4 Tips on Developing Good Emotional Intelligence

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The different kinds of intelligence have been studied over many decades. Today, intelligence can manifest itself in many ways. Psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence in the 90s with his book Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence relates to how in-tune we are with ourselves and how we can manage our own emotions. Emotionally intelligent individuals are better equipped to handle and name the emotions within others as well.

Why do we Need to Have Good Emotional Intelligence?

The different kinds of intelligence affect everyone differently—some might be skilled at sports, others with numbers or art and so forth.

But emotional intelligence is something we should all look to develop, because it bleeds into all aspects of our personal and professional lives.

Having good emotional intelligence can determine the quality and resilience of all your relationships, how well you navigate your professional world, and ultimately, how satisfied you are with your life.

Emotional Intelligence can help you with:

  • Better Relationships: If you are in a committed relationship or simply on the dating game, being more emotionally intelligent will help you navigate all the troubles that come with sharing a life with another person. Understanding your emotions and the emotions of another person while being able to communicate is important in all your relationships, not simply romantic ones. Empathy, understanding, and communication will help all your relationships.
  • Greater Mental Health: Being able to identify and manage your negative emotions will reflect on your mental health. When life becomes too difficult and you are faced with stressors or grief or trauma, how you handle those emotions will likely decide your mental health and fortitude.
  • Get Further in Your Career: Researchers have made the link between emotional intelligence and better work performance clear [4]. Psychologist Daniel Goleman was one of the first to popularize the construct of emotional intelligence and suggested that those with greater emotional intelligence succeed better in their careers. Intuitively, this makes sense—those with greater emotional intelligence will have better control of their emotions, be better able to resolve workplace conflicts, make better decisions, and will listen and respond better to criticism. Together, these simple points make for better climbers in a corporate world. Current research has also linked emotional intelligence to greater academic achievement [2].
  • Develop Self-Discipline: An added benefit of regulating your emotions and understanding yourself on a deeper level, is in increased self-discipline. If you are more emotionally intelligent, you are more likely to stick to your dreams, goals, and desires regardless of the world and your current circumstances. This will translate to increased goal-driven behaviors, greater fortitude, and motivation. You will then have logically better outcomes in your professional and personal relationships.

What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent?

Emotional intelligence does not mean to be the stereotypical cool, happy, and the amazing person with the largest social circle. In fact, you can be emotionally intelligent and experience depression, unhappiness, and hardships.

Emotional intelligence does not mean you reject all negative emotions and strive for a stress-free life (although that would be great).

Emotional Intelligence means that you try to understand all your emotions, how they are affecting your life, and what to do about them.

Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

Psychology Today

Being able to identify, listen, cope, and otherwise accept and navigate all the emotions you experience, good or bad, is what we mean by being emotionally intelligent.

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Whether you are a fully functioning human who kicks emotions ass, or you are lacking in some areas of your emotional repertoire, the points above have hopefully helped you realize that emotional intelligence is a key ingredient to your success.

Your upbringing and genetics and personality and all that other crap will affect how emotionally intelligent you are at baseline, but the good news is that research has shown that emotional intelligence can be improved upon with diligent practice and effort [1]—so even if you are a repressed, bitter individual who can barely talk to anyone about anything, there is hope for you yet!

Tip 1: Gain Self-Awareness

Have you ever been to an interview where the interviewer asks you what your greatest weakness is? Your greatest Strength?

Those with good self-awareness are excellent at answering questions such as those. They understand their flaws and their strengths and find ways to flaunt their strengths, while managing their weaknesses. Those with low self-awareness will struggle to answer these questions, or they will answer with quasi-strengths that they try to mold into weaknesses.

Quick tips to develop self-awareness:

  • Check-in with yourself daily on how the events of the day made you feel
  • Be honest with yourself about what makes you happy, sad.
  • Learn to fail and learn from your mistakes
  • Do not try and constantly distract yourself; allow yourself to feel.
  • Pay close attention to what makes you uncomfortable, angry, stressed.

Think of having great self-awareness as having a compass to navigating yourself; and having no self-awareness would be akin to losing yourself in a forest of emotions with no compass, just turning at random trees trying to untangle emotions you don’t understand.

Because identifying your strengths and weaknesses often requires you to understand and take stock of your emotions, many people have trouble finding theirs.

How do you feel when you fail;

How do you react when stressed;

How do you let emotions control you?

When you pay attention to what your emotions are telling you, you become aware of the strengths and weaknesses within your self, and of all the other emotional turmoil you might be suppressing.  

Why do we Lack Self-Awareness?

One reason people lack self-awareness is because they shy away from feeling poorly. We live in a world of constant distraction and entertainment that makes reflecting on ourselves more difficult.

When you feel sad, hurt, rejected, whatever, you can easily turn to social media, music, or television and not question yourself as to why you feel as you do.

