You’ve heard it said, “Men think. Women feel.”

Really? Then why do men have tear ducts and women have brains? Why do I cry so much, and why are so many women smarter than me?

What a tragic bit of pseudo-wisdom that has repressed male emotion and female intelligence for millennia! Men and women may process and express their emotions differently, but for all people both our thoughts and our feelings shade and shape every moment of our lives. We can choose to feel, seemingly an act of the mind, and feelings powerfully filter our thoughts. Perhaps an accurate summation is that humans are feeling creatures who think.

Since emotions so powerfully affect everything we do and every relationship we have, it’s no surprise that behavioral science has focused on understanding human emotion better and even helping people become emotionally smarter. The phrase for this is Emotional Intelligence, or EQ for emotional quotient.

There are several systems for assessing and improving EQ, but the one I use is by TTISI, which assesses people in four quadrants of EQ:

1)   Self-awareness. People with a high EQ in this quadrant are able to recognize and understand their own emotions and the linkage between their thoughts and feelings.

 2)   Self-regulation. This is the ability to control or redirect one’s own disruptive impulses and to suspend judgment so as to think more carefully before acting.

3)   Social awareness. High EQ in this quadrant means that someone understands the emotional make-up of others and how one’s words and actions affect those around them.

4)   Social regulation. This is the ability to influence the emotional responses of others by interpersonal skills such as asking questions, listening, exploring common ground and building rapport.

Understand and control my own emotions. Understand and influence the emotions of others in a healthy way. Sounds simple, right? When I took my TTISI EQ assessment, I was pretty sure that I would score high in all four quadrants. After all, I said to myself, I’m in a mature stage of life, I’m self-aware, I’ve failed enough to have learned plenty of lessons, and I’ve been in helping professions my entire career. So when I scored low in self-regulation and social regulation, I harrumphed about how these tools are so imperfect. Then I read the suggestions about how I could improve my EQ in those two areas, and I had to humbly admit that…they were right.

I share this personal experience to make this point: it doesn’t matter how old, mature and experienced we are, we’re human. From conception to the grave humans are always growing in one way or the other. It’s just the nature of the species. Since our emotions are such a powerful force, it stands to reason that we should be committed to growing emotionally, just like in other aspects of our lives.So let’s get smart…emotionally!

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