How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

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If someone told you that there was a key to getting people to like you more, to success in the workplace, and to higher self-confidence, you’d use it in an instant, right? Of course, you would. Such a thing does exist, and it’s called emotional intelligence. Since I can’t get through an article without citing my favorite resource, Psychology Today, I will use its wonderfully clear definition of what emotional intelligence actually is:

“Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) can be defined as the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one’s own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others. According to Talent Smart, 90% of high performers at the work place possess high EQ, while 80% of low performers have low EQ. Emotional Intelligence is absolutely essential in the formation, development, maintenance, and enhancement of close personal relationships. Unlike IQ, which does not change significantly over a lifetime, our EQ can evolve and increase with our desire to learn and grow.” (Psychology Today)

Basically, it’s being able to understand the emotions of others and applying your knowledge and empathy to connect with them on a deeper level. In general, there are six “pillars” of emotional intelligence:

  1. self-awareness
  2. empathy
  3. self-regulation
  4. motivation
  5. social skills
  6. happiness

These are the six things that are suggested you have in order to have full emotional intelligence. I aim to condense these into a few simple skills that can be applied to real situations (because “motivation” is difficult to apply out of the blue). Still, just because emotional intelligence unlocks a lot of opportunities, doesn’t mean it comes naturally, or that it’s effortless to attain. Here are some ways you can expose your EI, or at least begin to gain some of the basics.

emotional intelligence glass case of emotions anchorman

1. “Reducing Negative Personalization” (Psychology Today)

You might sound like a licensed clinician if you use this phrase as you go about your daily routine, but it’s actually a really great tip for every day. If someone behaves in a negative manner, try not to attribute it to malicious intent just yet. This is one of the best ways to ensure that we are objective when we are attempting to understand a situation.

Of course, it is best to use your gut when determining if there is dishonesty at play. If you sense something is very off in someone’s explanation or emotional reaction, try and get to the bottom of it in an objectively, calm fashion.

2. Learn About Your Own Behavior

Been seeing a pattern in your own actions lately? There might be something to that. Take note of how you react in certain situations, especially if there seems to be repetition.

emotional intelligence inside out hq

Pay close attention to how you’re thinking in those situations, and also how your body is reacting (is your heart rate high? are your muscles very tense?). If you can take note of the ways in which you respond to certain stimuli, you can begin to control them. Furthermore, you will learn to act on problems in what is perhaps a more efficient manner.

3. Practice Empathy

Some individuals are naturally more empathetic than others—and that’s okay. Sure, it is a bit easier to react in social situations when you can instantaneously get a grip on the other person’s feelings, but if that doesn’t come so naturally to you, you’re not out of luck. Ask questions for clarification, and, the golden rule, practice active listening.

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This isn’t just great for business, but also for maintaining healthy, communicative relationships. I’ll risk using the word “practice” too much and say, just like anything else you must “practice, practice, practice.” It does make perfect, after all. Well, maybe not “perfect” in this case, but it can help to really focus on a specific situation, and thus a specific person’s point of view, and figuring out a way to relate and respond appropriately. Often, the way we react to situations psychologically can define our relationships.

4. Take a Breath, and Assess

Jumping to conclusions, as well as rash reactions, is never really the ideal way to react to a problem (nor is it the way to come to a solution). We’re all probably a tad guilty of this (my roommate has seen me go off a few times at some people that didn’t deserve it), but in the end, it’s important to approach each situation with a moment of clarity, and an objective lens.

emotional intelligence heart and tears

Keep in mind; it’s okay to take the time to think when mulling over a situation. Tell your friend, co-worker, boss, or loved one that you need a night to clear your head (“sleep on it,” as they say). Come back in the morning with a ready-to-understand attitude, and at the very least, a willingness to listen. Even if you don’t agree with their point of view, most people just want you to see where they’re coming from. The outcome is really a different story.

Finally, don’t get too caught up in what could happen, what “should” happen, or the prospect of an ideal situation. Setting your mind on one expectation could lead to negative responses to another. You might end up squashing someone else’s feelings or perspective just because you have a clear-cut idea of the way something is supposed to go.

Fun fact: Most things don’t go the way they’re “supposed” to go. Other people don’t always react ideally, and sometimes you won’t react preferably. When you’re in an argument, remember that people are imperfect. Try as best you can to understand the situation as comprehensively as possible before making a plan to move forward. If everyone is still feeling poorly at the end, try again. However, if everyone is working together to at least try to understand where the other is coming from, the unhappiness is bound to be minimized.

I urge all of you to try out a few of these tips, and let us know how they worked out! Did it better your relationships? Did you find a resolution to a work crisis? Keep us posted.

Resources: Psychology TodayLife Hack

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How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

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