Tips to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Do you know your EQ? No, that is not typo on the prevalent concept of IQ. Like your intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measurement of traditional intellect, your EQ is your level of emotional intelligence. If you don’t know much about your emotional intelligence skills, you owe it to yourself and your career to find out. It turns out emotional intelligence may have far more bearing on your professional success than having a high IQ.

Silhouette of a person with arms raised against a vibrant sunset sky.

That’s not to say a high IQ is inconsequential. Intelligence quotients above 110 can put you in the forefront of attaining academic credentials and demonstrating your intellectual capacities to prospective employers. But it doesn’t say anything about how you relate with others, communicate or conduct yourself in a professional setting.

What is EQ anyway, and what does it measure? Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your own and others’ emotions. EQ is also an active awareness of how emotions drive behaviors and impact people positively or negatively.

In 1996, American psychologist Daniel Goleman identified five key elements of emotional intelligence:
  1. Self-awareness – Understanding your emotions and actions and the effect on others.
  2. Self-regulation – Staying in control and limiting emotional reactions and decisions.
  3. Motivation – Setting realistic goals and maintaining high standards.
  4. Empathy – Putting yourself in someone’s situation and understanding others.
  5. Social skills – Possessing communication, negotiation and conflict management skills.

emotional intelligence

Unlike IQ, which remains fairly consistent throughout a person’s lifespan, EQ elements can be improved with practice and dedication to making changes. Recognizing opportunities to use EQ elements during your workday can help you hone up your abilities in each of the five main areas.

For example, an easy way to begin is to think about your feelings and how they affect you during the day. Pause and reflect before you react and make an attempt to contain your reactions to appropriate emotional responses. Awareness is the key.

Even simple gestures such as praising others, giving helpful feedback and apologizing will improve your levels of EQ. Actions like showing empathy through helping others, keeping your commitments and moving on from resentments get easier the more often you employ them.

Here are ideas you can use to improve your EQ:
  • Reduce negative emotions by not personalizing others’ responses and recognizing it is not all about you. You can also reduce the fear of rejection by widening your perspective and seeing a situation in a broader sense.
  • Stay cool and manage stress. Ways to help defuse a situation include getting some fresh air, exercise and even splashing cool water on your face. Also, avoid caffeine, as it can increase nervous reactions.
  • Set boundaries using the XYZ technique. This is saying “I feel X when you do Y in situation Z.” Fill in the blanks with particulars. Don’t start sentences with “you.” This makes people feel defensive and less likely to listen.
  • Be proactive, not reactive, with difficult people. Remember the advice about taking a deep breath and counting to ten before reacting? It still works! Use empathy to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and depersonalize the situation by remaining reasonable and considerate. Hard as it may be, set consequences if the behavior continues and follow through.
  • Bounce back from adversity. How you handle failures and learn from them is a key to honing your EQ. Ask yourself what you’ve learned from setbacks and how applying these lessons will help you toward greater success in the future.
  • Express positive emotions. In a professional setting, it is being aware of someone’s emotions, listening, supporting and being patient.

The Key to Unlocking Your Emotional Intelligence Potential

The key to improving your emotional intelligence is to take the time to reflect on your strengths, weaknesses and ways you can work on your emotional responses. Accept responsibility for how you react and the impact this has on you and others. Remember the platinum rule – treat others as they want to be treated, not as you want to be treated.

According to Talent Smart, 90 percent of high performers at work have high EQ abilities. Comparatively, 80 percent of low performers exhibit low EQ abilities. If your professional goal is to be a leader, it is essential that you learn and practice emotional intelligence fundamentals.


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