I’m going to be honest: When I first heard the theories on emotional intelligence, I thought it was a ridiculous fad. It sounded like someone was trying to sell people an idea (and a few books) on a wanky, fluffy concept. It reminded me of that episode on the Simpsons where a self-help guru made a mint peddling easy answers to life’s problems.
I like to consider myself an open-minded skeptic. If you want to talk about your experience with Big Foot, little green aliens, or the ghost of your Aunt Agnes visiting you, I’ll be all ears. But being the stubborn, highly analytical person that I am, I rely on and seek out cold, hard data. So when I started to see statistically significant differences between people with high and low emotional intelligence in job satisfaction, job performance, management skills, and relationship satisfaction, the topic we’ll be covering today, I realized that this seemingly gooey theory was actually quite solid.
Initially, it might seem a foregone conclusion that being emotionally intelligent can lead to happier, healthier relationships. If you’re good at handling your emotions and regularly practice empathy, chances are you’re a joy to be around – but there’s more to it than that. When I compared people who are satisfied with their relationships to those who are not, these were the top ten EIQ competencies where they differed the most:
Score for the satisfied group: 75 (on a scale from 0 to 100; the higher the score, the better).
Score for the unsatisfied group: 39
We can look at this in two ways: Either the people who are satisfied with their relationship are more likely to be content, or people who are satisfied with their life tend to thrive in relationships. Both seem plausible, in my professional opinion. The point is that it is likely to be a challenge to function in a relationship if you’re preoccupied with all the things that you’re unhappy about. Your partner should not have to shoulder the responsibility of making you happy, nor are you responsible for your partner’s happiness.
Score for the satisfied group: 41 (Note: For this scale, a low score is ideal).
Score for the unsatisfied group: 70
If you’ve ever fretted all day or sat awake all night thinking about a problem, you have ruminated. There’s nothing wrong with giving a problem its due consideration, but when you start to over-think things, you do yourself (and the problem) more harm than good. Not surprisingly, people who are unsatisfied with their relationship are more likely to ruminate. They may exacerbate minor issues by blowing them out of proportion or live in constant fear that something will go wrong in their relationship. And what often happens when we seek out problems where none exist? We end up finding them. This is often the case with people who have an Anxious-Avoidant or Fearful-Avoidant attachment style: They’re so worried about the relationship ending and losing their partner that they either become too clingy (in the case of the former) or distance themselves (in the case of the latter). What ends up happening is that they themselves end up bringing about the circumstances they so feared.
Score for the satisfied group: 70
Score for the unsatisfied group: 42
We’ve danced this dance many times – what’s one more? I’ve said it before: Self-esteem is the glue that holds you together. If you’re self-esteem is fragile (you don’t believe in yourself and respect yourself), there is little a partner can do to keep you together, because every compliment they offer will make your self-esteem soar, and every criticism (or perceived criticism) will shatter it. Only you can build your self-esteem up.
As you can imagine, being in a relationship with someone who has low self-esteem (or where both partners are lacking) can be a challenge. There is a constant need for reassurance and validation, which never seems to be satisfied. This can take a toll on a relationship, and lead to distrust, conflict, insecurity, and jealousy.
Score for the satisfied group: 77
Score for the unsatisfied group: 54
Letting a problem sit and simmer, unresolved, is like shaking a can of soda: The pressure is going to build to such a point that someone is going to explode, and this is often the case in relationships in which one or both partners avoids an issue. While having to discuss sensitive topics (e.g. lackluster sex life, annoying mother-in-law) can be uncomfortable, refusing to face an issue and hoping it will blow over almost always makes things worse. Like stomach gas, anger always finds a way to squeak out, whether it’s through passive aggression, insults, or minor tiffs in which you skirt around the real issue (like when your partner doesn’t pick up those dirty socks or take the garbage out).
Score for the satisfied group: 74
Score for the unsatisfied group: 53
I think it’s good to have someone in your life who can be a devil’s advocate – not necessarily in the sense of poking holes in your dreams, but to offer insight so that you can prepare for every eventuality. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean you’re an idealist who fails to see the potential for consequences or risk; it means you plan realistically but choose to believe in hope and possibility. Being around someone who sounds the death knell like a morning alarm clock can be disheartening and can take a toll on your peace of mind.
Stay tuned for Part 2!