Emotional Intelligence is Essential for Teen Success

teengroupEmotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, understand, and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others, and it is a highly desired skill in the workplace. More and more, businesses are relying on references and personality assessments to measure a potential employee’s emotional intelligence, instead of just focusing on what school they attended, their grades, or their interview skills.

Someone with a high EQ stands out from the crowd. They have the ability to:

  • work well with others,
  • accept and adapt to change,
  • build strong relationships,
  • make good decisions,
  • deal with difficult situations,
  • control impulses,
  • solve problems, and
  • communicate clearly.

Some of the top universities in the United States, such as Yale and Stanford, have created programs to teach emotional intelligence in an effort to prepare our next generation to keep America competitive with other countries.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Needed in the Workplace

There has been a lot of research done on emotional intelligence, and the results are impressive. Studies show that adults with high EQ are more productive in the workplace, have better career advancement, are more effective leaders, and have better work relationships. Studies also show that workplaces with low EQ employees experience high turnover, burnout, low productivity, and declining sales.

As the next generation of innovators and leaders, our youth need to be taught EQ skills now that will help them to be successful and make our businesses stronger in the future. Teens who have a high EQ not only improve their future success, but also can benefit now. Research shows that teens with high EQ earn higher grades, perform better on standardized tests, are more likely to stay in school, and make healthier life choices.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence

As with all personality traits, some people have naturally good EQ skills, while others need to work on them. The good news is that everyone can get better! Unlike IQ, a measure of intelligence, people can actually improve their emotional intelligence. Additionally, emotional intelligence is something that develops as we mature.

Some schools are beginning to implement Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculums. But even if your local schools are not, there are ways that parents can teach emotional intelligence to their teens. The best way to develop emotional intelligence is to practice the five skills of emotional intelligence:


Self-awareness is the ability to identify your own emotions and recognize their impact. Being able to notice and accurately label everyday feelings is the most basic of all the EQ skills.

Benefits: Individuals with high EQ are able to understand their own reactions, strengths and weaknesses. By being able to recognize their feelings, they are better able to use the other four characteristics of emotional intelligence. Someone who does not have emotional awareness cannot effectively use the other EQ skills.

Teaching self-awareness: If you would like to help your teen learn this skill, then encourage them to label their feelings – whether in their own mind or by sharing their feelings with you. It can be difficult to label all of the feelings we have, especially when we feel more than one emotion at a time, so the best way for you to teach this skill is to demonstrate it by openly sharing your own feelings with them.

Emotional Management

teenjobinterview2Once we are aware of our feelings, we must learn how to manage what we feel. Emotional management is the ability to control our reaction to our feelings and/or use our feelings to guide decisions. Controlling our reaction means that we know when, where and how to most effectively express our feelings.

Benefits: Individuals with high EQ are able to stay in control. They don’t make quick or foolish decisions nor let their anger take over their behavior. Someone who has good EQ knows it can damage relationships to react to emotions in a way that’s disrespectful, too intense, too impulsive, or harmful.

Teaching emotional management: Parents must help teens develop emotional stability so that they can avoid poor decision-making when feeling angry or upset. This can be a very difficult step for teens, who are at an age dominated by hormones and impulses, but it is crucial to improving their EQ. Following are some tips to teach the art of controlling emotions:

  • Ask your teen to “retreat” when they feel extremely angry, such as encouraging them to walk away from an argument and take some deep breaths to collect themselves.
  • For a teen struggling with sadness, suggest that they create a gratitude journal or simply make a list of all of the good things in their life.
  • Encourage your teen to talk to a friend or family member when they are feeling a strong emotion.
  • Give them stress management skills. Teach them to recognize how their body feels when they are stressed. Encourage your teen to discover techniques that reduce their stress, such as listening to music, exercising, drawing, taking a walk, writing in a journal, taking a long bath, spending time with a pet, or using relaxation exercises, such as meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.



Empathy is the ability to recognize others’ emotions and accurately interpret their verbal and nonverbal cues. Someone with emotional intelligence can imagine and understand how and why people might feel certain emotions in specific situations. Empathy helps us build good relationships with others.

Benefits: Individuals with high EQ are able to put themselves in another person’s place – understanding how it may feel to be that person or experience their situation. This is a critical skill for working with others and for motivating a team. Empathy helps the individual know appropriate things to say and ways to behave around someone who is feeling strong emotions.

Teaching empathy: There are three main ways to teach empathy to your teen: 1) role modeling the behavior to them, 2) encouraging teens to try to understand how another person would feel in a certain situation, and 3) suggesting they use active listening skills when talking with other people. When you and your teen see or talk about situations in your daily life, ask them what they think the other person in the situation felt. Encourage them to imagine what emotions a person is likely to be feeling.

Choosing Your Mood

Mood management is recognizing that moods are something we can control, deciding which mood is right for specific situations, and getting ourselves into an appropriate mood. An emotionally intelligent person reacts appropriately by ensuring their feelings are relevant to the current situation.

Benefits: Individuals with high EQ create a safe and calm environment, which creates a more content, focused, motivated, and productive atmosphere.

Teaching mood management: Teens are naturally moody, so this is no easy task for them. The trick here is that you must encourage your teen to become an optimist (thinks positive), not a pessimist (thinks negative). Role model and encourage your teen to think positive no matter what the situation is. Positive thinkers experience better health, less stress, and more ‘luck’ in life. Explain to your teen that, while it takes a little practice to develop a more positive frame of mind, it can really improve your whole experience of life and how you live it.

Conflict Management

Conflict Management is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while successfully avoiding or managing conflict. It involves handling social interaction appropriately.

Benefits: Individuals with high EQ are able to handle conflicts in a mature manner and provide a positive resolution. Disagreements are bound to arise with others, and someone with emotional intelligence is more likely to be able to negotiate a solution. Since conflict can disrupt efficiency and productivity, as well as social relationships, an individual with high EQ is an asset as a friend and coworker.

Teaching conflict management: The best way to handle a conflict is to negotiate to find a win-win solution for all involved. Encourage your teen to go through three steps when negotiating a conflict with someone: 1) define the problem, 2) determine what each person truly wants, and 3) brainstorm solutions. Explain to your teen that the key is to treat each other as partners trying to solve a problem instead of enemies trying to “win” an argument. Remind your teen that using a positive and respectful attitude makes this process smoother.

Final Thoughts…

Ultimately, experts agree that the single most effective way to teach teens emotional intelligence is role modeling. Assess yourself and make sure that you are an active listener, demonstrate a willingness to share your feelings, are accountable for your mistakes, are kind and prioritize relationships, model forgiveness, are optimistic, use words that build others up, take responsibility seriously, and work to create a sense of peace and calm in your own life. This type of living will not only develop your teen’s emotional intelligence, but it will also help to improve family relations, make you feel more content in your own life, and help your teen become more successful as an adult.

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