Have you ever reacted in a way you regretted? Maybe you reacted with a snarky comment or said something harsh to a parent, friend, or co-worker. Stress and anger opportunities for self-assessment and emotional growth can guide us towards developing more emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and control your emotions. Do not mistake emotional regulation with emotional repression. Repressing your emotions can hinder your ability to be emotionally intelligent.
Although people with higher IQs earn more money and tend to be healthier overall, the key to their success is not solely dependent on general intelligence. Intelligence is influenced by a variety of components–one of them being emotional intelligence. So much that mental intelligence was used in the traditional exam to calculate IQ.
So, who do you become more emotionally intelligent?
While some people exhibit more emotional intelligence than others, it is not an innate trait. Luckily, you can improve it. Practicing these habits can help you develop emotional intelligence.
The first step to develop emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness falls into the perceiving component of EQ and refers to the ability to actively and accurately recognize emotions. Emotions are much more than the feeling. There are nonverbal signs, such as body language or facial expression, that are important when understanding emotions.
However, if you want to understand other people’s emotions, you first how to understand yours. Creating habits that foster self-awareness and self-management can help boose your EQ. Techniques like yoga, meditation, and journaling help because they require reflection. Both yoga and meditation help you manage stress and teaches you to present in your body. When meditating or journaling, ask yourself what you are feeling at that moment and what can you learn from it. If you are calm and present within yourself, you will recognize how you and what you are feeling.
Once you have mastered perceiving your emotions, you now can manage them. Self-management involves more cognitive activity; hence it is considered a higher degree of cognitive complexity than self-awareness. Emotions direct our attention and control our response. They also affect cognitive functions like decision-making, problem-solving, learning, and memory. Regulating your emotions can help you access these cognitive functions and help you be more productive.
But first, you should learn to differentiate self-management from repression. Repression can happen consciously, which in that case is called suppression, and unconsciously. Your mind chooses to ignore what you are feeling. Self-management, on the other hand, is taking stock of your emotions and their impact. How do they make you feel, and what do you do with that feeling.
Self-management has two parts: honestly identifying what you are feeling and then taking action to create a positive outcome. For example, if I know that I have tendency to procrastinate. I would first ask myself what thoughts are causing that behavior and then create guardrails that prevent me from procrastinating. Maybe that means setting a timer on how long I can use social media, create a list of priorities. If the reason for my procrastination is emotional, which most of the times, it is, then I sit down with myself and deal with whatever anxious thoughts I am having. I wrote them down or vocalize them some how so that they are no longer occupying my mind.
If you are having trouble finding techniques that can help you manage your emotions, please consult a therapist for guidance.
- Pause and breathe
During a heated moment, it is easy to impulsively lash out. However, this usually creates regret and disappointment. Often, our impulsive reactions are caused by not understanding our emotions. Pausing to understand the emotion is different from perceiving it. The perception component refers to identifying emotions whereas reasoning refers to trying to figure out the origin of the emotion.
This step can sometimes force you to face some difficult parts about yourself. Your rash reactivity to someone’s comment or event can be caused by negative self-talk or other thoughts lurking in our unconscious. Learning to observe and understand our emotions can help you empathize with others.
Self-awareness and self-management are the basic tenents of developing emotional intelligence, so how do we practice emotional intelligence?
- Listen and Ask.
Once you have developed a practice of being in tune with your emotions, you can now use what you have learned to relate better to others. One thing that those with high EQ practice often is actively listening to others.
We all know how to listen. We do it all the time. But, do we hear. During conversations, we may think we are listening when, in fact, we are waiting for our turn to speak. People with high emotional intelligence have learned to listen to other people. They aim to really understand the content and subtext of what the other person is saying.
One way to let the other person know that you are listening to them is by asking questions.
Self-awareness and emotional regulation help you foster empathy. Those who possess a high EQ can understand the emotions of others. Being able to empathize can give you a better idea of how to respond to someone.
For example, our co-worker lashes out at you. Being able to empathize with him or her allows you to respond in a way that is appropriate (i.e. not yelling at them or being snarky). However, being empathetic does not mean that you will accept toxic behavior. Maybe you give them the benefit of the doubt the first time. But, if their attitude is unchanged, you address them calmly and assertively.
Emotionally intelligent people not only understand what they are feeling, but they can articulate what they are feeling. What I mean by articulating your emotions is appropriately expressing them. For example, you had a terrible day at work. You are frustrated, stressed, and angry. One way to deal with your emotions is by nitpicking and complaining as you enter your house, picking a fight with your spouse, and passive-aggressively working on a project that is due tomorrow. The more appropriate response would be to calmly talk to your spouse about how you are feeling over a glass of wine.
Emotional intelligence is a powerful thing to develop. With some practice, patience, and a lot of self-reflection you can master the art of regulating your emotions and gauging other people’s.
If you are curious about your emotional intelligence, there are self-reported online tests that you can take. You can also ask your therapist to conduct one.
Let us know in the comments below which one of these tips helped you the most.
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