Self-awareness boils down to being aware of your emotions, your struggles, how you’re feeling, and being intimate with yourself on a deeper level—it is important as your first step to increase your emotional intelligence.

Once you’ve become more self-aware, you can work on practicing self-regulation.

Tip 2: Practice Self-Regulation

If self-awareness is the road map to your emotions, then self-regulation is your car—your vehicle that guides you from where you know you are, to where you want to go.

You can be the most self-aware person, and know you have a tendency to snap at your co-workers, but if you don’t practice self-regulation, your hypothetical car will crash and burn on the ditch between an argument you and a co-worker are having.

Before working on your self-regulation, you need to develop self-awareness. You need to identify the areas of your life where you struggle, and find healthy ways to express and manage those emotions.

Snapping at your coworkers is not the best way to resolve conflict, but if you know that you have this shortcoming, consider finding an outlet for your frustration such as exercise, writing, meditation etc.

There are no good or bad emotions, only good or bad reactions to those emotions

Mark Manson

If you let your emotions get the better of you, you might make terrible decisions, and in the worst-case scenario, life-changing mistakes. Look at calming down when you feel your emotions take over.

As Mark Manson has said that emotions are only as bad as your reaction. If you feel hate towards a work policy that has caused you distress, or towards a person or point of view, attempt to channel that hate into something productive instead of destructive. Hate can be the fuel towards changing a work policy you disagree with or starting a social movement to better a community that has been wronged.

You are then using your hatred towards a situation to enact a good outcome, as opposed to lashing out and reacting aggressively.

Tip 3: Socialize with Empathy

Empathy means being able to understand someone else’s emotions and life story. When you empathize with another person, you are giving them an opportunity to feel understood and safe.

So far, most of the tips have dealt with identifying your own emotions and managing yourself, but this tip deals with the emotions of others and your social awareness. This sounds simple to do but is much more difficult if you have not worked on your own self-awareness and regulation.

Practicing Empathy will Help you:

  • Resolve conflicts with others: conflict will arise in most of your social relationships—there is little you can do to stop this. However, by being empathetic and mindful of what the other is saying and feeling, you will be better equipped to resolve said conflict.
  • Build stronger relationships: although conflict is inevitable, the healthy resolution of conflict can often lead to a stronger relationship. When we feel understood, valued, and loved, it feels nice. Those moments create an anchor for the relationship and a foothold on which to build and deepen the connection.
  • Develop your values: I advise to be empathetic with all your interactions, even if they are not meaningful ones. By being empathic and mindful, you will develop your sense of self and personal values further by either identifying with that person or not. When you are mindful of other’s views and opinions, you can then reflect on how those made you feel and whether you are in line with them.

All social interaction involves a give and take—a back and forth between the emotions of two or more people and a build up of expectations and social ques. Navigating those interactions can become difficult, but by being more emotionally aware, you will have an easier time.

Being mindful during your interactions and using empathy is a sure way to improve your emotional intelligence and build stronger, better relationships.

Tip 4: Emotions and Your Values—Mark Manson

There is a myriad of information online on the importance of Emotional Intelligence, but little have talked about what to do with your emotional intelligence.

Insert Mark Manson.

Mark Manson included a section in his own emotional intelligence article where he discusses the values that need to guide your intelligence for it to be worth anything [3].

Everything I have described so far has been largely lacking in value. Building stronger relationships, getting to the top of your career, and being “better”, are on the surface wonderful goals, but why?

If you are reaching the top of your career by exploiting the poor or those weaker than you, would you call that virtuous, or good?

If you are using your ability to connect and understand how others are feeling in order to better manipulate them and bend them to your will, is that good?

Being able to identify your emotions and how others will react can be a powerful tool in manipulation or deceit. Mark Manson therefore argues that emotional intelligence is not an end goal.

You need to strive to understand what you value and why.

In that way you will be well equipped to guide your emotions in an intelligent and virtuous fashion. Only values can give a sense to what you do with your emotional intelligence. And it might be the best thing you can ever do for yourself. [3]

References:

[1] Kotsou, I, Nelis, D, Gregoire, J, & Mikolajczak, M. Emotional plasticity: Conditions and effects of improving emotional competence in adulthood. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2011;96(4): 827-839. doi:10.1037/a0023047.

[2] MacCann, C., Jiang, Y., Brown, L. E. R., Double, K. S., Bucich, M., & Minbashian, A. (2020). Emotional intelligence predicts academic performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(2), 150–186. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000219

[3] Manson, M (N.A). 5 Skills to Help you Develop Your Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved online from: https://markmanson.net/emotions/emotional-intelligence-skills#5-skills

[4] O’Boyle, E. H., Jr., Humphrey, R. H., Pollack, J. M., Hawver, T. H., & Story, P. A. (2011). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 788–818. https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1002/job.714

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/emotional-intelligence

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