Although it had been around for many years, the concept of “Emotional Intelligence” really gained widespread recognition when Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ”, was published in 1995 and surprising many, became a massive best-seller.
Since then, many claims have been made for and about Emotional Intelligence (EI), and the related construct of Emotional Quotient (EQ). Most common among these many claims is that EQ is more important than more traditional conceptualisations of intelligence (e.g. IQ) and that it has a powerful, positive influence on mental health, relationships, professional and vocational success, and even leadership abilities.
Emotional Intelligence, then, would appear to be a highly desirable attribute.
But what, exactly, is it?
The simplest way to understand Emotional Intelligence is in two parts. Emotional Intelligence is (1) the ability to recognise and manage one’s own emotions, as well as (2) the ability to recognise and respond appropriately to emotions in others. So in short, those who’re high in EI tend to function better within themselves, and within their relationships. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people are keen to know what they can do to have more of it!
So what, then, can you do to enhance your EI?
Although some people are undoubtedly born with a more “natural ability” to be emotionally intelligent, the good news is that most experts agree it is something we can all learn and improve. Like any other “life skill”, with practice we can get better and as we get better we can enjoy more of the many wonderful befits associated with EI.
So with this in mind, here are my top 5 tips for boosting your EI:
Practice being more mindful of your emotions – to manage something better we first need to know what it is we’re managing; but many of us don’t pay enough attention to our thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. Mindfulness, therefore, observing our emotions without judgement, is crucial to EI and to managing our moods. So set aside a few minutes each and every day to just sit with your feelings, whatever they might be at that point in time
Take responsibility for how you react to your emotions – once we’re aware of how we’re feeling it’s then worth spending some time reflecting on how we typically react to these feelings. Repeat the same practice as that described above but in addition, reflect upon how you typically behave when you feel certain ways
In fact, learn to respond, consciously, rather than react automatically – too often, too many of us react to emotions and to situations without really thinking; and not surprisingly, this isn’t always the best way to respond. But we can all learn to respond more mindfully and more consciously and in doing so, we can better manage ourselves as well as improve our relationships with others. So following an acknowledgement of your emotions, take time to pause, consider, and reflect upon the best way to behave, the way your best possible self would behave, in various circumstances
Learn to listen, really listen to others – because EI is not just managing one’s own emotions, but also responding appropriately to other people’s emotions, the ability to accurately perceive how someone else is feeling is vitally important. One way to do this is to actively listen, not just to their words but also to the tone of what the other person is saying, and to decipher the emotions within
Listen also, with your eyes – in addition to listening to what the other person is saying, it’s also important to look at how they’re behaving. Keep an eye out for non-verbal, behavioural signals, that might be indicative of stress or anxiety, sadness or grief, frustration or anger
Emotional intelligence is an extremely useful set of skills that can reap massive rewards for those who master it. And that’s the take home message here; EI can be mastered. Practice might not ever make us perfect but it will definitely make us better, and getting better is undoubtedly a goal worth striving for.