Emotional Intelligence


Christians are to be about loving and accepting people just as they are. When we focus on serving people . . . on building them up, on sticking with them and standing beside them, we’re honoring God and modeling Jesus.

“Two psychology professors were chatting about politics while painting a house on a summer’s day.” I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke . . . but it’s actually not. These two brainiacs’ conversation about their research on cognition and emotion drifted into politics and they came to this question: “How could someone so smart act so dumb?” The two professors in question were John D. Mayer, now a professor at the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey, now president of Yale University. They developed their conversation into articles that served as the genesis of the concept of emotional intelligence. But it wasn’t until 1995, when Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ became an international bestseller, that the field appeared on the map and the term entered our vocabulary.

Before I rattle on too much further, let’s dig a little deeper. Here are five key elements of “EQ” (emotional quotient) . . .

  1. Self-awareness – The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
  2. Self-regulation – The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods along with the ability to suspend judgment . . . to respond rather than react . . . to think before acting. Hallmarks include trustworthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity, and an openness to change.
  3. Motivation – A passion to work for reasons going beyond money or status. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks include a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure, and organizational commitment.
  4. Empathy – The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers.
  5. Social skill – A proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks include effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, and expertise in building and leading teams.

People who have these attributes are better husbands, fathers, mentors and leaders. The more of these elements we have, the healthier our relationships. And unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be improved with effort. Jesus-followers have a "leg up" in raising their EQ because . . .

  1. We know we are loved by our Heavenly Father. We, of all people, should be able to relax in our own skin and assess ourselves realistically and honestly. We have nothing to prove. We are children of the King!
  2. We have the Holy Spirit living within us. “What can man do to me?” We can call on God for help in disciplining ourselves to say “yes” to righteousness and “no” to sin. Realizing our own frailty, we can resist judging others. And we can trust God with all outcomes, freeing us to handle uncertainty, ambiguity and change with both peace and confidence.
  3. Scripture teaches us to “do our work heartily as to the Lord.” With Jesus beside us and heaven before us, we should be the most positive, optimistic people on earth.
  4. Jesus-followers know who they are and Whose they are. Our Savior modeled empathy and taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Living with people “in an understanding way” should be our hallmark.
  5. Christians are to be about loving and accepting people just as they are. When we focus on serving people . . . on building them up, on sticking with them and standing beside them, we’re honoring God and modeling Jesus.

I can never have an IQ of 140. I can never be 6 feet 4 inches tall. But I can challenge myself to grow in these five areas. And I’ll become more like Jesus and more effective for Him as I do.

Question: Which of these 5 areas do you struggle with most?

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