What is emotional intelligence and why is it important?
We live in a fast-paced world. With constant demands flooding in through our work, our relationships and nearly every other facet of our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to neglect your emotions. However, our emotions affect us constantly. And ignoring them can create unneeded stress to detrimental results. That’s why understanding and cultivating emotional intelligence is so important.
Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ) deals with our ability to understand, use and manage our feelings. Strengthening your emotional intelligence can help you eliminate stress to improve your relationships and succeed in work or school. By cultivating EQ, you’ll have a better understanding of your own feelings, as well as the feelings of others.
Understanding the 4 key skills of emotional intelligence
To successfully cultivate emotional intelligence, however, it’s first important to understand the four key skills involved. In short, the fundamentals of emotional intelligence deal in two areas, internal (your thoughts and feelings) and external (the thoughts and feelings of others). In each of these areas, it’s crucial to master skills involved in both awareness and management.
The first key skill, self-management, deals primarily with self-accountability. Improving your self-management allows you to take control over your impulses and manage your emotions in a healthy way. In addition, utilizing this skill means taking responsibility by both following through on commitments, as well as adapting to change.
To be aware is to be mindful. Therefore self-awareness, the second key skill, involves becoming mindful of your thoughts and feelings. In addition to simply recognizing your feelings, harboring this skill also involves understanding how they affect your behavior. To be self-aware means to be honest and confident in both your emotional strengths and weaknesses.
The third key skill of emotional intelligence, social awareness, relates directly to empathy. Being empathetic means deeply understand the emotions of others and having a keen awareness to their needs and concerns. In addition, being socially aware means feeling comfortable around others and recognizing power dynamics.
The final key skill, relationship management, is the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships with others. Having this skill means being able to communicate with others effectively and inspirationally. Utilizing the skill of relationship management influences cooperation and teamwork to minimize conflict.
How to cultivate emotional intelligence
Now that you have a better understanding of the four key areas involved in emotional intelligence, the next step is to build those skills. Though it may seem challenging, practicing these eight helpful tips will help you cultivate your emotional intelligence.
Tip 1: Be honest with yourself
The first tip to cultivate emotional intelligence is to practice self-honesty. To accurately become aware of your emotions, it’s essential that you maintain an open dialogue with yourself. This means recognizing and accepting both your strengths and weaknesses related to EQ.
Perhaps you have a keen social awareness but lack control over your own impulses. While it may be tempting to lie to yourself about that weakness, hiding that truth becomes the ultimate barrier to growth. Instead, it’s significantly more behooving to acknowledge that area to allow yourself room to improve.
The first step towards honestly identifying your emotional strengths and weaknesses is by taking an EQ test. Three useful tests include the Self-Report Emotional Intelligence Test, the Emotional Quotient Inventory and the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence test.
Tip 2: Recognize and reflect on your feelings
Working alongside honesty, practicing mindfulness is the next tip to cultivating EQ. Take the time to not only recognize your emotions, but also identify them. Accurately labelling the way you feel in various situations, will make it easier to decide how best to respond.
In addition, self-reflection can help you view yourself and your emotions from a more neutral perspective. At the end of the day, take a step back and write about the emotions you felt throughout the day. Notice how you responded to people. Were you judgmental or biased? If so, why? Recognizing the way you feel and reflecting on how it impacts your life and those around you provides the opportunity to assess yourself from a more objective lens.
Tip 3: Practice humility with yourself and others
Practicing humility is key to relationship management. Although it’s great to take pride in your accomplishments, being too boastful can harm your social awareness and relationships. Practice being humbler by giving other people credit for their accomplishments. The impulse to talk about yourself can sometimes be tempting, but paying closer attention to others allows you to cultivate stronger relationships and eliminate bias.
Humility doesn’t just refer to times of success either. Honestly admitting when you’re wrong can go a long way to becoming more self-aware and socially aware. While this can be difficult, knowing when to apologize builds your emotional intelligence towards both others and yourself. In addition, it aids in honest self-reflection by unclouding judgment.
Tip 4: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Another useful tip you can use to strengthen your empathy is to consciously think about the perspectives of others. Although the old saying, “think before you speak,” may seem cliché, it’s essential for social awareness and relationship management. The things you do and say directly influence the emotions of others, so it’s always best to think about how your choice affect people before you act.
Another way to practice empathy is to read. Literature gives you the chance to experience the thoughts and emotions of others. Particularly, in novels written from a first-person perspective, the author elaborates on the narrator’s thoughts. This provides a unique opportunity to directly witness another person’s perspective.
Tip 5: Ask for feedback
It’s important to know you’re not alone. As opposed to making assumptions on your EQ, cultivating emotional intelligence should be a team effort. Aside from offering another opportunity in humility, asking for feedback from others also helps you better understand your EQ from an external perspective.
For example, asking someone else about how they think you handle stress and respond to your emotions can uncloud bias towards your own internal dialogue. While allowing yourself to be vulnerable seems scary, having this open dialogue with other people in your life is just as important as having it with yourself.
Tip 6: Hold yourself accountable
Although recognizing and reflecting on your emotions helps with awareness, the effort is futile without solid accountability. EQ is equally about management, and actively taking steps to hold yourself responsible is essential to cultivation. Practice using mindfulness in your decision making.
For example, if you find yourself in a stressful situation, and you become enraged, ask yourself how you should react. Actively assessing the situation can ultimately help you stay accountable by managing the impulse to act on your feelings.
Tip 7: Ask yourself why
In addition to practicing awareness to what you feel and managing the way you react, cultivating your emotional intelligence also means knowing why. When you feel sad, why is it? Additionally, what makes you excited and why?
Our emotions don’t exist in a void; they operate within a cause-and-effect relationship. To better grasp the effect our emotions play in our lives, we also need to understand the root causes. Knowing what triggers you to experience certain emotions can help you set expectations and build confidence in your EQ.
Tip 8: Plan ahead
The eighth tip to cultivating a high emotional intelligence builds off the previous tip. Having a firm grasp on the foundation that stimulates emotional responses makes it possible to plan ahead. Proactively predict the scenarios that trigger strong emotions, and decide in advance how to handle it. This will ultimately help build further confidence in your emotional intelligence and set you up for success.
These eight building blocks pave the foundation to cultivate emotional intelligence. Following these tips will rejuvenate your confidence and strengthen your EQ. Understanding and managing your emotions provides lifelong benefits by giving you the tools to foster more healthy relationships and succeed both professionally and personally.