5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Think a high IQ is the key to success? Think again. While a high IQ may indeed be desirable, EQ — emotional intelligence — is really what you should focus on before hitting the books.
EQ is the ability to become aware of, regulate and express emotions. EQ also involves the ability to become aware of other people’s emotions and respond accordingly.
Though many of us would consider ourselves to be quite practical and logical people, the reality is that we’re all emotional creatures.
Each of life’s decisions is influenced by our emotions on some level. By developing your EQ, you’ll find an ability to navigate life more effectively and nurture relationships with others.
So, how does a person go about improving his or her emotional intelligence? Unlike IQ, it’s simpler than you might expect.
Here are a few practices to begin with:
1. Start meditating — even if you’re a complete beginner.
You don’t need to have years of daily meditation sessions behind you in order to start reaping the benefits of mindfulness. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need to be a “mindful person” by nature. A recent study showed that people who had never meditated before benefited after completing their first session.
A better idea, however, is to start a daily meditation habit. Meditation physically changes the brain, increasing gray matter in regions associated with attention and emotions. If you don’t know how to begin meditating – or you’re hesitant about trying it for the first time – here are five simple ways to go for it.
2. Improve your sleep quality.
We all know that sleep deprivation leads to irritability and impacts our ability to focus. But it also makes us more oblivious to recognizing the emotions of others, increasing the chances of responding inappropriately.
Try to stick to a very regular sleep schedule where you can get at least seven to eight hours of rest. Additionally, aim to do something relaxing at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. Here are some other ways you can get a better night’s sleep, even when stress is keeping you awake.
3. Take notice of how you react to people and events in your everyday life.
Most of us go about our daily lives in “reactive mode.” We don’t really think before we speak or act because our emotions trigger us to instantly blurt out a response.
Emotionally intelligent people, however, remain aware of their emotional instincts and choose to regulate them with the intent to produce a positive outcome.
Rather than trying to control your reactive behaviors right from the get-go, just start by noticing them as they happen — or after they’ve occurred. Don’t beat yourself up for reacting badly. Becoming very mindful of how your emotions take over ironically leads to better self-regulation.
4. Develop greater self-compassion.
Being compassionate toward yourself isn’t any different from being compassionate toward others. In fact, the more you develop your self-compassion, the more you’ll see it spill over into your interactions with other people.
Instead of suppressing negative emotions or harshly judging yourself, practice kindness when you’re suffering — just as if you were treating yourself like a best friend or close family member. Compassion triggers secretion of the bonding hormone oxytocin, which activates the region of the brain associated with empathy.
5. Consider EQ training.
There are coaching programs, courses and workshops designed for people who want to improve their EQ. Whether they actually work — and are worth the money — is hard to say until you’ve actually completed the training.
A 2011 study that examined the effects of emotional competence training revealed that these programs do have the power to improve EQ –and the improvements aren’t just temporary.
While the four previous points might be all that anyone needs to develop an above average EQ, training workshops might be a serious option for those who are often in the public eye, charged with making important decisions or responsible for working closely with lots of people.
Improving your EQ doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s actually very simple, but it will take time. Awareness is key. Consider setting a phone alarm as a reminder to do a quick emotional check-in with yourself . The act will certainly go a long way if you’re consistent with it.
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