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7 Tips to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

Building your emotional awareness to have a better life.

Are you able to recognize the emotions you are feeling?

Can you manage those feelings without allowing them to get in your way?

Are you able to motivate yourself to get things done?

Can you sense the emotions of others, make adjustments in real time, and respond effectively?

If you can do the things above, then you are likely someone who has developed solid emotional intelligence (often referred to simply as, EI).

As I explain in my recent book, The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens, the negative emotions we experience are often intertwined. By this, I mean that we need to understand, and teach our children and teens to also be aware of, the “why” behind the often overwhelming feelings we sometimes face. In addition, learning the “how” of managing emotions is also of critical importance for enhancing our emotional intelligence skills.

Emotional Intelligence Is Distinctly Different Than Smarts

EI is essentially a different form of being smart (compared to typical intelligence) because of its focus on emotions versus purely on reasoning to use or acquire further intellectual knowledge. According to the dictionary definition, EQ is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

During my years growing up, my mother was really helpful to me (although I found it annoying at the time) by saying, "Jeff, time and place." By this, she meant for me to tune in to my thoughts, and emotions while being mindful of those around me, so that I would not make impulsive statements or decisions.

What is so crucial about emotional intelligence is that it is the crux of where our thoughts and emotion join together. All too often, we hear stories of talented workers who have great logic who once promoted to leadership roles, struggle with managing the nuances of how their subordinates feel about their work projects. In this way, EI facilitates our ability to communicate, and our ability to read and navigate a plethora of social situations and conflicts.

Emotional Intelligence

EI has been extensively researched. Taken together, there appear to be six specific components of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness—knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them.
  • Mood management—handling feelings so they’re relevant to the current situation and so that you react appropriately.
  • Self-motivation—“gathering up” your feelings and directing yourself toward a goal, despite self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness.
  • Empathy—recognizing feelings in others and tuning in to their verbal and nonverbal cues.
  • Managing relationships—handling interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

EI can be developed and strengthened. Below are some strategies for how to do it.

1. Pay Attention to Your Emotions. Pause for a moment. Be mindful of bodily tension which, based on the body-mind connection, can alert you to your current emotional state. Note what you are feeling at a given time.

2. Ask Yourself, "Is the Right Time and Place?" Stop and think before you act or speak. It’s hard to do, but keep working at it and it will become a habit. I'm still working on this, but if I can make advances given my ADHD, anxiety, and dyslexia-related struggles over the years, you can make progress too.

3. Reflect on the Emotions of Those Around You. This is where "self-other awareness" begins. To grow in emotional intelligence, think about your own emotions and how you typically react to negative situations, whether they involve a co-worker, family member, or stranger. When you’re more aware of your emotions and typical reactions, you can start to control them.

4. Don't Try to Be a Mind Reader. One of the biggest misconceptions about EI is that you should always know how others feel. True EI comes from the willingness to check in with others to see if your reality is similar or different from what they are seeing. This especially applies to navigating emotionally charged situations.

5. Become More Empathetic. Seek to understand the “why” behind another person’s feelings or emotions.

6. Have a Growth Mindset. Choose to learn from criticism. When we choose to learn from criticism rather than simply defend our views, feelings, and behaviors, we can grow in emotional intelligence.

7. Keep Working at It. Becoming more emotionally intelligent won’t happen overnight, but it can happen—with effort, patience, and a lot of practice.

For more about Dr. Jeff, click here.