12 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

outline of a head with IQ and Emotional Intelligence symbols

Do you sometimes feel that you could have handled a situation better than you did? Or that you could have paused a bit more before reacting to something someone said? We have all been in situations where we look back and wonder how our emotional dexterity could have changed the outcome of events. When we find ourselves in control of our emotions and acutely cognizant of the situation during emotionally-charged moments, we see that our reactions are calmer. It has been observed that self-control, calmness, and composure are clear-cut marks of emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence through his best-selling book published in 1995. The book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, was written when Goleman chanced upon an article published by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. In his book, Goleman presents the emotionally-intelligent person as someone who is self-aware and understands their own emotions.

Moreover, an individual with high emotional intelligence is good at handling their feelings. This individual is highly-sensitive and empathetic to how others feel and has a good grasp of how to handle other people’s emotions. Collectively, an emotionally-intelligent person knows how to utilize reason and emotion and arrives at the best possible decision for that situation.

12 Steps Toward Emotional Intelligence

Want more emotional intelligence? Fortunately, emotional intelligence—like any other aptitude—is trainable. Here are some practical steps that you can take to enhance your emotional intelligence:

1. Acknowledge Your Emotions

Let your feelings have a moment in the spotlight. Ask yourself what caused the reaction? Try not to ignore the feeling. Remember that an emotion embeds itself in the subconscious when continuously brushed off. When an emotion becomes subconscious, it gains all the more power over you.

2. Pause

During emotionally-charged situations, guard yourself against your initial feelings and don’t respond immediately. Step back. Take a deep breath. Avoid catching yourself in embarrassing situations or making drastic decisions by taking a moment to stop and think.

3. Control Your Thoughts

The mind tends to blame and criticize itself and worry unnecessarily. An emotionally intelligent person is as compassionate toward oneself as he/she is to others. Avoid self-critical and demeaning thoughts. You are the owner of your mental space—protect it from unwanted settlers.

4. Be Receptive to Feedback

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Actively seek feedback and accept it graciously when offered. See feedback as a chance to improve yourself. Solicit feedback from people whom you trust. People who care about you will take the time to give you constructive feedback.

5. Give Constructive Criticism

Pay it forward by helping others improve. Be specific when providing feedback and stick to the behaviors that the recipient has control over. When giving feedback, you also have to be mindful of the timing. It is always ideal to give feedback when the recipient is ready and receptive to accept your advice.

6. Be Empathetic

Learn to see the world from the perspective of other people. This step will allow you to be more considerate of the plight of others. Empathy starts from knowing more about the people around you. Ask the people around you how they are doing. Increase your personal and face-to-face interactions.

7. Be Authentic and Honest

Authenticity is a mark of an emotionally intelligent person. An authentic person is not afraid to show his or her real self. An authentic person is an open person. He or she encourages the people around him to be approachable as well. When people are more open, interactions are more honest and authentic.

8. Offer Help

woman helping a co worker out by showing support

Ask what kind of help is needed. From there you can gauge if you have the capacity and bandwidth to help. By helping others, you are helping create a stress-free and supportive environment for everyone. As the saying goes, “What goes around, comes around.” There may be a time when you need help from others.

9. Accept Your Mistakes and Apologize

Accepting one’s mistake can be one of the most difficult things to do—let alone apologize for the mistake. If you find out that you made a mistake, approach the person involved as soon as possible and apologize. This step can help minimize damage and save the relationship.

10. Forgive Others and Learn to Move On

Forgiveness is difficult. It may be easier to harbor anger, hold a grudge and exact vengeance. However, bitterness can weigh you down in the long run. Choosing to forgive sets you free and allows you to focus your energy on more constructive thoughts.

11. Keep Your Commitments

An emotionally intelligent person is trustworthy and sticks to his commitments. And doing so sends a signal that people can count on you and that you value integrity. Make commitments only when you are certain that you can keep them. Otherwise, do not commit at all. Broken commitments can badly tarnish your reputation.

12. Practice Emotional Hygiene by Guarding Your Mental Space

Emotional hygiene is being mindful of our psychological health. Although many of us are conscious about taking care of our physical well-being, most of us tend to neglect our emotional health. We have to remember that the people around us can have an impact on our emotional well-being. They can either emotionally nourish or inflict wounds on us. Choose to be around people who are optimistic and inspiring.


Emotional Intelligence Should be a Focus

There is no denying that emotional intelligence is crucial to unlocking your full potential. Fortunately, it’s never too late to get started. Proceed by tackling some of the steps outlined above. Although the change may be gradual and the process difficult, the reward is more than worth the effort.

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Imee Rabang is a blogger/writer and bilingual poet from Manila, Philippines. She is an advocate of Philippine culture and supports causes that promote language and national identity. She juggles her time between work, parenthood, and community outreach programs. She also dabbles in photography and graphic arts in her free time.

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