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Inside IBH: Don't Take It Personally!

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Let’s talk about intelligence.

It’s a touchy subject, we’ll admit it. But organizational psychologists have been asking questions about intelligence and its impact on success in the workplace for decades. Is it better to be smarter? Will a high IQ take you further than an average one?

According to Ryan Morgan, Psy.D., Senior Clinical Care Manager at Lehigh’s employee assistance provider Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH), researchers found that smarter doesn’t always mean more successful.

“They found that people of average intelligence outperformed people with higher IQs the majority of the time,” Ryan said in a recent phone interview, “When they dug into the question of why this was so, they found another kind of intelligence played a big role, they called it Emotional Intelligence.”

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence, or EI, explains fundamental elements of your behavior that are unique from your intellect and personality. It’s made up of four “skill groups” that people develop as they grow and mature:

  1. Self awareness:  How accurately we can identify our emotions
  2. Self management:  How we use that awareness of our emotions to create behavior
  3. Social Awareness:  How well we read the emotions of others
  4. Relationship Management: How well we use the first three skill s to manage our interactions with other people.

In short, EI manages your social behavior and impacts your decision-making in critical life choices. As with intellectual capability, EI varies widely from person to person for a variety of reasons.

Don’t Take It Personally!

One of the prime emotional skills we develop as we mature is an understanding that we exist in relation to the other people in our lives. As Ryan explains it, “During infancy and childhood, everything centers around us. Small children are very self-focused. Just think about playing a game of peekaboo with a baby.”

“While we grow to understand that our peekaboo playmates don’t disappear when they cover their faces, sometimes as adults we slip, and we forget that not everything is directed right at us. In other words, we take it all personally,” he said. “Stress has a lot to do with it. When you’re in high stress situations, these behaviors can come out.”

When we take it personally, it’s like we’re viewing events through a misshapen lens and we make poor decisions as a result. This is called cognitive distortion.

Being able to overcome cognitive distortion is an important part of EI. Ryan says we need to “be able to stop, think, identify. Then we see how to modify or change those thoughts and to change those behaviors.”

Can You Get More Emotionally Intelligent?

Ryan says people who need to improve their emotional intelligence might not know they even have a shortcoming.

“Many people don’t understand EI, and they may not have ever been confronted about their need to develop in these areas.”

The good news, though, is that EI is a flexible set of skills, and people can improve. “I think it’s possible to develop these skills if you have willingness and openness of mind,” Ryan said, “I’ve worked with people in private practice and see the ones who really want to change and are willing to work. If someone is motivated from the inside, it’s very likely they can do this.”

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