Seven Ways To Boost Your Emotional Intelligence So You Can Develop Deeper Relationships
In 1990, professors Peter Salovey and John Mayer published their work on emotional intelligence. The concept was then made popular by Daniel Goleman whose book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ became a bestseller in 1996.
Since then, emotional intelligence has become a hot topic in leadership groups, corporate trainings and human resources workshops—and with good reason. There is a lot of evidence that shows emotional intelligence can have a major impact on work performance. Employees with high emotional intelligence perform better, enjoy better relationships, experience better psychological well-being and are more likely to be physically healthy.
Emotional Intelligence Can Be Improved
Salovey and Mayer’s model of emotional intelligence contains four parts:
- Perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
- Use emotions to facilitate thinking.
- Understand emotions, emotional language and the signals conveyed by emotion.
- Manage emotions to attain specific goals.
Over the years, studies have found that emotional intelligence can be learned, and as training programs have proven effective in helping people boost their emotional intelligence and perform at their best, emotional intelligence training has become a billion-dollar industry.
But you don’t necessarily need to participate in a formal training program to develop more emotional intelligence. Here are seven ways to start improving yours today.
1. Limit your screen time.
Spending too much time on your digital devices is likely to impair your relationships. In romantic relationships, for examples, studies have found that having a smartphone present while spending time together can erode trust and inhibit closeness.
Some studies have also found that too much screen time interferes with an individual’s ability to read emotions—which is a critical component to emotional intelligence.
A 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that preteens who spent five days at an outdoor camp without access to their digital devices greatly improved their ability to read other people’s emotions. Just five days without their electronics—and without any emotional intelligence training—helped improve their understanding of nonverbal emotional cues.
So it could be a good idea to set healthy limits on your technology. Put your phone away when you’re talking to people face-to-face. Set aside blocks of time during the day that you won’t use your phone—such as lunch time, before bed and during the first hour after you wake up.
Consider doing a digital detox every once in a while. Going a few days without your electronics could do wonders for your ability to read other people’s emotions.
2. Label your emotions.
Although our emotions affect every decision we make, people rarely talk about feelings. In fact, many people are more comfortable saying things like, “I had a lump in my throat,” or “I had butterflies in my stomach,” rather than say they’re feeling anxious or sad.
Practice labeling your emotions with real feeling words, like disappointed, frustrated and anxious. You don’t necessarily have to announce how you’re feeling out loud, but it’s important to check in with yourself a few times each day to notice how you’re feeling.
3. Consider how your emotions affect your judgment.
Once you know how you’re feeling, consider how those emotions affect your thoughts and behaviors. If you’re sad, you may underestimate your chances of success or you may give in early during a negotiation because you’re afraid you can’t handle rejection.
Similarly, if you’re excited about an opportunity, you may overestimate your chances of success. You might take a risk without examining the potential drawbacks or consequences.
Recognizing how your emotions are affecting you can help you make better decisions. You’ll be better equipped to make decisions based on a balanced outlook of logic and emotions, when you recognize how your feelings might affect your judgment.
4. Determine if your feelings are a friend or enemy.
Feelings aren’t either positive or negative. Every emotion has the power to be helpful or unhelpful at times.
Once you know how you’re feeling, consider whether that emotion is a friend or an enemy in that moment. Anger could be a friend when it helps you stand up for injustice. It could be an enemy, however, when you’re entering a discussion with your boss.
Sadness can be helpful because it may remind you to honor something that you no longer have—like a person or a job. But it could be an enemy when it interferes with your motivation to get things done.
When you recognize that sadness is an enemy, take steps to regulate your emotions. Meditating for a few minutes might help you calm down while walking around the block might help you cheer up. Experiment with coping strategies that help you manage your emotions in a healthy way.
5. Take responsibility for your emotions.
Blaming your boss for putting you in a bad mood or saying that your co-worker makes you feel bad about yourself implies that your emotions are controlled by other people. Accept full responsibility for your emotions and your ability to respond to those emotions accordingly.
When you’re tempted to think someone else is dragging you down emotionally, remind yourself that you can choose how you respond to other people and to your circumstances. So rather than think, “He’s making me mad,” reframe your thoughts into something like, “I don’t like what he’s doing right now and I’m getting mad.”
6. Pause to notice other people’s feelings.
A key component to boosting your emotional intelligence involves bettering your understanding of how other people are feeling. Rather than jump into an argument or interrupt someone you disagree with, put your focus on developing a better understanding of how the other person is feeling.
Start paying close attention to other people’s emotional states. See if you can recognize how someone is feeling and how that emotion is likely to influence that individual’s perception and behavior.
7. Reflect on your progress.
At the end of every day, reflect on your progress. Pay attention to the things you did well, like interacting well with a co-worker who was frustrated.
Then, notice what areas need improvement. Perhaps you avoided talking to your boss because you felt anxious, or maybe you got defensive about some feedback that was tough to hear. Turn those mistakes into opportunities to do better in the future.
Keep Sharpening Your Skills
When it comes to emotional intelligence, there’s always room for improvement, so keep sharpening your skills. If you’re feeling stuck, you might enroll in a training program, read a book or hire a coach to help you boost your emotional intelligence even more.
Ready for the next challenge? Tune in on November 1 for Day 4.
Miss a challenge? Click here for Day 2: Establish your goals.