There’s school smart, street smart, business smart, but we tend to forget about feelings smart: emotional intelligence. Like your ability to think critically, your ability to read and express emotions can be developed.
All exercises designed to gradually increase are abilities involve dedication, and that includes heightening one’s “EQ.” Author Justin Bariso writes for Inc.com that his new book EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence is full of tips that are meant to be applied in just a few minutes a day, but consistently. These are just the basics for beginning to start understanding your own feelings and other people’s, and it begins with having the emotional maturity to know you need it.
A lot of Bariso’s tips center around self-reflection, which makes total sense; if you have a reputation for being hot headed or erupting into tears anytime someone questions you, that’s a problem. You’re having an outsized emotional reaction that is likely related to other issues entirely, which should be explored. If you’re not sure where to start, Bariso offers these questions as a jumping off point:
How do my moods affect my thoughts and decision-making?
How would I (or you) describe my communication style, and its effect on others?
What traits in others bother me? Why?
Do I find it difficult to admit when I’m wrong? Why or why not?
What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?
If you’ve just lost control or blown up at someone, it’s an important time to ask yourself why (after you apologize). Consider what is is that set you off, without laying the blame at other people’s feet. You can improve for the next time you’re in a volatile situation by asking yourself, “What could I say to myself next time that would help me think more clearly?”
And finally, if you’ve received criticism that is making you upset, try divorcing it from emotions for a second. Instead, think, “Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?”
You can also accept praise and approach it in a similar fashion, considering what went well and how those positive things can come up more. This is all going on in the privacy of your own mind, or possibly with a therapist. That’s a safe place to explore difficult feelings without having to outwardly react, potentially in a way you later regret.
Practice, Practice, Practice
All this self-reflection won’t do much good if you don’t also attempt to modify your daily behavior. You can start simply by pausing when you feel an emotion coming up; take a short walk, ask for a moment to consider it, give yourself time to process before responding. You can also ask yourself these three questions:
Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said by me?
Does this need to be said by me, now?
Practicing empathy is another aspect of improvement. If someone tells you about a feeling they had, don’t dismiss it; instead think about a time when you’ve felt similarly and how you wished other people would respond. And take time to appreciate other people in all the moments they’re benefitting your life, instead of just when they’re annoying you:
For one month, schedule twenty minutes a week to reflect on what you appreciate about someone important to you. It could be your significant other (or another member of your family), a friend, a business partner, or a colleague.
Then, take a moment to write them a short note, give them a call, or go see them in person. Tell them specifically how they help you or what you value about them. Don’t address any other topics or problems; just show some love.