Emotional intelligence (sometimes called EI or EQ) is the ability to understand, manage, and express emotions and also to recognize and deal with emotions in others. EI is important in all relationships, including those with co-workers, bosses, partners, parents, children, and friends.
The good news is that your EI can change over time and you can work to improve it. When you do so, you can experience improvements in all of your relationships and in your own self-esteem and mental health.
Here are some ways to work on increasing your EI level.
Improve Your Relationship with Negative Emotions
Dealing with negative emotions is a crucial part of being alive. The better able you are to acknowledge, process, work through, and rid yourself of negative feelings, the less stress and turmoil you will have in your life. Here are some ways to improve the way you deal with your own negative emotions:
- Don’t internalize other people’s behavior. It’s easy to experience negative emotions when you feel that someone has slighted you or treated you badly. Most of the time, though, it is a case of misinterpreting the other person’s actions. Work on not jumping to conclusions when you are interpreting other people’s actions and reactions to you. Instead, take a moment to consider other possible explanations for their behavior that don’t have to do with you.
- Practice meditation to handle and dismiss negative feelings. Meditation is a great way to train your brain to acknowledge, process, and dismiss bad feelings. It’s also a powerful way to reduce stress in your life.
Learn to Express Yourself Clearly
Part of emotional intelligence is being able to express your feeelings to other people effectively, calmly, and clearly. This can be difficult, but you can improve your skills at doing it. Here are some techniques to practice:
- Use the x,y,z method of explaining how you feel: “I feel x when you do y in situation z.” Framing your feelings in this manner eliminates blame and allows people to hear what you’re saying more clearly.
- Avoid using “you” sentences that put the other person on the defense. Use I statements as above instead of those beginning with you, which can automatically incite defensiveness and decrease good communication.
Practice Being in Another’s Shoes
Before you react to someone who is being negative toward you, stop for a moment and think about the situation from their point of view. This gets easier the more you practice it, and it helps you respond in a more understanding manner than you otherwise might. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be assertive about your own feelings on the matter. It just means that you will be better able to connect with the other person when you respond.
Learn What Your Body Tells You
Pay attention to the way your body feels when you experience different emotions. When you take time to learn how your body communicates things to you, it will be easier for you to quickly identify feelings so they don’t control your actions.
You can do this by taking a moment to stop and pay attention to your body when you feel an obvious, easily identifiable emotion like anger. Take deep breaths and think about how you feel physically. Is your stomach in knots? Is blood pounding in your head? Are your hands clammy? Identify what you’re feeling so the next time you feel it, you can quickly name that you’re starting to feel mad.
Continue this process for other feelings, connecting your physical responses to as many emotions as possible.
Journal Your Feelings
Keeping a log of your feelings and your physical and emotional responses to them can help you learn about yourself and your feelings over time. The more you learn about your own feelings, how they manifest, and how you react to them, the more you can manage those feelings and use them to your advantage over time.
Additionally, if you experience a negative feeling and use a technique like deep breathing to help yourself deal with it, write down what you did and how you felt afterward. This can help you choose the best methods to use to deal with your feelings next time.