Written by: Penny Anthem staff
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize and manage emotions. It’s basically being self aware and smart about your feelings.
Studies have shown that people with high emotional intelligence have greater mental health, cooperative skills and are more likely to be leaders.
Before I get to some of the techniques that help improve EI, it might be helpful to understand some signs of low emotional intelligence. Even if you don’t do any of these things, chances are you know someone who does! Recognizing these signs, makes a huge difference in how you interact with others.
Without further ado, here are some tips for improving emotional intellect.
Don’t respond right away. If someone says something you think is out of line, resist the urge to respond right away. I’ll admit this is the hardest for me, but not everything needs a response and not everything needs an immediate response. I’ve noticed 3 things when I let an someone else’s statement go without a response:
- I don’t escalate the situation with a brash remark
- Their words reverberate and they too have to consider what they said
- I am truly able to listen and consider their point of view
Silence is one of the most powerful tools you have. Letting someone replay what they last said will allow them to think about their own statement.
Become cognizant of your body language. Often times when we are upset or irritated, our bodies tense up. Take a moment to think about what your body is doing, relax, and regain control.
More often than not, after you reposition yourself and collect your thoughts, the words that come out of your mouth are much more diplomatic than your prior thoughts. If you’re physically and mentally in self defense mode, it’s going to be harder to come to terms with someone. Relax.
Identify your feelings and the actions associated with them. Similar to the one above, we express ourselves in certain ways depending on our thoughts/feelings/moods. Our actions can serve as a marker for our emotions. For example, when I am frustrated I tend to want to be alone to decompress. Being aware of these behaviors helps me identify the emotion and then come up with a plan to change it or ride it out. It also makes it easier to communicate with those that surround you. If you realize that you need time to think then you can express that.
Connect your feelings with your thoughts. Try to understand what is making you feel a certain way. Do you get frustrated every time your manager randomly calls you into the office to chat? Maybe the issue is less about the impromptu chats and more that your time isn’t being valued.
You may find several things that bother you all have the same root. Once you are able to find the root of the problem you’re more likely to address it in a mature and productive manner.
Practice empathy. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes allows you to see their point of view. You may not like the way they act, but consider not only the position they are in, but how it might make them feel, and what tools they have to deal with their own emotions. A lot of people simple don’t have the tools to be upfront, respectful, and tactful. The more I accept this, the easier communication becomes.
Try to see the position someone else is in, and you may find it easier to understand their actions.
Choose your thoughts and words. If you are constantly thinking and expressing negative thoughts then that’s going to be your reality- not because it’s how things actually are- but because that’s the point of view you’ve embraced. As mentioned in our 10 Habits of Great Leaders, being positive allows one to see the possibility of a solution when others simply do not.
If you’re breeding negative thoughts, then you’re likely to attract negative people. The chances that your situation and relationships will grow seem pretty bleak.
Accept your feelings but control the way you express them. This is basically EI in a nutshell and easier said than done.
It’s beyond aggravating to me when people say someone is “too emotional”. That’s a dismissive way to shut someone else down and position yourself as the more “stable” one in the conversation. Emotions are a spectrum; It’s completely normal to be emotional. On the other hand it isn’t normal to express them in a volatile manner!
Identify your emotion, think about why you’re experiencing it, and then take a moment to figure out the best way to express it.
Being emotionally intelligent is a lifelong process that is just as much about understanding as it is about being understood.