Four Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Dr. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D
There is always that one person at work or that one friend who is a very good listener and always knows what to say to make you feel better and encourage you. That type of person is empathic, self-aware, trustworthy, caring, considerate and full of optimism.
We have all met, at some point or another, people who are masters at managing their emotions. They are the ones who remain calm during the storm, who always find a solution without getting swept away by stressful situations. Because of their levelheadedness, they are good decision-makers and they always know when to follow their intuition.
Despite their many qualities, they are still human and prone to making mistakes. However, what makes them different from the rest is their ability to accurately assess themselves. They embrace criticism and they know how and when to use it to improve their performance.
These people have a high degree of emotional intelligence – EI. But what exactly is emotional intelligence?
In his article “Understanding and Developing Emotional Intelligence”, Olivier Serrat, principal knowledge management specialist at the Asian Development Bank, defined EI as:
“the ability, capacity, skill, or self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups. People who possess a high degree of emotional intelligence know themselves very well and are also able to sense the emotions of others.”
Serrat claims that by working on developing his emotional intelligence, an individual can experience an increase in productivity and success. What is more, he emphasizes the fact that EI development contains elements that can “help reduce stress…by moderating conflict; promoting understanding and relationships; and fostering stability, continuity, and harmony.”
There are of course some lucky individuals which were born with a high level of EI, but there are also those who lack self-awareness, self-motivation and social skills. What we have to keep in mind is that individuals have different personalities, needs and ways of showing their emotions. The main question that begs an answer is: “How can we develop our emotional intelligence to succeed in life?”
The good news is that unlike IQ, which hardly changes during our lives, our EQ or emotional intelligence quotient, can evolve and increase with our desire to learn and grow.
Here are a few strategies that can help you develop your EI:
- Discard negativity
The ability to manage your negative emotions is essential if you don’t want to be swamped by them. It all comes down to the way you think about something. If you can change the way you think, the way you feel will change as well.
In his article “How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials”, Preston Ni, a professor and course designer in the areas of interpersonal effectiveness, professional communication, cross-cultural understanding, and organizational change, explains how you can reduce your fear of rejection:
“One effective way to manage your fear of rejection is to provide yourself with multiple options in important situations, so that no matter what happens, you have strong alternatives going forward. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally) by identifying a viable Plan B, and also a Plan C, should Plan A not work out.”
Knowing that you have more than one plan can decrease your fears and negativity, relieving you of pressure and allowing you to be yourself.
- Breeze through stressful situations
It is normal to experience some level of stress in life. However, what matters is the way you handle stressful situations. A person who cannot handle stress will be reactive and frazzled, while someone who can handle it will appear assertive and poised. When you find yourself under pressure you must try to remain calm. One way of relaxing yourself is by taking a minute to do some breathing exercises, while thinking about positive things.
- Be assertive
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett
Setting boundaries is important not only for you, but for the people surrounding you as well. It might seem difficult to say “no” out of fear of upsetting the other person, but by being assertive you will strengthen your self-esteem & gain the courage to reveal who you are, letting people know where you stand. You will gain nothing by denying your personal values, interests and judgements, you will simply live a lie, denying yourself the right to simply BE.
- Overcome adversity
Life can be difficult and sometimes very cruel. How you react to life’s challenges can make the difference between hope and despair, optimism and frustration, victory and defeat. Challenges are not meant to destroy you, they are meant to make you stronger. There’s a reason why the proverbial phrase: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, is so widely known and used.
When being confronted with life’s challenges you should ask yourself constructive questions, such as: “What is the lesson here?”, “How can I learn from this experience?” “What are the best answers?” etc. By asking these questions you can start prioritizing, gaining new perspectives and learning how to solve problems while maintaining your positivity and confidence.
These strategies might seem difficult to follow at first, but by slowly adopting them, you will become a better version of yourself, improving both the way you perceive yourself, as well as the way you perceive others.
But just in case you want the short version of it all, the most important thing you should keep in mind if you want to improve your EI is summed up pretty nicely in the following quote by Maddy Malhotra, Personal Management Coach and author of How to Build Self-Esteem and Be Confident:
“The key to achieving desired results and gaining freedom from unwanted feelings lies within you.”