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How Emotional Intelligence Can Boost Your Career -- And Save Your Life By understanding your emotions, you can move adeptly through your current challenges and prevent future ones.

By Travis Bradberry

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There is a time in the life of every predicament where it is ripe for resolution. Emotions provide the cue to act when a problem is big enough to see, yet still small enough to solve. By understanding your emotions, you can move adeptly through your current challenges and prevent future ones.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the "something" in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

Related: Why You Need Emotional Intelligence to Succeed in Business

Emotional intelligence can make your career

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. It's a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with a tremendous result. TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

Of all the people we've studied at work, we've found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.

Related: Are You Emotionally Intelligent? Here's How to Know for Sure.

Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven't yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren't tied closely to emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can save your life

When you stuff your feelings, they quickly build into the uncomfortable sensations of tension, stress, and anxiety. Unaddressed emotions strain the mind and body. Your emotional intelligence skills help make stress more manageable by enabling you to spot and tackle tough situations before things escalate.

People who fail to use their emotional intelligence skills are more likely to turn to other, less effective means of managing their mood. They are twice as likely to experience anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even thoughts of suicide.

Scores of research studies have come forth linking emotional intelligence and susceptibility to disease. Stress, anxiety, and depression suppress the immune system, creating a vulnerability to everything from the common cold to cancer. The potency of your immune system is tied to your emotional state via neuropeptides: complex chemicals that act as messengers between the mind and body. When your mind is flooded with tension or distress, it signals the body to decrease energy directed towards fighting disease. This change increases your vulnerability to an attack.

Research even shows a definitive link between emotional distress and serious forms of illness, such as cancer. One of the first long-term studies measured women's stress levels over a 24-year period. Researchers tracked the degree to which each woman experienced tension, fear, anxiety, and sleep disturbances—all forms of emotional distress resulting from unresolved conflict and unmanaged emotion. Women who experienced higher levels of stress during this 24-year period were twice as likely to develop breast cancer.

Emotional intelligence skills can also be taught to speed the body's recovery from disease. People who develop their emotional intelligence skills during treatment recover faster from a variety of ailments, including the two biggest killers in America?heart disease and cancer. Teaching emotional intelligence skills to people with life-threatening illnesses has been shown to reduce the rate of recurrence, shrink recovery times, and lower death rates.

Researchers at Ohio State University studied 227 women diagnosed with breast cancer and saw remarkable effects from teaching emotional intelligence skills during recovery. Women who were randomly assigned to this treatment had reduced levels of stress, kept a better diet, and built stronger immune systems. Research presented to the American Heart Association revealed a similar outcome for men and women taught emotional intelligence skills while recovering from a heart attack.

Emotional intelligence has a strong influence on health-related outcomes because it reduces the perception of stress in response to trying situations. Emotional intelligence skills strengthen your brain's ability to cope with emotional distress. This resilience keeps your immune system strong and protects you from disease.

Bringing it all together

It's nice to know that working on your EQ can have benefits in some of the most important areas of your life. A healthy career and a healthy body ticks a couple of very important boxes.

Related: Why Leaders Lack Emotional Intelligence

A version of this article first appeared at TalentSmart.

Travis Bradberry

Bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Habits

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Habits and a LinkedIn Top Voice with more than 2.5 million followers. His bestselling books have sold more than 3 million copies, are translated into 25 languages, and are available in more than 150 countries. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and the Harvard Business Review.

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