How To Improve Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
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People who are emotionally intelligent understand how emotions work, and they use these feelings productively for their own success and that of others. They recognize what kind of emotional situation requires what action, and they choose actions based on which will help them navigate those situations more effectively.
They also acknowledge and accept their personal strengths and weaknesses, and believe in themselves and other people. This self-confidence helps them pursue their goals and dreams.
Emotional intelligence (EI) has been studied extensively over the past 40 years and is now considered an important factor in workplace effectiveness and overall well being. Many employers offer training in EI as part of their employee benefits.
But what makes someone high in EI? And why would you want to improve your EI?
This article will discuss some ways to boost your emotional quotient and describe a simple test to determine if you’re born with higher than average levels of EI. If you score lower than average, here are some things you can do to feel better about yourself and increase your EQ.
Make emotional awareness a priority
In his book, “Social Intelligence,” Harvard psychologist Margo Wilson noted that one of the most important skills for human beings to develop is empathy. We spend our lives trying to understand what makes other people feel good or bad, and this ability comes in handy when we want someone else to do something for us, or when they may try to take advantage of us.
But while being aware of how others are feeling can help you achieve your goals, studies suggest that it also plays an essential role in overall happiness. This effect has been referred to as “the empathic benefits hypothesis.”
By setting aside some time each week to reflect on your own emotions, you can hone your understanding of yourself and the world around you. And although difficult at times, this can only increase your sense of well-being.
It’s worth noting here that whereas earlier theories about emotion focused mostly on negative feelings like sadness and anger, modern research emphasizes not just pleasant experiences but also meaningful distress.
Look at your reactions
Recent research suggests that our emotions play a much bigger role in shaping who we are than most of us realize.
Studies show that when you look into the eyes of someone, it does not tell you how they feel; rather, what they think you know about them is revealed.
The same goes for listening — if someone says something upsetting, there’s no way to tell whether they're actually feeling bad or just trying to hurt you.
So instead of looking for signs such as body language and expression, researchers now believe that being able to read other people's emotions depends mostly on understanding what they mean by their words.
This can be tricky because different individuals use similar vocabulary to describe various feelings, and none of these terms apply across all situations.
That said, here are some strategies to help you learn which words signify important changes in emotion for your colleagues, friends, and family.
Practice having difficult conversations
One of the most important things that can improve your emotional intelligence is learning how to have tough, honest discussions.
This includes having more arguments with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. Having these talks will help you to better understand other people and what makes them feel good or bad.
It also helps you to identify problems and potential pitfalls in relationships so you can avoid them or at least be prepared for them.
When was the last time you had an argument with someone close to you? Probably years ago! Arguing is not appropriate every situation, but when it is – try to use effective strategies.
The way to start a conversation about something challenging is by being sincere and open. Make sure your tone is calm and level.
Never attack another person, instead focus on why they may be feeling hurt or angry. Also, remember their side of the story!
If you are able to recognize and understand your own emotions then you will know how to control them during a discussion. Many experts believe that developing your emotional quotient (EQ) is the key to success in life.
Be honest with yourself
Many people have emotional skills that are very good, while other areas of their lives are not so hot. They may be really kind and compassionate towards others, but they often feel angry or hurt about something for hours.
They might know how to motivate someone else, but they can’t seem to find motivation themselves. Or they’re sure what they want, and then they’ll do anything to get it, including sacrificing things that mean a lot to them.
These are all symptoms of low emotional intelligence (EI). You see this in people who don’t understand why everything seems to go wrong for them and nothing ever works out.
Nobody is completely free of faults, but there are some individuals who are just more aware of their weaknesses than others are. This makes them less likely to indulge in self-defeating behaviors and habits.
If you think you have low EI, try to be as objective and accurate as possible when talking to yourself. Ask yourself questions like: “Is my behavior serving me well? Am I living up to my potential?” and “Am I happy with my life right now?”
Then, make a note of your answers and compare them with the same questions at another time. If you noticed a change, give yourself a compliment for your improved understanding of yourself.
Be honest with others
Sometimes we get so focused on our own goals and agendas that we fail to consider how much pain our actions are causing for other people. We spend so much time thinking about what we want that we don’t give enough attention to whether those things are possible or not.
That was a major cause of the downfall of many great leaders — they got so focused on their goal of being famous that they didn’t realize the impact their decisions would have on others. They could easily ignore how someone else might feel because they were too invested in their own vision.
In addition, by assuming an attitude of superiority or ignorance, you limit your chances of influencing others. If you assume something is impossible, no one will try to make it happen. But if you acknowledge that this concept can be achieved, then you open up possibilities for change.
If you’re able to do that for yourself, you’ll find that changing emotions in other people is easier. And once you learn how to do that, everything gets more difficult for you as well.
Because when you work on developing emotional intelligence, you also improve your ability to recognize and manage your own feelings.
So you’ll know better than anyone else when you should try to motivate someone, how to help them move forward after a setback, or what needs to be done to prevent them from going into meltdown mode.
Listen to your body
Recent research suggests that our bodies give off signals telling us how we are feeling. This is referred to as emotional signaling. When you understand this process, you can use it for good by tuning in to your body’s messages and determining what emotions you should be seeking or avoiding at any given time.
By becoming aware of these internal processes, you will learn how to regulate your own emotions and improve your emotional intelligence.
You may also want to consider looking into different ways to manage stress, but only do so if they are appropriate for your personal needs. Overdoing it on stress reduction techniques such as yoga can actually have negative effects.
There are some helpful strategies like mindfulness or meditation that can help reduce anxiety and depression and promote relaxation. These practices focus on paying attention to the present moment and reducing distractions.
In addition to learning about emotion regulation, other parts of emotional intelligence include understanding feelings and identifying them, controlling impulses, changing attitudes, and recognizing others’ points of view. All of these play an important part in helping you relate to other people and find happiness in life.
Do not try to be everything to everyone
Overinvolved individuals can sometimes hurt those they love, by constantly proving that you are more important to them than their loved one.
This happens most often in relationships where one person does all of the supporting and encouraging with little acknowledgement from the other person.
A lot of times there’s no real conversation because one person is only talking about how much they care for the other person.
It may also happen when one individual puts a significant amount of effort into developing or changing something about themselves (like starting a new career) while the other feels left out or even ignored.
In these cases it can become very hard for the affected party to feel like an integral part of the relationship.
Improving your emotional intelligence is like learning any other skill — you have to practice, practice, and keep practicing. In fact, it’s more like mastering a skill than it is teaching someone else how to master a skill, because changing yourself goes beyond just teaching others what you know.
Many people with low EQ are unaware they have this deficit until someone points it out to them or they begin to notice changes in their behavior.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of your own limitations and work to improve them as often as possible.
You can’t change something that you don’t acknowledge exists, so take a look and see if there’s anything in your life that isn’t working due to lack of empathy.