Q. I recently heard a lecture purported to be about EQ but it was basically only about emotions. Is that really all Emotional Intelligence involves?

A. Some individuals do seem to have difficulty wrapping around the concept of EQ. It utilizes your emotions but involves skills, not just emotions themselves. Here is how I describe emotions, feelings, and EQ.

Emotions:  molecules (neuropeptides) that arise in response to an internal or external trigger and connect your subconscious with your conscious. The changes that result from an emotion arising in your brain and body come with specific neuropeptides (according to Candace Pert PhD), physiological markers, facial expressions, and typical behaviors. Think of them as cellular signals to give you information; to make you aware of what just happened, what is happening, or what is about to happen. 

Feelings:  interpretations of what the emotions are trying to tell you, created by your cerebrum as it struggles to make sense of and find reasons for the neurological changes in your brain and body. Think of them as short-hand labels for your brain’s perceptions of what the emotions mean to you, their relative importance, and how much weight you are giving them. Since your brain created them, you decide how long to hang onto them and when/if you’ll take action or think differently and alter your feelings.

Emotional Intelligence:  a set of skills that assists you in quickly identifying, accurately labeling, and expressing emotions appropriately, as well as managing your feelings and choosing carefully the actions you will take and the behaviors you will exhibit. The goal is to exhibit behaviors (using information your emotions provide) that will result in positive outcomes on a consistent basis.

Based on my working definition, EQ involves the ability to know what feels good, what feels bad, and how to get from bad to good in a way that results in positive outcomes. Many people try to get from bad to good by becoming involved with addictive behaviors that typically result in negative outcomes over time.

When I present the topic of EQ I often do so in two parts. The first section covers emotions and feelings and the second section presents the set of skills and how honing those can raise your level of EQ and improve your relationships and behavioral choices.