No matter how successful you become, you’ll always need emotional intelligence – the ability to engage others’ feelings while understanding, managing and expressing your own. Unlike intellectual intelligence (IQ), which centers on cognitive skillfulness, developing emotional intelligence (EQ) centers on building relational skillfulness. As much as we’re taught to value intellectual pursuits, it’s really your ability to feel feelings, nurture relationships and demonstrate strong character that opens doors in life. Since relationships drive all of business and life, learning how to improve emotional intelligence trumps improving your intellectual quotient.
Is there a trick to improving emotional intelligence? It’s human nature to crave status, but developing emotional intelligence means laying down your status to relate to others as equals. To really understand how to improve emotional intelligence, build a skill set around humility. You’ll find that your relationships improve and you grow personally all while your confidence deepens in many areas of life.
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Learning how to improve emotional intelligence
Why ask how to improve emotional intelligence? Emotional agility is one of the strongest indicators of success in business and life. Forbes reports that, according to a study of more than 358 managers, the highest-performing managers scored high on emotional intelligence – significantly higher than their lower-performing cohort. Managers high in emotional aptitude also demonstrated competencies including skillful leadership, self-confidence and the ability to win and influence others. Interestingly enough, the winning managers received high scores from their peers and supervisors, but not from their subordinates. Despite having the appearance of emotional intelligence in the company of peers, the managers’ EQ was not apparent to subordinates.
What is the lesson for developing emotional intelligence? Having your peers praise your EQ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re demonstrating genuine sensitivity to everyone around you. To truly demonstrate emotional intelligence, treat your entire team as you’d treat your superiors. Mastering how to improve emotional intelligence trickles down to your entire team.
Six steps to developing emotional intelligence
Learning how to improve emotional intelligence is a matter of mindset. To truly develop a skill set in improving emotional intelligence, you must transform your outlook so you’re in control of your thoughts and feelings. To get started, follow Tony’s exercises for developing emotional intelligence: the 6 Steps to Emotional Mastery.
1. Identify what you’re really feeling
Dig deep and ask yourself what you’re really feeling. Practicing mindfulness is a proven way to gain perspective on your feelings so you’re able to manage negative emotions and harness positive ones. As you develop an awareness of your feelings, you’re able to pay closer attention to how you’re talking to yourself and others. When you’re mindful of the words you use, you develop empathy for others, which strengthens your relationships and helps you build new ones. As your emotional sharpness increases, you become more resilient to challenges. Rather than feeling overcome by adversity, you’re able to learn from it and bounce back.
2. Acknowledge and appreciate your emotions
Developing emotional intelligence doesn’t mean denying your feelings. Your emotions are never wrong. They are there to support you, so be honest about how you feel. When you learn to validate your own feelings, you’re better able to validate others’ emotions, which is a key component of practicing empathy.
3. Get curious about the message this emotion offers
Approaching your feelings with an attitude of curiosity lets you interrupt your current emotional trajectory to solve whatever’s bothering you. When you’re open to your feelings, you’re better able to understand your own (and others’) thinking and reasoning.
4. Get confident
To gain confidence in learning how to improve emotional intelligence, think of another time you’ve successfully handled a similar feeling. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again. By developing confidence in previous successes, you’re able to navigate uncertain terrain with certainty.
5. Feel certain you can face the future
To prepare for facing your feelings in the future, rehearse how you’d like to handle difficult emotions. Use your previous successes as a resource for improving emotional intelligence. By being prepared, you cement your feelings of self-efficacy for handling future challenges.
6. Get excited and take action
Now that you’re able to handle any emotion with confidence, get excited and take action to reach a new goal or milestone. Whatever your goal is, put your emotional mastery to work by staying responsive to others in your work. Having mastered how to improve emotional intelligence benefits your personal and professional relationships.
Additional strategies for improving emotional intelligence
Once you learn to take control of your feelings, you’re ready to take your EQ to a new level of understanding.
7. Embrace self-awareness
Learning how to improve emotional intelligence is about getting to know yourself. Embracing your feelings is your starting-off point for a lifelong process of self-discovery. Emotional mastery entails a self-awareness where you not only recognize your emotions but also realize how they impact your behaviors. As you become more self-aware, you’re more self-accepting and become more empathetic toward others.
8. Learn emotional management techniques
Psychology Today reports on the value of emotional intelligence in navigating life and relationships. To really understand how to improve emotional intelligence, experts recommend taking the reins on your own feelings. Improving emotional intelligence means staying cool under stress instead of being reactive. To stay relaxed in a crisis, remember the holistic nature of your peak state. To keep calm, stay attentive to your body in the present moment. Staying aware of your mind-body connection helps you overcome stress and stay connected to others. If, after addressing your stress, you still need to release difficult emotions like anger, fear or sadness, give yourself permission to take a break. As you develop emotional skillfulness, you’ll become better able to manage yourself and relate to others.
9. Become your own manager
As you learn how to improve emotional intelligence, you become your own inner manager. Instead of reacting to situations without understanding why, you’re able to take stock of what’s driving you. Instead of being impulsive, you’re able to slow down your reactions and make strategic choices. What feelings are getting the best of you, and how can you choose a healthier response?
10. Attune to others’ feelings
Improving emotional intelligence transforms your relationships. Being attuned to your own feelings makes you more aware of other people’s emotions, which enhances your capacity for healthy relationships. You’re able to understand others’ concerns, pick up on emotional cues and interact comfortably with others. When you’re able to take care of your own emotional needs, you’re more emotionally available – as a partner, friend, coworker and family member.
11. Assert yourself
When we talk about being assertive, we’re not talking about being aggressive or domineering. Asserting yourself is part of learning how to improve emotional intelligence, since it requires communicating your perspective, wants and needs directly while still respecting others. As you become attuned to your own emotional terrain, you’re able to assert yourself in a way that strengthens and deepens your relationships.
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