90% of top performers in business utilized Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to succeed. Furthermore, their EQ was more important to their success than their IQ. EQ is even more important for effectively loving and leading in your family and church.

Daniel Goleman identified five core capacities of Emotional Intelligence, three that are personal and two that are social. They follow a developmental progression in which early traits support the later ones. To help you remember these traits and their order we re-named them (keeping the concepts) to make the acronym SMART.

Here are five keys to improve your emotional SMARTs so you can bring your best self into your relationships and work:

1. Self-Reflect

“Search me, God, and know my heart,” David teaches us to pray (Psalm 139:23). Learning to feel your emotions as they are occurring is a theme of the Psalms in the Bible and it’s the foundation of EQ. This means using feeling words, confessing short-comings, and expressing inner feelings and desires. Self-awareness fosters clear thinking, healthy relationships, wise action, and whole-hearted worship of God.

2. Manage Emotions

Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). But repressing your emotions is not a good way to manage them. Instead “process” your feelings and thoughts with a safe friend who gives you empathy. In this way, stressors and disappointments become opportunities to learn and grow. The test of your emotional regulator is what you do after an upset. If you isolate, distract yourself, or get busy you’ll make things worse. Everyone gets upset, but high EQ people are able to return to peace, joy, and confidence.

3. Activate

Paul testified, “I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 1:29, NLT). That’s a high EQ. The best source of energy in your job or ministry is not your willpower—it’s your trust in the grace of God (which is often mediated through people in the Body of Christ). This is especially true in tough times.

4. Relate with Empathy

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Jesus’ gospel ministry is compassion (Matthew 9:36). But if your compassion is just an action it may end up being unloving. Real compassion is not fixing people’s problems or reassuring them—it’s stepping into their skin to feel their need and then providing what will be most helpful. It starts with listening. If you offer wisdom or any kind of help but lack the warmth of empathy it will be hard for people to receive your care.

5. Team with Others

Self-sufficiency (or pride) is the undoing of many people (Proverbs 16:18). It can ruin a marriage, family, friendship, business, or ministry. Emotionally SMART people collaborate with others, combining gifts and resources for greater effectiveness.

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Grow in your emotional intelligence in this new series! We are often tempted to detach from our challenging emotions, but they are a part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Effective ministry leadership is increased by our empathy towards others, but it starts first with welcoming our own emotions.

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