In the same way that IQ is a measure of a person’s general intelligence, emotional intelligence, which is often abbreviated as EI, measures how well a person can recognize and process emotions. Having a high EI is crucial to achieving success at work and satisfaction in your personal life.
Fortunately, EI is not a static number in the way that IQ tends to be. While you may not be able to improve your raw intelligence, you can develop your emotional intelligence in the same way that you can build up a muscle.
In this post, you’ll find six ways to improve your soft skills and strengthen your emotional intelligence:
Learn to Observe Your Emotions
Life is busy, and stress is often a constant companion. Because of this, it’s easy to flip the autopilot switch and simply “power through” difficult situations or unpleasant tasks until you can relax. However, relaxation often takes the form of distracting entertainment, and this leaves you with little or no time to reflect on the day.
This lack of emotional processing can harm your productivity and overall happiness. Rather than just rolling with the punches, make a conscious effort to observe your feelings and cultivate self-awareness.
Doing this will allow you to better handle your emotions while also helping you to see and understand when others may be feeling the same things.
Identify Your Triggers
An emotional trigger is something that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened, and it typically causes a visceral and possibly over-the-top reaction. A trigger can be a person, behavior, topic of conversation or even a work environment or relationship.
One way to learn how to identify your triggers is to understand your personality better. Being able to recognize behavior patterns and problematic tendencies in yourself and others is an invaluable tool for personal and professional growth.
It can be especially difficult to deal with a job that is a trigger because you may feel helpless to change it. You should understand that you deserve a positive work environment. For some people, this means having a supportive manager, for others, this means having a growth perspective. According to research, 76% of employees think they don’t have enough opportunities for career growth. This can be a trigger for low motivation, for example. You must identify these triggers and take action to overcome them, even if this means changing positions, moving departments, or quitting your job.
Observe How Your Emotions Relate to Your Behaviors
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your emotional state is directly linked to your behavior.
For example, if you have unresolved anxiety or stress, you might be prone to lashing out at loved ones or coworkers. If you’ve had a day filled with unpleasant tasks or difficult work, you may be more likely to impulse shop or overindulge.
Every person is different, so make a conscious effort to simply observe your behaviors and emotions to find patterns. Many people find it helpful to have a record of emotional check-ins and corresponding behaviors, especially when they first begin this practice of observation.
You may choose to externalize your feelings in a number of ways. Some people prefer to talk them over with a trusted friend or therapist in order to gain insight. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can also write them down in a physical notebook or in a writing software program that only you have access to.
Once you have a better understanding of how your emotions relate to your behaviors, you can take the next step toward mastering them.
When you’ve been observing your emotions and behaviors for a while, you’ll begin to see clear patterns. It’s important to understand that you have complete control over these patterns. If they’re unhealthy or making your life more difficult, you have the power to correct them.
You often cannot change a situation, but you can always change how you react to that situation. Learning to develop your emotional intelligence means that you can recognize triggering situations and then modify your thoughts and behaviors to respond to the problem in a healthy way.
Open Yourself Up to Connect With Others
As you work on understanding and observing your own emotions, you will begin to develop an intuition for the emotions of others as well. An important aspect of developing emotional intelligence is being able to empathize with other people. When you can read what another person is feeling, it becomes much easier to offer assistance and make connections.
If you are in a leadership position, emotional intelligence is vital to being an effective and inspiring leader. A high EI is key for motivating, persuading and encouraging your team in ways that are meaningful to them.
It can be difficult for some people to open up about their emotions and verbalize their feelings. This is something that can be overcome with small steps, practice, and patience. Being able to articulate your feelings in a constructive and coherent way is an invaluable skill that will tremendously improve and strengthen your work and personal relationships.
Over to You
This is a lot to take in, so let’s recap:
- Emotional intelligence is a dynamic skill that can be trained and developed. You don’t have to live a reactive life where things just happen to you.
- You can take control of your emotions, and you can lead a happier, more productive life.
- Start with small steps, and keep a record of your emotions and behaviors so that you can be objective.
- Practice verbalizing your feelings, and allow yourself to be vulnerable with others.
Most importantly, have patience, and be kind to yourself. EI can’t be developed overnight, but it will come with time and consistent practice.