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With Grace Tworek, PsyD, emotional intelligence is the key to success


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VIDEO: Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Success | Grace Tworek, PsyD
Cleveland Clinic

John Horton:

Hello, and welcome to another Health Essentials Podcast. I'm John Horton, your host.

Being intelligent is definitely a plus in life, but being emotionally intelligent may be more important when it comes to finding happiness and success. So, here's the question. What exactly is emotional intelligence, or EQ to use the shorthand lingo? And is this a skill that you can develop and even refine over time? We're going to explore EQ today with psychologist Grace Tworek, one of our go-to experts when it comes to matters of emotions. Dr. Tworek is one of the many specialists at Cleveland Clinic who visit our weekly podcast to offer insight on how to live a little bit better. Now, let's dig into this concept of emotional intelligence and see if we can find a path toward some personal growth. Dr. Tworek, thank you so much for joining us again. Welcome back.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

John Horton:

So today, we're going to go wander into the world of emotions, but I feel like we're going to look at it in a different way than people normally do. I mean, we're not going to chat about why we feel the way we do. We're going to talk about how our emotions set a tone that affects everything and everyone around us. It seems like this is a perspective that a lot of us might overlook in life.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Absolutely. I think you made a good point there. I think a lot of times, we think about our own emotions and not necessarily that interplay. I like the way that you stated that.

John Horton:

The impact it has on everything, because what you do ripples out into the world a little bit.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Certainly so. And it has an impact on our relationships, our functioning at work, and even, potentially, success in leadership, too.

John Horton:

Which brings us into the whole idea of emotional intelligence. And I know that's a fancy phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but it also seems like something that's frequently stated but yet misunderstood. So, can you tell us what EQ is in the simplest of terms?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Sure. Of course, John. To put it plain and simple, emotional intelligence is really the ability to perceive, understand, comprehend and really manage our emotions. What I mean by this is that it refers not only to how we can recognize and meaningfully respond to the emotions of others, but also manage our own emotions as well, and how our own emotions may be conveyed by others.

John Horton:

So, it's from your own perspective, but then also what's happening with everybody else around you.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Sure. So how we might demonstrate empathy, for example. So how do we know when we're intending to demonstrate empathy that it comes across that way to those that we are demonstrating that empathy to.

John Horton:

Now, I've seen where emotional intelligence is broken down into four core competencies that really define what EQ means for us as individuals. So, if you don't mind, let's maybe spend a few minutes going through those. Where do you want to start?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Just to the audience, if you do Google this, you might see it come across in many different ways. But there is a general way that these competencies are explained. And they come under four different categories, with two of those categories being more personal, and two of these additional categories being more relational. And what I mean by that is, there's four overarching categories: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

Now, I bet you can guess which two of those are relational. But starting with the first two, self-awareness, that goes under the personal category. And it's our ability to recognize and understand our own emotions - so what we're experiencing, how we're feeling. And then self-management is our ability to self-regulate - so to regulate those emotions that we're experiencing.

And then under the relational, there's social awareness - so recognition and understanding of others' emotions, and our ability to convey emotions to others, as well as relationship management - so how we build meaningful relationships, how we effectively communicate with others and even how we may manage conflict with those people as well.

John Horton:

So, I take it those two sides work hand in hand with each other?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Certainly. Because if we think about it, they also build off of one another. Because if we're able to understand our own emotions, that also gives us some ability to understand. OK, well, if this may make me feel bad or might hurt my feelings, I can understand that, if I were to say that or to do that to somebody else, it might make them feel similarly. So, it gives us that understanding in how we relate to one another as well. So, the better we are at being introspective and labeling our own emotions and having understanding of why we may feel a certain way, the better we can gain insight into, ok, well, if this makes me feel this way, likely it could make another person feel this way. But it also gives us the insight to ask those questions, too, and not just assume that each person might feel the exact same way that we feel.

John Horton:

Well, I know you mentioned empathy earlier. And it sounds like that's, well, one, that's a thing that's missing a lot in the world. But it seems like that, if you can process what's happening and what might be happening with somebody else, you're better able to respond to them.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

So really, EQ in itself involves a lot of reflection and management surrounding our own emotions because we really only have our own experience of emotions to play off of. So, the more that we're able to have understanding and then ask questions to be able to relate to others, that gives us insight to be able to maybe put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

John Horton:

Now, I know I've read, and it seems that EQ and how you handle your own emotions is increasingly linked to personal happiness and, really, professional success. And what I found interesting was it's a much bigger indicator than IQ, which is your intellectual ability. Why is that?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

That's for many reasons, but I also think one of the funniest things, maybe not funniest, but my favorite things, when I came to being in the position, finally, to be on the interviewer side rather than interviewee side in the professional world is the interviewing panel. One thing that was said to me was, a lot of times, when it comes to intelligence and things like that, we know that's there, a lot of times when people are driven and they perform, they're at the interview. So, once we get to that stage, we know they've got those things, but we really want to figure out, "Hey, is this someone I want to work with? Is this someone that I feel like on hour eight I can look over and have a laugh with them? Or I can be glad that we're in the same room together?"

