Why does Emotional Intelligence Matter?

It is quite possible to have a high IQ and low emotional intelligence(EQ). Intelligence and EQ are completely separate skills. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand and evaluate emotions and to act accordingly. And although it comes easier to some people than others, everyone can learn emotional competence and improve their understanding of their own and others’ emotions.

Why does emotional intelligence matter so much? Because everything we do, every thought, decision and goal is underpinned by our emotions. We are biologically hardwired to be emotional beings. You cannot switch off your emotions. But you can learn to observe them and to control your attention. We do not work like clockwork. Thankfully. Our emotions make us human and unique.


lacking emotions

We have so-called mirror neurons which cause us to feel what others are feeling. I’ll explain more about our mirror neurons in the next post. For now I want to highlight that we cannot turn our mirror neurons off. That is to say we are always feeling what others in our immediate environment are feeling, whether we are aware of it or not. This is one of the reasons why it feels so good to be in the company of a happy, content person. It rubs off!

Have you ever cried at a movie? That’s your mirror neurons at work. You empathise with the character, you feel what they are feeling on screen. Or have you experienced your stomach tightening whilst watching an angry person in the news? In view of the fact that we cannot turn off this in-built and ongoing behind the scenes ‘feelomether’ it is very important to be able to read the emotions of others and yourself.

Let’s say you are in a meeting and your boss is having an off day. This is not the time to ask for a pay-rise no matter how much you’ve set your mind to do it today, or to bring up your new ideas for the project you are working on. Wait for another time when your boss is feeling not angry or frustrated. Of course his or her anger could be not work-related, but it is not possible to separate us into the work-self and the private-self. We can fulfill separate roles, and we can temporarily put our attention on work and put our home worries on the back-burner enough to concentrate on work. However, this depends on the level of non-work stress. There is a tipping point whereby the stress is too intense for us to be able to focus on something else. But sooner or later all stress will make itself known. This is why you have to be able to read your own emotions, so that you can learn to observe your emotions rather than to suppress them and turn them into a time-bomb.

Also, if you have stress at work, you can’t just switch this off completely at home, your partner will feel your tenseness the minute you walk through the door. We emit our feelings into our environment like a radio station broadcasting their waves. It is impossible to switch off our personal broadcast!


 Broadcasting emotions



This happens whether you are aware of your emotions, or those of others, or not. The difference with emotional intelligence is that you can observe and recognise emotions and act accordingly. Choose the time wisely when you want to discuss something important to you with someone else, your partner, your boss, your colleague, your child or friend – if they are feeling upset or angry or frustrated, that means their fight or flight mode is activated and they are not able to listen properly and give you their full attention.

The key to happiness, contentment and fulfilling your potential is emotional intelligence. You cannot bypass your emotions on route to good health and success.


Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change