10 Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence For A Better Life!

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Emotional Intelligence (or EI for short) is a controversial but widely-discussed alternative to traditional IQ. EI measures our ability to perceive our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and healthy way.

EI is fundamental to our life experience and can influence how successful we are in our relationships and careers. Whatever stage of life you’re at, you can use these tips below to improve your Emotional Intelligence and develop your self-awareness and empathy.

1. Be Specific

The labels you give to emotions as you experience them will help you understand how you’re feeling and why. So instead of saying you’re sad, try to be more specific. Would it be more accurate to describe yourself as hurt, disappointed, defeated, depressed, or melancholy?

When you understand exactly what it is you’re feeling, you can make better decisions about how to respond to emotions.

2. Practice Responding, Rather than Reacting

There’s a subtle but important difference between responding and reacting.

Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion (for example, feeling irritated and snapping at the person who has just interrupted you).

Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave (for example, feeling irritated, explaining to the person how you feel, why this isn’t a good time to be interrupting you, and when would be better).

3. Don't judge or edit your feelings too quickly.

Try not to dismiss your feelings before you have a chance to think them through. Healthy emotions often rise and fall in a wave, rising, peaking, and fading naturally. Your aim should be not to cut off the wave before it peaks.

4. Practice Empathizing with Yourself and Others

Empathy is about understanding why someone feels or behaves in a certain way and being able to communicate that understanding to them. It applies to ourselves and other people, and practicing this ability will improve your EI.

Start by practicing with yourself. When you notice yourself feeling or behaving in a certain way, ask “Why do I think I’m feeling like this/doing this?” At first, your response might be “I don’t know,” but keep paying attention to your feelings and behavior, and you’ll start to notice different answers coming through.

5. Avoid judging your own emotions.

All the emotions you have are valid, even the negative ones. If you judge your emotions, you’ll inhibit your ability to fully feel, making it more difficult to use your emotions in positive ways. Think of it this way: every emotion you have is a new piece of useful information connected to something that's happening in your world. Without this information, you'd be left in the dark about how to adequately react. That's why the ability to feel your emotions is a form of intelligence.

6. When criticized, don't take offense. Instead, ask: What can I learn?

Whether a successful entrepreneur or a loyal employee, criticism is never easy to take. You've invested blood, sweat, and sometimes tears in your work; it can be extremely difficult when someone else comes in and tears down what you've built.

But the truth is, criticism is often rooted in truth--even when it's not delivered in an ideal manner. When you receive negative feedback, there are two choices: You can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation, or you can get angry and let emotion get the best of you. 

When we are on the receiving end of criticism, whether it's delivered ideally or not, it's invaluable to consider the following: 

  • Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?

  • Instead of focusing on the delivery, how can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?

7. Take Responsibility for Your Feelings and Behavior

This is probably the most challenging step, and it’s also the most helpful. Your emotions and behavior come from you—they don’t come from anyone else—therefore, you’re the one who’s responsible for them.

If you feel hurt in response to something someone says or does, and you lash out at them, you’re responsible for that. They didn’t “make” you lash out (they’re not controlling you with puppet strings, after all!), your reaction is your responsibility.

Equally, your feelings can provide you with valuable information about your experience of the other person, as well as your own needs and preferences, but your feelings aren’t another person’s responsibility.

Once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and how you behave, this will have a positive impact on all areas of your life.

8. Reflect on Errors and Missteps

Everyone makes mistakes. What will increase your EQ is how you rebound from a misstep. Don’t go to extremes, either never thinking about it again or obsessing so much that you become paralyzed and can’t move forward. Instead, reflect on what there is to learn from your error and keep that lesson with you as you go on.

9. Listen to your body.

A knot in your stomach while driving to work may be a clue that your job is a source of stress. A flutter of the heart when you pick up a girl you have just started to date may be a clue that this could be "the real thing." Listening to these sensations and the underlying feelings that they signal will allow you to process with your powers of reason.

10. Give up the Idea of Perfection

Instead of motivating people, the pursuit of perfection often does the opposite. No one and nothing is perfect, so constantly striving for what doesn’t exist can make people feel defeated and want to quit. Increase your EQ by letting go of what you didn’t do right and focusing instead on how you’ll grow and improve next time.

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