Why You Can’t Improve Your EQ But Can Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Improve EQ But Improve Emotional Intelligence

Do you think you understand how to improve your Emotional Intelligence? Let me share with you that this is simply not possible. Here’s the science.

The term first appeared in a research paper published in 1964 by Michael Beldoch and then in the 1966 paper by B. Leuner entitled “Emotional intelligence and Emancipation.” Wayne Payne’s doctoral thesis, which was called “A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence,” was completed in 1985. The term EQ (Emotional Quotient) appeared in a 1987 article by Keith Beasley in the British Mensa magazine.

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, however, are most often referred to as having coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence,’ in 1990. They proposed an ability to become more aware of our own and others’ feelings. This was taken to the public by Daniel Goleman and made into a household term in his book by the same name in 1995.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EI), Emotional Leadership (EL), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) all refer to the ability to recognize emotions in ourselves and others, label them appropriately, and then to become skilled to change them. EQ is also closely linked to the concept of empathy.

emotional intelligence
Why You Can't Improve Your EQ But Can Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

In relation to others and their emotions, Paul Ekman’s research (1978) identified key emotions that are present across cultures: surprise, fear, disgust, anger, sadness, and happiness. From a neurological standpoint, it became apparent that emotion is the same across cultures. Fear is a primary emotion. The brain is designed to react to fear or threat very quickly so we avoid danger.

An emotion occurs when the amygdala stimulates the hypothalamus, and this initiates the fight-flight-freeze response. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine and this triggers a threat alarm in the brain. This neurological process is how the brain develops associations between certain situations. The brain is basically a fear factory. When we notice how we feel we have an opportunity to do something to make us feel better.

Read: 15 Enlightening TED Talks on Emotional Intelligence

Why can’t we improve our emotional intelligence?

The answer is in the difference between psychology and neurology. An emotion is a neurological reaction to an environmental trigger before the brain is even conscious. However, once we notice the neurophysiological change (such as an increase in heart rate, perspiration, or an increased breathing rate) we then have a feeling, a felt experience that follows this initial emotional trigger in the brain.

An emotion is like a trigger when the brain senses we are under threat. When the mind notices these changes, we then can have many different feelings.

With Dr. Yelena Akelina, a professor of micro-surgery at Columbia University, we worked with the model of Neurological EQ, to offer it as an online course. The idea of this course was to explain to our students that if we cannot really control that initial emotional trigger we can learn to control the feelings that follow.

During that course, we were amazed to notice how our students found it simple to see the difference between emotions and feelings.

Maybe it’s better to call it ‘feeling intelligence’ and not emotional intelligence?

This then explains why we cannot control or improve our emotional intelligence, but we can control our feeling intelligence.

Read: Do you possess high Emotional Intelligence/ EQ?

Neurological EQ (NEQ) proposes we cannot audit that emotional trigger in the brain, but we can become aware and change how we are feeling. Feelings are much more textured, they are more subtle. There is a dose-response to the volume or intensity of a feeling.

The DOSE model suggests key neurotransmitters associated with how emotional intelligence (or feeling intelligence) occurs can be understood with this acronym, DOSE: D is for dopamine, O for oxytocin, S for serotonin, and E for epinephrine.

These neurotransmitters influence our thoughts and our ability to control how we feel and behave.  Dopamine is linked to emotional intelligence by increasing the motivation that is vital to improve or change your EQ. Exercise can cause a dopamine boost.

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Dr. Justin James Kennedy

Justin James Kennedy, Ph.D., is a professor of applied neuroscience and organisational behaviour at UGSM-Monarch Business School, College & University, in Hagedorn, Zug, Switzerland. He is also the Ph.D. professor of applied neuroscience and supervision with Canterbury Christchurch University in the U.K. His book, Brain Re-Boot, is an overview of applied neuroscience which proposes various applications from behavioural neuroscience, neuroeconomics, social neuroscience, and health neuroscience, and offers brain-based tools and behavioural hacks shown to build resilience to stress-related pathology and improve cognitive performance in organisational life. His academic work recently defined the model of "Organisational Wellbeing Neuroscience," as described in his chapter of the academic textbook, The Handbook of Organisational Wellbeing. (SAGE publ.). His research informs his executive coaching processes, his licenced clinical practice in neuro-behavioural analysis and neuropsychology, and his consulting to various organisations globally.View Author posts