Dalla-Vee's original Christmas songs are often heard on Canadian radio during their Christmas music programming.) Producing Aside from producing himself in an array of projects such as 1994's A Whistler Christmas album, he runs his own studio 'Millennia Sound Design', producing and engineering for artists like: Randy Bachman, Twitch, Swaggerjack, Emily Jordan, Russell Marsland, Lori Paul and Suzanne Gitzi among others. 2007 - has provided theme music and soundscapes for two network television series and Simon Fraser University. 2005 - Randy Bachman's CD "Jazzthing" had some work done on it at "Millennia Sound Design". Vocals Dalla-Vee has contributed to projects as diverse as, 1991 - the multi platinum heavy rock of the "Mötley Crüe" album "A Decade of Decadence" to the 2001 - country/rockabilly sounds of Brent Howard and Southern Cherry to Colin Arthur Wiebe. 1989 - Canadian legends, Trooper and The Powder Blues Band have also used Mick's voice for recordings. 1991 - He has worked extensively as a studio session singer/musician, with his talent of many voices being used on a worldwide 'Karaoke' album package marketed over the dreaded U.S. infomercial. He has sung a number of commercial jingles for radio and television. Awards Having recorded with a host of other Canadian and international recording acts such as Randy Bachman (of the band The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive), Mick was awarded a 'Gold Record' for his work on the 'Trooper' album 'Last of the Gypsies' in 1991. In 1997, he received the Saskatchewan Album of the Year Award for his song writing/musician contributions to an album with proceeds going to people affected with multiple sclerosis. 2011 – Gold Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom 2013 – Platinum Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom Appeared in ‘The Campaign’ with Will Ferrell, Zack Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and directed my Jay Roach (shot in New Orleans) Current – Write music for the popular ‘Holmes’ TV series on HGTV Releases: “Bachman and Turner” in 2010 Producing the Toronto pop/soul band ‘Hello Beautiful’. Heads the ‘Music in Motion Workshop’ for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, a pilot project designed to develop a musical camaraderie with children, youth and young adults with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Live [edit] He keeps an extremely steady schedule playing guitar, bass and keyboards with his main band, Cease and Desist, and “The Atlantic Crossing Show” featuring Mick as John Lennon and Elton John. Since 2001 - He is the bass player/vocalist with Canadian Rock Legend, Randy Bachman's band 2004 - Bachman’s recent foray in the jazz world with his new CD, ‘Jazz Thing’ features Dalla-Vee on the ‘upright bass’. Ongoing - He plays mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitars and harmonica in the Brent Howard and Southern Cherry band, Ongoing - and has toured as John Lennon in 'Revolver - The Worlds Best Beatles Show'. Ongoing - In addition, he also works as a solo artist appearing regularly at special events and casinos. Affiliations 2004 - A longtime member of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, he has sat on the panel as a judge for Canada's Juno Awards (Canada's Version of The Grammy's). 1989 – 2001 He was on the board of directors of the Pacific Music Industry Association for 3 years, and is also chair of 2000 – 2005 The Carolyn Foundation Musician's Assistance Society; a non-profit organization he and colleagues set-up in the wake of his daughter Carolyn's sudden death in November 1999