How do I measure my emotional intelligence (I’m in my 30’s)?

Emotional intelligence is really two things: one internal, and one relational.

First, emotional intelligence involves learning to really feel all of your emotions for exactly what they are; then the “intelligence” part comes from having the maturity/perspective to decide what you should do based on your emotions instead of just reacting to them.

Let’s say you’re unhappy with how your boss and others treat you at work. You feel belittled, discredited, undervalued, taken advantage of…

You fantasize about reacting to your emotions by putting everyone in their place, making them see your worth, forcing them to understand what they’re missing, or just exploding and getting all your frustrations out in a big (final) display of aggression and release.

Again, that would be reacting to your emotions.

To be emotionally intelligent would be to know exactly how you feel and why, and then to use that knowledge to make wise decisions. In the above example, that could mean taking steps to leave the job if you’re convinced the situation will never change.

That would be a calculated decision—the result of a long process of experimentation, evaluation, reflection, and counsel from others.

Second, emotional intelligence is being aware of others’ needs, wants, priorities, styles, personalities, etc. in order to communicate effectively so you can get the best results.

People are driven by various needs, and we’re all at different levels of maturity.

For example, if someone you want to talk to happens to be more task-oriented and not that detailed, it would be ineffective to open up a conversation with a long, personal story (even though you might be more relationship-oriented and detailed).

Now, since you’re in your 30’s, let’s consider what that could mean emotionally. You probably sense at least some doors of opportunity starting to close; time seems like it’s speeding up as you find yourself with more and more responsibilities; it feels as though everyone has sort of made up their mind about you in a way, and you can no longer rely on “cuteness” or innocence to get by; you find yourself with less and less to fall back on as you’re forced to get more and more realistic about capabilities, requirements, and time—I mean, back in your 20’s, if being a dancer didn’t work out, you could have always done stand-up comedy, or written novels, or just traveled for a year, etc.

The emotions you feel in your 30’s can give you direction and drive to move forward, or they can be used to anchor excuses on. I think a positive way to see your 30’s is as a time to really narrow in on your core values and goals, to finish discovering and start fully developing your unique strengths, and to basically begin showing the world what you’re made of.

How might emotional intelligence play into that? Well, you’ll feel at times in your 30’s like it’s just all too much to handle, like no one cares, and like you’ve wasted precious years. You could react to those feelings by giving up on dreams, by letting relationships die, and by settling for a life you never would have chosen for yourself.

Or, you could learn to ride those feelings, living out there on the cusp of everything you see yourself potentially being capable of now.

An emotionally intelligent question to maybe throw your own way from time to time, regardless of how you feel: Why not? Time is going to keep going by, anyway. So why shouldn’t you do your best to really make it count for something special? Why shouldn’t you find the right place and opportunities to really be the person you’ve come to find you hoped you’d become all along?

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