Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is an important predictor of personal effectiveness although the concept of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) may be more generally understood and used as a measurement of human potential. In real life, studies by Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, founders of a global think tank, suggest that “90% of high performers are also high in EQ” “while just 20% of low performers are high in EQ.”

Emotional Intelligence refers to our capacity to understand ourselves and others and to use that understanding to shape effective behaviors. Beyond verbal and mathematical prowess, succeeding in life depends on our ability to deal with our emotional side. Science is enabling us to see into the workings of our brain and the limbic part of our brain which is the seat of human emotion. Even though personality traits may be “hard wired,” the brain’s plasticity allows us to behave ourselves into patterns that capitalize on the positive and diminish negative aspects of our emotional profile.

So, how does this all work out? Emotional intelligence begins with the awareness of what we are feeling. One of the tools sometimes used in therapy with children is a chart with faces expressing many emotions beyond the more easily identified ones such as happiness, fear, and anger. This chart can be amazingly helpful even to more sophisticated adults who really have not practiced the art of identifying exactly what feelings and thoughts are behind their behaviors and moods.

For example, it is not uncommon for an adult to come in with anger management issues. Their behaviors may have negatively affected success at work or in relationships. The angry behavior may not, however, be a result of anger. Finding the true feeling, not unlikely an unresolved sorrow or grief, can be the beginning of self understanding that can mature into practicing new and more authentic behavior. Awareness of what we are really feeling is so significant that it is a component of emotional intelligence.

This column is the first in a series exploring an understanding of emotional intelligence and how that can have a profound effect on our interactions with self and others.