And I think that really tied together for me where this EQ component comes in. Because a lot of times, when we're thinking about leadership roles or work, well, a lot of us are in the same place or work in a similar place because we have the same values. So, we know that those sorts of things are in line. But EQ really allows us to make those connections that are meaningful, to demonstrate leadership skills, to be the type of person that other people want to be around and enjoy working with. And I think that plays a really big component when it comes to overall success.

John Horton:

And I was going to say, because there have been studies that have shown that EQ is almost more of an indicator of this leadership and professional success than IQ, right?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Yes, certainly so. Because if we think about it, how great you are at math might not have anything to do with how great you can resolve conflicts or how well you're able to think of flexible or creative solutions. So absolutely. When we think of a lot of qualities that make up a good leader, a lot of times, the thing that comes to mind is someone I feel like I can talk to communicate with, someone I feel like is willing to work with me to solve problems. Oftentimes, we don't think, "Well, I hope they're really, really good at fractions." It's not something we think about when we're thinking about a good leader.

John Horton:

So clearly, we've established how EQ is so important. So, I guess the big question now is, can we get better at it?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Absolutely. We all can get better at EQ. It's actually a skill that can really be developed over time, and it might come more naturally to some. For example, some people may feel more natural at leading a group or more talkative or extroverted, things like that. We may think that that goes hand in hand, but actually, a lot of these skills can be developed over time and with practice as well. So certainly, things that we can work at and get better at.

John Horton:

All right. Well, Dr. Tworek, you've been here before, so you know what's going to come next. We're going to ask you to give us some tips that we can do, some actionable items that we can do here at home or at the office to build those emotional intelligence skills. So, give us your best advice. What can we do?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Well, a good way to start - and I'm sure you can see a trend of me saying this throughout our conversation - but really, by beginning to maybe journal or track the way that we experience things, our thoughts and emotions, so that we can gain more insight into how we feel and accumulate self-awareness. Because if we can gain some insight into our own thoughts and feelings, well, like I said, this can help us to gain empathy towards others, potentially increase our social awareness, so our understanding of how others may perceive things, and improve our relationships.

And so, some really good strategies, like I said, begin by journaling, tracking thoughts and emotions, using positive self-talk, setting goals for yourself. And a lot of additional ways in which we can become more in tune with ourselves - meditations, mindfulness - and then to make sure that we're also honing these skills when it comes to our relationships with others - practicing communication skills, not being afraid as well to ask questions. So sometimes, we may assume that, when we say something, it elicits a certain emotion in someone. It never hurts to ask, "Hey, when I communicate with you in this way, how does that make you feel? Is there a better way for me to get this message across?" Sometimes, the best thing that we can do is to ask those questions and to clarify, too.

John Horton:

So, what do you say to people, because a lot of times, I know people get uncomfortable doing that, which is one of the reasons why we're talking about it here. How do you make that approach by asking people how they feel or how something you did made them feel? Because that gets into some territory that people get a little, they don't quite know if they want to go there.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Oftentimes, when that comes up, I ask people to reflect on a time where someone asked them for their opinion, or someone asked them a similar question in a way that was really affirming. Someone asked you, for example, your opinion on something and it made you really feel good. How did they phrase that? It's almost like we can steal tips and tricks from other great leaders or other people that we felt communicated really well with and use them in our own experiences, too. So OK, reflect back on a time when someone asked me a question that I felt like I was really supported, or they really cared about how I was feeling. And how can I use that to phrase this question to someone else?

And a lot of times, too, we can feel worried about asking these sorts of questions or taking the first step in these communications. But the nice thing is, a lot of times, just opening up the door and saying, "Hey, I'm available for communication," or "I want to talk about these things," can open that door for these conversations to happen. So just letting people know that "Hey, I want to communicate more," can be a really, really good way to start.

John Horton:

And I'd imagine, too, just showing kindness, which is something, I know, I think we've talked about before. And just that whole thing of, just of helping others and being there for others and being cognizant of that.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

We often underestimate the impact of kindness. But when we do show that kindness, show that support, it oftentimes goes a lot further than we can even see. So certainly, just showing that kindness, being a support, you're right, is another really good way to start because that shows empathy. Just like we were talking about, something that we all could use a little more of.

John Horton:

Well, Dr. Tworek, you always have such great tips and great advice. Before we say our goodbyes on this, is there anything that we missed?

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Really, to wrap it all up, I just want to finish with one final thought. Like I said, EQ is something that can be honed, that can be practiced. So, no matter where you are right now when it comes to your current level of emotional intelligence, any of the things that we talked about today can serve some sort of benefit for you within yourself, how you manage daily stressors or how you communicate with others. So, any step forward is progress and something that we can continue to work on throughout our lives.

John Horton:

Well, as always, you helped all of us move forward and make that progress. So, thanks again for stopping by, and I look forward to having you back.

Dr. Grace Tworek:

Thank you so much. I always love being a part of these, John.

John Horton:

Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to regulate emotions and to relate to the people around you. It's a skill you can build, too, especially if you follow the suggestions from Dr. Tworek. Until next time, be well.

Speaker 3:

Thank you for listening to Health Essentials, brought to you by Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Children's. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or visit clevelandclinic.org/hepodcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician.

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