In a recent post on his LinkedIn blog, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 co-author Dr. Travis Bradberry listed some of the factors that contribute to high EQ, or emotional intelligence, which Bradberry defines as the ability to "manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results."
What's at the top of the list of factors indicating you might have high EQ? "A robust emotional vocabulary," Dr. Bradberry writes.
All people experience emotions, but it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. Our research shows that only 36% of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.
People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. While many people might describe themselves as simply feeling “bad,” emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel “irritable,” “frustrated,” “downtrodden,” or “anxious.” The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you should do about it.
Of course, the stronger your vocabulary, the more specific you can be on all kinds of subjects. Writing for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Dictionary of Cultural Literacy author E.D. Hirsch put it this way:
Why should vocabulary size be related to achieved intelligence and real-world competence? Though the intricate details of cognitive abilities are under constant study and refinement, it’s possible to give a rough answer. The space where we solve our problems is called “working memory.” For everyone, even geniuses, it’s a small space that can hold only a few items in suspension for only a few seconds. If one doesn’t make the right connections within that space, one has to start over again. Hence, one method for coping and problem solving is to reduce the number of items that one has to make sense of at any moment. The psychologist George A. Miller called that process “chunking.” Telephone numbers and Social Security numbers are good examples. The number (212) 374-5278, written in three chunks, is a lot easier to cope with than 2123745278.
Words are fantastically effective chunking devices. Suppose you put a single item into your working memory—say, “Pasteur.” So long as you hold in your long-term memory a lot of associations with that name, you don’t need to dredge them up and try to cram them into your working memory. The name serves as a brief proxy for whatever aspects will turn out to be needed to cope with your problem. The more readily available such proxies are for you, the better you will be at dealing with various problems. Extend this example to whole spheres of knowledge and experience, and you’ll realize that a large vocabulary is a powerful coping device that enhances one’s general cognitive ability.
In other words, the more words you have at your disposal, the more fluid your understanding of the ideas those words stand in for will be.
How to translate this into a spike in your personal EQ and become the person Bradberry describes as "curious about people," aware of your "own strengths and weaknesses," and "a good judge of character"? Start with this chart of states of mind. Then learn this interactive list of 100 Feelings Words. When asked how you are or why you like something, take the words good and nice out of your answers. Soon you'll be emoting with the best of them.
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