Emotional Intelligence and HSP

Two months ago I bought a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0 for my kindle. This is the updated version of Emotional Intelligence and it provides you with a test, goal tracker, and strategies to build up your EI.

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According to the authors, Emotional Intelligence is made up of four categories. Two categories fall under Personal Competence, and the other two fall under Social Competence. Here is a quick overview of what the categories mean:

I was interested in this because I love books on self-improvement. I love reading books by Malcolm Gladwell, and I know I need to grow my emotional intelligence in order to better handle situations at work and in my social life. One of the authors, Travis Bradberry, contributes to Forbes and wrote an article on successful people.

Two months ago when I first bought the book and took the test that is included, I was sitting at the Board of Education, bored. It was spring break and the new school year was upon us. All around me, my coworkers were preparing for opening ceremonies, teacher rotations, and retiring principals. And I didn’t have much to do.

As a first year Assistant Language Teacher, I had been having some problems at school. It was hard to know what my role was, what I was supposed to be in charge of, what each teacher wanted out of me, and how to best adapt to the students and the curriculum.

I had a few breakdowns in the course of my first few months, and I knew I needed to change. I needed to better understand myself, how I work, and how to understand those I work with in order to be more effective. So I turned to EI 2.0. (I also bought a Japanese version of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that goes over the main points of the book in manga form. That also really helped me and was easy to understand.)

When you first buy the book, you get a code and you go online and take a test. It has you evaluate how well you think you are at understanding situations around you, adapting to change, etc. I had just finished a tough school year, was having self-confidence issues, and I was bored out of my mind at work. The test scores reflected that.

My overall emotional intelligence (EQ) score: 71
My Self-Awareness score: 66
My Self-Management score: 69
My Social Awareness score: 77
My Relationship Management score: 71

I was a little shocked at my results, since I tend to think of myself as someone who is good at reading other’s emotions. Not surprisingly, however, I was not so good at giving myself a break or understanding that it’s okay to express my emotions instead of trying to cover them up as I often did. The book then gives you strategies on how to change and better understand your emotions and those of the people around you. I wrote down the things I needed to work on and kept them in the back of my mind.

Then, this week I found a post about Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). I took this test and discovered that I am HSP. This was really eye-opening for me because my whole life I grew up being told I was ‘too sensitive’ and that I always took things the wrong way. I think that was also revealed in my EI test. Being a HSP, I am more sensitive to pain, light, sound, and others’ emotions. If my workspace is too bright or too loud, I have to retreat to the bathroom in order to get away and rest. I am very prone to headaches, muscle tension, and mood shifts due to the weather/temperature.

I am also ENFP on the Myers-Briggs scale, which I found out also makes me experience stress that becomes physical pain. I love taking tests like this, as I’m sure everyone does, judging by the number of BuzzFeed quiz results on my Facebook page. Everyone likes to know how they fit into the world and what their personality means.

As I read up on HSP, I found that certain cultures that do not value sensitivity, (America, for example) can harm a person who is HSP by telling them that their innate self is ‘wrong’. I fully agree with this. I always had friends and family who told me to ‘suck it up’ and stop being so sensitive, and it really made me feel like I had to change or I wouldn’t be accepted. Perhaps this is why I love Japan so much. In my opinion, sensitivity is more accepted and valued in Japanese culture. People’s feelings are accounted for on every issue. People are told to ‘read the air’ and those who cannot learn to understand the emotions of others are seen as less valuable. I feel more accepted here because I don’t have to always say what I feel. I can give off subtle clues that others pick up on. I feel very comforted when I live in Japan because of this.

Once the new school year started, we got new teachers and students. My desk was also placed next to the teacher I used to loathe having class with. Now, however, we get along much better. I understand her reasoning for the way she teaches and I am quicker to respond with different approaches when I plan lessons with her. I am more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and I am more outspoken when I have a conflict with someone.

My work life and social life have been thriving recently and I stopped having second thoughts about my job and about living in Japan as an expat. I am going to keep trying out all of the strategies I learn from books and tests, and I will try to express myself more and internalize less. It is an everyday journey, but knowing how I work and that I am not alone is the most comforting thing in the world.

I retook the EI 2.0 test today and here are my results after just two months:

My overall emotional intelligence (EQ) score: 85
My Self-Awareness score: 82
My Self-Management score: 79
My Social Awareness score: 95
My Relationship Management score: 85

And this was my result from the HSP test:

With your hyperawareness come many strengths. HSPs consider matters deeply and often have unique and interesting perspectives. You are intuitive and tend to be an emotional leader (the first to be outraged by injustice, for example). But because you’re so tuned in to the subtleties of your surroundings, you can feel overwhelmed in chaotic environments. You’re not necessarily shy or introverted; you simply think more clearly when you’re not overstimulated—which is why navigating unfamiliar places and meeting many new people at once (think cocktail parties or client presentations) can be especially taxing. To avoid shutting down in such situations, it can help to prepare in advance. Rehearse what you want to say. Brainstorm conversation starters. Bring a friend for social support. Take frequent breaks. It’s crucial for HSPs to build downtime into their lives. Make rest a priority at least one day a week. Take time off every three months. Learn to meditate. And try not to overextend yourself when it comes to family and friends. Thanks to their affinity for reading other people’s emotions, HSPs frequently dole out more support than they can afford to give. To handle your physical sensitivities, choose decaf tea, coffee, and sodas. And carry a snack with you (preferably some form of protein) so you never get too hungry. Finally, keep in mind that HSPs tend to change careers several times. More than most people, you crave meaningful work—but a job that’s too stressful won’t make you happy. It may take several tries to find the right fit.

With this better understanding of myself, I have been so much happier and optimistic in the past few weeks. I am not just ‘back to normal’ (before I went through culture shock/new job/move to Japan). I am better than before. I am more involved at work, I am editing my book at a (slow but) steady pace, and I am getting out of the house more. Spring really brings out the best in everyone, I think. (And thankfully, I don’t have allergies like I did in the states).

The first step to change is understanding yourself. Complaining about your situation won’t fix your situation. Learn what is holding you back and work from there. Baby step it until you improve. Keep a journal of your goals and why you want to improve and what kind of person you want to be seen as. All of this work that I have put into myself has really paid off. I hope it will help you as well.

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