The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Build Emotional Intelligence

The key in attempting to cultivate emotional intelligence is the importance of listening and not talking.

Getty Images

When people feel like they are having difficulty with a social skill, their insecurities bring them to talk more. So, when people are insecure about something, they tend to talk a lot. The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to learn a skill is to just be quiet. Listening is a vital part of trying to learn about emotional intelligence.

When you’re in a social situation, listening to what people are saying in order to understand their emotional experience helps develop a sense of compassion and empathy. This will allow you to better understand what it would be like to be in their shoes. A key part of emotional intelligence is being better able to understand life from their experience, as opposed to making the assumption that their experience is the same as your experience. None of our experiences are the same.

Developing emotional intelligence is developing more breadth of a word bank or a mood. A lot of people struggle with having enough words to describe moods. They have a limited word bank. If you’re listening carefully enough, that might help develop a broader word bank to describe mood states. The broader the word bank you have to describe a mood bank, the more effective you will become in being able to ask targeted questions to people about how they feel. Listen and then move to mindful questions about how a person may be feeling.

It’s important not to overwhelm people with questions because people don’t respond well to that. Instead, be mindful about the questions you ask by trying to relate to how they may be feeling. Try pulling the words you use in conversation from a mood bank of words that you’ve developed over time from listening.

When you’re learning about emotional intelligence, it’s essential to avoid telling people about a similar experience you’ve had. People tend to not like to have tables turned on them. You may think it will make them feel validated, but what usually happens is that it makes them feel like either you’re not listening or like you’re diminishing the importance of an experience they’ve had.

Try to just breathe into the experience with them. The focus needs to remain squarely on them in order for you to be able to demonstrate that you have emotional intelligence. Try to mirror their experience. You can do that by repeating back a little bit of what they’ve said to help validate their experience. By validating, it will show that you understand how difficult the situation must be for them. Make direct statements to demonstrate to them that you have been listening to what they’re saying, which shows them you’re present in the conversation.

The other side of emotional intelligence that’s important to remember is that people are not looking to have their problems solved. They’re looking to be able to experience the comfort of having another person present for them to vent to, but not to have problems solved. When you try to solve a problem for somebody else, it basically sends a message to that person that you can’t tolerate listening to them talking. That doesn’t demonstrate high emotional intelligence.

They will feel that you are sending a backhanded message that you don’t think they can solve the problem on their own. You don’t want to send that message either. Unless they’re specifically asking for your help, it’s important to just be able to sit with them through the experience and listen to them. When you are able to just mirror back to them about how they feel, validate their experience, and be there for them, that demonstrates high emotional intelligence.

Doing all of these things will help demonstrate to them that you have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Originally published on Quora.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


“Name your emotion”, Dr. Tonya Crombie and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Roberta Ann Moore of ‘EQ-i Coach’: Why you should figure out how to add meditation or journal-writing into your schedule

by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
emotional intelligence

How To Heighten Emotional Intelligence With These 4 Tactics

by Syed Balkhi

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.