Have you ever had a friend who could seemingly just tell when something was wrong with you?
Like they could peer into your brain somehow and just “get you?” Have you ever had that feeling of “something is up” when you were talking to someone?
If you have, this is emotional intelligence — sorry, you’re not psychic.
Many of us have heard the term “emotional intelligence” at some point in our lives.
But what is it? Is it important? How do we know if we’re emotionally intelligent?
What does it mean to have high emotional intelligence? Can you improve your emotional intelligence?
In the mid-90's, psychologist Dan Goleman published a book introducing us to the concept of emotional intelligence. The main concept is that having the ability to understand and manage emotions greatly increases our chances of success at life.
I wanted to put together a guide on emotional intelligence to define it. I also wanted to give you an idea of what traits someone who is emotionally intelligent possesses. And finally how can you improve your own EQ?
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Emotional intelligence is the skill to be aware of, control and ultimately express emotions. The latest studies suggest that EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is more important than IQ (intelligence quotient) for succeeding in work, life and having a better health in general. By mastering it, you could be aware not only of your own emotions, but also of the emotions of the people around you.
How does it relate to Self Awareness?
Self-awareness is the first step (out of four) in improving your emotional intelligence. Consider, self-awareness a branch on the emotional intelligence tree.
Self awareness is a skill that allows you to spot your emotions as they arise (and not after their devastating effect). It also helps you to anticipate the upcoming emotional reaction by defining and being aware of the things that drive you towards those emotions.
What are the 4 Pillars of Emotional Intelligence?
So if self awareness is one of the four pillars of emotional intelligence what are the others? Let’s take a look and define each one so we can get a better picture of what exactly each one is.
You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
You have empathy. You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the four pillars of emotional intelligence, here are the 10 traits of emotional intelligent people.
Before we dive in, remember all of these are things you can learn and apply to your own life. It really just comes down to making the decision to be more aware of them.
1. Think About Your Feelings
It sounds cliche but it’s true; what are your feelings? What are you feeling? Emotional intelligence begins with what is called self and social awareness; the ability to recognize emotions (and their impact) in both yourself and others. That awareness begins with reflection inward about what you are experiencing that may be causing issues outwardly.
2. Take a Pause
Taking pause is as simple as taking a moment to stop and think before you speak or act. (Easy in theory, difficult in practice right?) This can help save you from embarrassing moments or from making commitments too quickly.In other words, pausing helps you refrain from making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.
3. Control Your Thoughts
You don’t have much control over the emotion you experience in a given moment. But you can control your reaction to those emotions — by focusing on your thoughts. You can’t control what others do and how they behave; you can only control your response. By striving to control your thoughts, you resist becoming a slave to your emotions, allowing yourself to live in a way that’s in harmony with your goals and values.
4. Accept Constructive Criticisms
Nobody enjoys negative feedback. But you know that criticism is a chance to learn, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. And even when it’s unfounded, it gives you a window into how others think. When you receive negative feedback, you keep your emotions in check and ask yourself: How can this make me better?
5. Go With Authenticity
Authenticity doesn’t mean sharing everything about yourself, to everyone, all of the time. It does mean saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and sticking to your values and principles above all else.You know not everyone will appreciate your sharing your thoughts and feelings. But the ones who matter will.
6. Display Empathy
The ability to show empathy, which includes understanding others’ thoughts and feelings, helps you connect with others. Instead of judging or labeling others, you work hard to see things through their eyes.Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with another person’s point of view. Rather, it’s about striving to understand — which allows you to build deeper, more connected relationships.
7. Learn to Apologize
It takes strength and courage to be able to say you’re sorry. But doing so demonstrates humility, a quality that will naturally draw others to you.Emotional intelligence helps you realize that apologizing doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. It does mean valuing your relationship more than your ego.
8. You Can Forgive and Forget
Hanging on to resentment is like leaving a knife inside a wound. While the offending party moves on with their life, you never give yourself the chance to heal. When you forgive and forget, you prevent others from holding your emotions hostage — allowing you to move forward. In the end, not being able to forget only holds you hostage anyways.
