Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and recognize other people’s emotions, as well as your own, and to use that understanding in your thoughts and actions. One of the most popular models of emotional intelligence states that an emotionally intelligent person is able to: perceive emotions, use emotional knowledge in everyday life, understand the complexity of emotions and be able to regulate their emotions.
Having a high EQ (which stands for emotional quotient, similar to IQ) can be extremely beneficial in many different areas of your life – your relationships with others, your workplace, school, health and overall wellbeing.
Just as with regular intelligence, some people are just naturally more gifted than others, but the good news is – even if you weren’t born with a highly developed set of skills or abilities, you can still improve your emotional intelligence by putting in some effort.
Keep reading if you’d like to find out what are some small daily habits that could help you develop emotional intelligence.
1. Read about the concept of emotional intelligence
Educating yourself about any concept that you wish to succeed in is a crucial step towards accomplishment, and the same goes with developing emotional intelligence. Reading this article is a great place to start. Way to go! While trying to improve your EQ, you could try reading about it every day, little by little.
Since the very beginnings of research on emotional intelligence, there have been many books written and articles published about it. Maybe the most popular book in recent years is Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. He also wrote a separate book about emotional intelligence at work. You could also visit numerous online articles, scientific databases or some of Psych2Go’s videos or TEDx Talks about the topic (you can find more links and references at the end of this article).
Even if it’s just a few pages or one short video a day, the more you read about it and the more information you find out, you will be able to better understand what psychologists even mean they say “emotional intelligence”, and you can become emotionally intelligent!
2. Journal about your day and your feelings
Did you have a diary when you were younger? If not, maybe you can start one today!
Journaling is sometimes referred to as “written emotional expression”, and when you put it like that, it’s no surprise that it can be beneficial for your emotional intelligence. When you’re writing in your journal about your day, you are actively processing your emotions, which in turn helps you with emotional awareness, to deal with your emotions better, and it allows you to find good emotional self-regulation strategies.
Not to mention that keeping a journal can be great for your overall mental and physical health – it lowers psychological distress, lowers depression and aggression, increases gratitude and improves your sleep and immune functioning.
But how do you even start journaling with the goal of developing emotional intelligence? When you are reflecting on your day, ask yourself some questions:
What happened today? How did it make me feel? Why did it make me feel that way? How did I react? If I find myself in that situation again, can I react differently? How can I make myself feel better?
Or, if you had a good day:
How do I cherish this good emotion that I feel? What am I grateful for today?
So, grab a nice notebook, write about your feelings before you go to sleep, and watch yourself getting in control of your emotions!
3. Practice active listening
Do you sometimes drift away in your thoughts while someone is talking to you? It’s okay if you do, it happens to the best of us, especially when we are overwhelmed with our own problems. But, if you want to strengthen your emotional intelligence, it is important to learn not to only listen to a person, but to really hear what they have to say.
One of the psychological tools to achieve that is a popular communication skill – active listening. With active listening, you give your full attention to the speaker, you are non judgemental and patient. According to Daniel Goleman, whose book we’ve mentioned earlier, emotional intelligence is also about empathy and social skills, and active listening is something that can help you excel in those areas.
So, how can you become a master in active listening?
- Don’t interrupt. Even if you get a very important thought that you feel like you need to say, don’t interrupt the speaker. Wait for that period of silence and try to read their body language to see if they are finished talking.
- Show that you have their attention. Look at them in the eyes, turn your body towards them and nod your head to show them that you are listening.
- Reflect on what they said. When it’s your turn to speak, paraphrase what they said. This can show that you were listening, and it can also help you to make sure you understood what has been said.
- Ask questions. By asking questions, the other person will know that you are actually interested in their story. Make your questions open-ended, encourage them to talk more and clarify if you feel like you don’t understand what they really mean.
Except for helping you become more emotionally intelligent, these skills can have a great positive impact on your relationships, and make the people around you know that they can always come to you when they want to feel heard and understood!
4. Be assertive
I’m sure there was a time in your life when you had to stand up for yourself. For example, if your coworker asked you to cover their shift when you were already too busy. How do you react in those situations? Do you always say yes just to avoid conflict? Or do you get defensive and maybe even aggressive?
