Have you ever regretted something you said or did in the heat of the moment? Do you ever find yourself struggling to get on the same page with people? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us have had moments where our emotions got the better of us, or times when our connections with family, friends or colleagues felt a little superficial.
So how do we let our emotions work for us, instead of against us? The secret to enjoying more satisfying relationships could lie in cultivating your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has been a popular topic in the self-help and personal development world for a while, but what is it? And can it be learned?
We’ve compiled a few ways for you to explore how emotional intelligence can help you thrive.
But first, what is emotional intelligence?
Intelligence can be measured in many ways, and intuitively, we know that being ‘book-smart’ doesn’t always lead to greater success and happiness in life. In fact, being able to read and respond to emotions – your own and others’ – may be more important for personal and professional success.
Emotional intelligence is about being able to recognise and understand your own feelings, and those of the people around you, so you can empathise and respond in a helpful way. By understanding how emotions shape behaviour and becoming more emotionally conscious, we can improve our social skills and communicate better with others.
This isn’t to say that emotions are a bad thing – it’s not about exercising rigid self-control or trying to be more assertive or calm. It’s simply about being tuned into the emotional landscape and understanding how to promote emotional wellbeing in yourself and others.
5 ways to improve your emotional intelligence
While some psychologists see EQ as something that’s shaped by genetics and early experiences (similar to musical or mathematical ability), it’s definitely possible to fine-tune your emotional radar. Here are four ways to get started:
- Notice how you feel. The first step towards becoming more self-aware is to observe your feelings. Take a few breaths and notice what’s happening in your mind and body without judgement. This can be easy to overlook when life gets hectic, but with practice it will become second nature.
- Pause before you act. If you are experiencing a strong reaction to something – perhaps a feeling of anger or sadness or frustration – take a moment before responding to stop and ask yourself how you feel and why. By tuning in to your emotions, you can start to identify your triggers and learn to act with intention.
- Take ownership of your feelings. Once you become more conscious of your feelings, you can become more discerning about the ones you choose to give space to. For example, if someone hurts or offends you, those feelings may be valid and justified, but you can choose to respond with integrity and compassion rather than lashing out. While it may seem tricky at first, empowering yourself in this way can lead to relationships that are far more fulfilling, as well as nurturing your own sense of emotional wellbeing.
- Ask others how they are feeling. If you find it difficult to read how others are feeling, just ask them! Practice active listening by giving them space to talk, asking questions and showing you understand where they are coming from. Be curious about what others are experiencing, and don’t be afraid to share your own stories.
- Practice! If you find yourself in a challenging situation, appreciate the opportunity to practice your emotional awareness. If this is new for you, it’ll be a while before it feels like second nature. It won’t always be perfect, but give yourself credit for trying and over time, your emotional intelligence will certainly improve.
Remember, there are no ‘bad’ emotions. Don’t dismiss your feelings or the feelings of others – it’s all information which helps you move forwards.