When we think of the word “intelligence” we often think of intellectual intelligence, but there are multiple types of intelligence. Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is the ability to identify, understand, leverage, and manage your emotions in positive ways.
EQ is essential for:
- Personal development
- Effective communication
- Overcoming challenges
- Diffusing conflict
Here is how to improve your emotional intelligence:
Start Where You Are
By understanding how our feelings impact our lives and how we translate and respond to others, we can improve our emotional intelligence. The bullet points below can help you determine whether your current EQ is low or high. Nothing is 100%, so identify which of these sounds most like you in your day-to-day life when things are going fairly well, but also what you shift to in times of tension or stress. You may respond differently in your personal life and professional life.
People with low EQ:
- Often feels misunderstood
- Get upset easily
- Become overwhelmed by emotions
- Have problems being assertive
People with high EQ:
- Understand the links between their emotions and how they behave
- Remain calm and composed during stressful situations
- Are able to influence others toward a common goal
- Handle difficult people with tact and diplomacy
Identify which of these sounds most like you, then ask for feedback from friends, family, and trusted colleagues. You may be surprised to learn that their perspective differs from yours. Don’t focus on who is “right” or “wrong” as this first step is all about self-awareness.
Identify Your Emotions
Even if your EQ is high, most of us do not know how to accurately identify the full range of emotions we are feeling. When asked, we often say “I’m fine”. Even when things are going exceptionally well, we may not be able to identify the precise emotion we’re feeling. There are 5 primary emotional categories and 54 different emotions.
The 5 primary categories are:
For example, if asked you may say that you feel “happy”, but you could be feeling any of the feelings that fall into the “enjoyment” category. This includes love, relief, contentment, amusement, joy, pride, excitement, peace, satisfaction, compassion, and happiness.
By identifying how you are feeling you can accurately express yourself. The better you get at identifying how you feel, the better you will get at identifying how others may be feeling.
Identify Whether You Respond Or React
A reaction is what we do or say without thought. A response is what we do or say after we apply critical thought and consider the other person’s feelings. When it comes to emotional intelligence the words we choose when we react can do great damage, while the words we choose when we respond can strengthen our connection with others.
For example, your child breaks a plate, and you react by yelling at them to be more careful, maybe even calling them a name—like stupid or a klutz. You may continue to yell while you tell them to move so that they don’t get hurt.
When you calm down and replay what happened in your head, you may realize that as soon as the plate dropped, they immediately looked up to you with regret, embarrassment, or fear. Or that the dog bumped into them causing them to drop the plate. After you yelled at them, they had tears in their eyes, and were quiet the rest of the evening.
To respond in the same situation, you would take a breath and assess things. You would see the regret, embarrassment, or fear on their face and ask if they are ok and help them move away from the broken pieces. You would recognize that it wasn’t intentional, it’s just a plate and you have more.
If it was something more valuable or more expensive than a plate or something broke because they were throwing a ball inside, which they know they are not allowed to do, there may be a consequence.
Sometimes we react first, then respond. Scream and yell, then apologize after we realize that we overreacted. But the damage caused by your initial reaction is done. If it’s a one-off, you may be able to heal the relationship. If this is your typical response, the damage can slowly (or rapidly) degrade the relationship.
For example, people in both your personal and professional life may keep things from you in an attempt to avoid your overreaction. While understandable from their perspective, it’s neither healthy nor productive. And when you find out they’ve been keeping something from you, you may feel betrayed instead of understanding.
Again, ask your nearest and dearest for feedback, as you may not realize whether you are reacting or responding.
Practice Your Newfound Self-Awareness
Now that you can identify your feelings and whether you react or respond, it is time to assess yourself in a variety of circumstances. Even if your EQ is already high, you can further develop your skills.
Consider how you respond to positive, tense, stressful, and everyday interactions with friends, family, colleagues, and clients.
Reassess your daily interactions with the intention to improve the quality of your connections. The stronger your EQ, the more connected you will feel to others, and they will feel to you.
Make active listening a priority and pause before you respond. Even if the situation is not tense, and your intention is to be positive, taking a pause can make a world of difference.
For example, if you run into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in a year or two and they have lost a lot of weight you may react by saying “I was getting so worried about you.” Or “You look so pretty/happy/healthy now.”
Instead of sharing in your excitement with you, you feel shocked because your old acquaintance looks uncomfortable and they cut your interaction short. You may even take it personally wondering why they blew you off.
While your intention was to share that you are happy for them, you unintentionally objectified your acquaintance. You shared your past and present judgment, assigning more value to their body than to who they are as a person. You placed the body image issues you subscribe to, on them. This is why they cut your interaction short.
To respond in this same circumstance, you would have focused on how good it is to see them after so long. You would ask about their spouse, kids, family, job, hobbies, and life. If they share their weight loss with you, you sincerely congratulate them on their success letting them know they are as fabulous as they’ve always been.
Developing your EQ takes a lot of practice, so continue to check in with those you trust for ongoing feedback as to how you are progressing.
Assessing Other People’s Emotions
You must begin with yourself, but the final step to improve your emotional intelligence is to think beyond yourself. We touched on this in the examples above, but it’s time to consider not only how you feel in a situation, but also how the other person is feeling.
Sometimes you will both be on the same page, but more often than not we are coming from different places. By identifying and confirming your emotion and theirs, you can better connect and communicate. The goal is not to change anyone else’s feelings or perspective, but to honor both your feelings.
In times of stress and tension, you may find it more difficult to respond instead of react and you may have a hard time connecting with others. It may help to identify soothing self-care solutions, such as Holmes Organics CBD to ease your tension and stress.