9. Keep Your Commitments
It’s common nowadays for people to break an agreement or commitment when they feel like it. Of course, bailing on an evening of Netflix with a friend will cause less harm than breaking a promise to your child or missing a major business deadline. But when you make a habit of keeping your word — in things big and small — you develop a strong reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.
10. Be Happy to Help Others
One of the greatest ways to positively impact the emotions of others is to help them. Most people don’t really care where you graduated from, or even about your previous accomplishments. But what about the hours you’re willing to take out of your schedule to listen or help out? Your readiness to get down in the trenches and work alongside them? Actions like these build trust and inspire others to follow your lead when it counts.
How Can You Improve Your EI/EQ?
Try these five steps to improve your own emotional intelligence and grow your emotional quotient at the same time.
1. Manage Your Negative Emotions
When you’re able to manage and reduce your negative emotions, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed. Easier said than done, right? Try this: If someone is upsetting you, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, allow yourself to look at the situation in a variety of ways including the context. Try to look at things objectively so you don’t get riled up as easily. Step away from the conversation or situation and come back when you’re ready.
2. Be Mindful of Your Vocabulary
Focus on becoming a stronger communicator in different facets of your life. Emotionally intelligent people use specific words that can help communicate deficiencies. When these occur, they immediately work to address them. Had an argument with your spouse/partner/friend? What made it so bad, and what can you do to fix it next time? When you can pinpoint what’s going on, you have a higher likelihood of addressing the problem, instead of just stewing on it.
3. Practice Empathy
Zeroing in on verbal and non-verbal cues can give you invaluable insight into the feelings of those around you. Practice focusing on others and walking in their shoes, even if just for a moment. Empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior, but they help remind you that everyone has their own issues.
4. Know Your Stressors and Triggers
Take stock of what stresses you out, and be proactive to have less of it in your life. If you know that checking your work email before bed will send you into a tailspin, leave it for the morning. Better yet, leave it for when you arrive to the office.
5. Come Back from Adversity
Everyone encounters challenges. It’s how you react to these challenges that either sets you up for success or puts you on the track to a full on meltdown. You already know that positive thinking will take you far. To help you bounce back from adversity, practice optimism instead of complaining. What can you learn from this situation? Ask constructive questions to see what you can take away from the challenge at hand.
Moving Forward — An Exercise on Emotional Intelligence
The questions below are meant to get you thinking about your own emotional intelligence. This is a shallow dive into what makes up our EQ. The trick to gaining more emotional intelligence is engaging the parts of ourselves we tend to overlook.
When we ignore the inner parts of ourselves, it only serves to put dirt over the self improvement we seek. Being emotionally intelligent is about being mindful and self aware. When you start thinking about how you can be more self aware? You become what you think.
- What are my emotional strengths? What are my weaknesses?
- How does my current mood affect my thoughts and decision making?
- What’s going on within me that might influence what others say or do?
- How often do I display empathy towards others needing it? Am I present in those situations?
- Am I able to accept criticisms or when they happen am I defensive?
- How often do I praise others? What praise could I give someone close to me or at work right now?
Implementing EI Into Your Life
Part of having a higher EQ is developing barriers to the old thoughts that lead to typical reactions. It’s about learning to pivot away from old behaviors when the triggers/stressors in our lives surface. This takes practice but having a plan for when they do appear will make all the difference. Answer the questions below in your head or on a piece of paper. This is about developing a plan for when those sticky situations of life pop-up. Next time, be prepared by working through these questions.
- Do I tend to let my negative thoughts spiral or am I able to pivot my thinking to a more constructive place? What are some of these recent incidences?
- Am I mindful of the way my words affect others? Think of a time you were not and then try to think of how you can improve that next time.
- When was the last time you encountered adversity and how did you handle it? What could you do differently the next time?
- What are your stressors? What is a trigger for you in life? Something that sets you off? How can you turn that situation around next time and remain calm?
Developing a higher emotional intelligence is within all of us. It simply takes practicing our own improvement within the four pillars of EI.