If you’ve walked through the business and self-help sections of a bookstore lately, you’ve probably noticed they’ve got something in common.
In 1990, researchers Peter Salovey and John Mayer published a research paper that coined the term “emotional intelligence.” In it, they refer to a “set of skills” that allows someone to appraise, regulate and express emotions, including how to leverage feelings to move forward in life.
If you can understand yourself and your tendencies, as well as the cues and tendencies of others, you can raise your “EQ”—those emotional skills—and improve your life.
Fewer than 30 years after its introduction to the world, the Harvard Business Review reports that more than 3,000 scientific articles have been published on emotional intelligence, and that doesn’t account for the countless books that have been written on the topic.
Finding Your EQ
Emotions play a role in the lives of humans that often gets discounted as secondary, but EQ says differently. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and best-selling author who popularized EQ, says it provides strategies to manage feelings and empathize with other people—and beyond that, EQ helps understand what you and others do and why.
His basic premise is that everyone has two minds: One that thinks and one that feels. And according to a report by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, EQ even affects the creative aspects of a person’s life, like the way they express themselves through art.
That means once you have and understand how to use emotional intelligence, you can almost turn off the thinking part of your brain and use the feeling part to relate to and understand other people—your significant other, co-workers, children—more effectively.
Why You Need It
Companies—from huge Fortune 500 companies to startup-sized ones—are constantly on the hunt for employees who have an understanding of what it means to be emotionally intelligent and act it out daily.
In one of Goleman’s more recent books on the intersection of EQ and leadership he writes:
“EQ defines our capacity for relationship. You can look at two people interacting and then see how that cascades into teams, groups and whole organizations.”
Even the smallest steps toward raising your EQ can achieve results that will move your career forward. Having a high EQ at work makes you more flexible, helps you adjust to large- and small-scale changes more easily and makes it easier to work as a team—something many employers are looking for in a candidate.
Even in fields like law and medicine, experts increasingly ask people to have empathy and, essentially, be emotionally intelligent—because it makes them do their jobs better.
Overwhelmingly, companies that prioritize helping their employees understand and increase their emotional intelligence are ones that have happier and more productive employees.
Why EQ May Not Be Enough
While raising your EQ may be a valuable start, it hardly addresses the whole person. EQ certainly helps people understand emotions and act on those understandings. But for Christians, behavior change is never enough.
Because your responses are influenced by environment, culture and, most importantly, spiritual health. That’s the perspective of Peter Scazzero.
The author of multiple best-selling books, including Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church, Scazzero says for all the benefits of EQ, the problem is it’s only skin deep.
Dealing with behavior is important, but stopping there—instead of addressing the deeper development of a person—will not produce lasting emotional health.
“Emotional health and spiritual health are inseparable,” Scazzero says. “Many of us don’t have a theology around emotion. I realized I was an emotional infant leading the church.”
Earlier in his leadership, Scazzero found himself stuck at an immature level of emotional and spiritual development.
A problem that resulted was his wife deciding to leave the church he was leading, amongst other things. The pastor soon discovered that the problem was he needed to overcome emotional barriers.
Determined to more fully understand the relationship between faith and emotions, Scazzero has devoted much of his time since to exploring this area.
“We are created in the whole image of God,” Scazzero says. “We are intellectual, social and emotional creatures just as God is.” Emotions, it follows, are not simply a matter of controlling behavior, but they are of spiritual concern.
The ability to grow in emotionally challenging situations means you have to understand how to be emotionally healthy—not just emotionally intelligent. Spiritually, emotional health requires discipleship and sound theology.
“There is a whole frontier of discipleship that is missing in the church and it’s called emotional health,” he says.
Scazzero says developing his emotional health and enhancing his emotional intelligence isn’t something that happened overnight. Growth meant required reading, discipleship, counseling, prayer, journaling and discipline.
“It has required going beyond raising my intelligence, to truly building a Christian theology around emotions,” Scazzero says. “Most Christians are stuck. It’s one thing to understand emotional health, it’s another thing to actually do it.”
EQ comes from the thought process that change works from the outside in. It says that managing emotion is an extrinsic process in which we act our way into change. The act proceeds the virtue, so to speak.
EQ is about understanding the cultural norms, rules and regulations around emotion.
Emotional health, on the other hand, is a critical piece of our growth and development. It’s not simply a matter of how you act and empathize, it’s a matter with spiritual implications.
Spiritually healthy people can grow during alone time, thrive in community, engage diversity, serve others and go deeper in their walk with God.
“We have the Holy Spirit and God has already wired us for growth and change,” Scazzero says.
Emotions affect your relationships with others, God and your own self. Nurturing EQ is an imperative step toward functioning with emotional health.
But it may not get you all the way there. If Scazzero is right, true emotional health is about something deeper.