Doing Well in School: It’s More Than Just Your IQ

by UMaineCLASAdvisingCenter

We have all heard of IQ, but how many college students are aware of the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ)? When it comes to happiness and success, in school and in life, emotional intelligence matters just as much as intellectual ability. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways. This can help you to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and head off conflict. Even if you are not aware of it, you employ emotional intelligence many times throughout your daily life, and it influences the way you behave and the way you interact with others.

If you posses high emotional intelligence you can easily recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others. You probably engage with people in a way that draws them to you. This understanding of emotions helps you to relate better to other people, form healthier relationships, and achieve greater success at work and school. If you struggle with emotional intelligence you may find yourself feeling misunderstood, making unwise decisions that lead you off course in your life, act impulsively or irrationally, or even experience boredom and anxiety.

It’s not always the most intelligent people who are the most successful or most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are brilliant and yet socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual intelligence isn’t enough on its own for you to be successful in life. Sure your IQ can help you get into college, but it’s your EQ that will keep you here as you learn to manage the stress and emotions that confront you in your new life on campus.

Daniel Gorman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, has identified four components that contribute to emotional intelligence. The first two are personal and have to do with recognizing and managing your own emotions while the second two are social and have to do with recognizing and managing emotions in others.

1. Emotional Self-Awareness – This is the ability to know your own feelings in the moment. This is the foundation of emotional intelligence. If you are aware of how you are feeling and why, you will be better able to make effective positive decisions. For instance if you are feeling down and don’t know why you might turn to food or television as a distraction. If you are aware that you feel down and not just hungry or bored you can better deal with the situation.

2. Emotional Self-Management – This is the ability to manage strong feelings. People who are skilled at this avoid making critical decisions at times of intense emotions. They wait till the inner storm has calmed before they make a choice that may negatively impact their lives. For instance, emotional self-management may help you to resist dropping a class simply because you are angry with the teacher.

3. Social Awareness – This skill helps you to accurately empathize with others’ emotions. Empathy is a fundamental “people skill.” For example social awareness can help you recognize and offer comfort or advice when someone is angry, anxious, sad, etc.

4. Relationship Management- This allows you to manage relationships with others. If you are tuned in to what others are feeling you are less likely to say things that embarrass or cause them anxiety. The art of relationship management depends on skills such as listening, conflict resolution, cooperation, and an awareness of the feelings of others.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned at any time in life. Start by becoming more aware of your own emotions. Learn the names of emotions you might be feeling. How many can you name other than anger, fear, sadness, and happiness? Be aware of your emotions as they are happening. There are sometimes very subtle differences between sadness and depression, so the more heightened your awareness is the better able you will be to understand yourself. Look behind the emotion to see what is causing the feeling. And lastly, recognize the difference between a feeling and a resulting action. Feeling an emotion is one thing, but acting on it is another. You have the choice to act in a way that enables you to reach your goals and dreams. Developing emotional intelligence will fuel your motivation to help keep you going forward.