For emotionally intelligent people, the answer is in the middle, and it is called assertive communication. Being assertive means that you respect yourself and the people around you. By assertive communication, which is open, direct and honest, you can stand up for your rights and set your boundaries without disrespecting others. Assertiveness also contributes to accepting the responsibility of behavior and maintaining and increasing self-esteem and self-confidence.
To practice your assertive communication skills, you can use what is often called an “assertive communication formula”. It goes like this:
“When you …… (their behavior), I feel …. (how that makes you feel) because …. (the impact of their behavior). I would like you to …. (your needs and preferences).”
So, let’s say your friend is always late when you hang out. Instead of saying “You are always late! How can you be so irresponsible?!” or not saying anything just to keep the peace, you say:
“I feel a bit angry and hurt when you don’t show up on time because it makes me feel like my time is not appreciated. I would like it if you tried to manage your time better and try to be punctual next time”.
This way of talking may sound funny when you’re not used to it, but practising standing up for yourself in this way could really help with developing your EQ.
5. Try small acts of kindness
Empathy, often described as “the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes”, is another concept closely related to emotional intelligence. Being empathetic means that you have the ability to imagine what someone else could be feeling in a given situation, in other words – having an emotional understanding of other people, something important for developing a high EQ.
You could read about empathy and how to be an empathetic person, but for this one it’s better to start practising it in the field, and what better way to do it than showing people around you small acts of kindness?
You could hold the door for a stranger, give your seat to an elderly person on a bus, bring your friend their favorite chocolate for no apparent reason, or even just compliment someone every day… The possibilities are endless!
By doing this, you will understand people’s needs and emotions – you will start to recognize when they feel bad or happy, when they need help, when they are grateful for something. And most importantly, you will put a smile to their face!
6. Manage your stress levels
Yes, that same old cliche advice. I know it is easier said than done, but managing stress is something important you need to master if you want to work on your EQ. After all, it is hard to come to terms with your emotions if stress is eating you up.
People with high emotional intelligence rarely get angry or make careless, impulsive decisions. But when you’re under a lot of stress, your actions often get as intense and uncomfortable just as your feelings. By managing your stress levels, you could help your body and mind deal with it better, control your emotions and make better decisions.
There are many approaches you can try to manage your stress levels. You could try physical – meditation, yoga, exercise, or psychological strategies – seeing a loved one or talking to a professional. Also, you can try to manage your time and responsibilities, think about what is the most important and prioritize doing that to lower your workload.
When you catch some free time, wrap yourself in a comfy blanket with a cup of tea, put on your favourite music or a TV show, and give yourself some needed love. You could also grab your journal (remember journaling from Step 2?) and pour your emotions onto paper.
It may not be easy, but you should notice some changes over time – in your stress levels, but also your emotional intelligence.
Do you think you could implement some of these habits into your everyday routine?
Even if it is a few of these, or all 6, there’s no doubt your emotional knowledge would benefit from these habits. Hopefully, little by little, you will discover a whole new world of gaining control of your emotions and strengthening your relationships. Good luck!
Thank you for reading!
Written by: Stela Košić
If you wish to find out more about topics on emotional intelligence, feel free to check out some of the videos from Psych2Go’s YouTube channel:
- 5 Simple Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence
- 9 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Avoid Doing
- 7 Signs of Emotional Intelligence: Which of these do you possess?
- Active listening skills. (2020). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-it-together/202006/active-listening-skills
- Assertiveness. (2013). Emotional Intelligence At Work. https://www.emotionalintelligenceatwork.com/resources/assertiveness/
- Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better. (2020, May 29). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/assertive/art-20044644
- Emotional Intelligence, Empathy and Listening. (2019, August 9). International Teaching Magazine. https://consiliumeducation.com/itm/2015/10/17/emotional-intelligence-empathy-and-listening/
- Konstantikaki, V. (2008). Empathy and Emotional intelligence: What is it really about. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 1(3), 118-123.
- Practicing Active Listening in Your Daily Conversations. (2020). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-active-listening-3024343
- Rahmatizadeh, M. (2016). Effectiveness of Emotional Intelligence on Assertiveness and Self-Esteem in High School Girl Students. Middle East Journal of Psychiatry and Alzheimers, 7(1), 10–14. https://doi.org/10.5742/mepa.2016.92816
- Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185–211. https://doi.org/10.2190/dugg-p24e-52wk-6cdg
- Stress. (n.d.). Psychology Today. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/stress