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6 Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

What makes someone successful? Is it book smarts, street smarts or a combination of the two? Maybe it is someone who is naturally gifted in their field? You might be surprised to learn that the most successful people are those that know how to manage their emotions.

Knowing how to remain calm in the face of adversity and collected and focused despite external challenges is known as emotional intelligence, and it is the quality that makes people happy and successful.

That is good news because unlike being naturally-gifted, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned, practiced and improved.

In a study on emotional intelligence, a group of participants given emotional intelligence training were better able to handle difficult situations and manage their emotions than the group that received no training at all. The study also showed that the one-time training lasted well beyond the experiment. This means the work you do now will benefit you well into the future.

Here are 6 ways to develop your emotional intelligence:

Be Self-Aware

The first step to increasing your emotional intelligence is to understand your emotions by becoming aware of them. We are often told to hide our feelings but to tap into your emotional intelligence you need to feel.

Start by observing what you are feeling during one given day. Stop yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling.

Feel it and then describe it. When you describe it, you are becoming more aware and will begin to understand your emotional triggers and patterns.

Adapt Your Emotions

Now that you are becoming more aware of your emotions start looking for patterns and triggers. Look back at a situation where your emotions got the best of you and think of what you would do differently, if you had remained calm and collected.

This mental exercise isn’t about beating yourself up; it is about learning from your past experiences to better prepare you for the future. The best place to be when reacting to a situation is in a place of calm. Once you begin to recognize the patterns, you can talk yourself out of overreacting and begin to react with more intention.

Forgive

Forgiveness is often misinterpreted as letting someone off the hook. The reality is forgiveness is about taking back emotional control over your feelings and releasing the control someone else has over you. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

Forgiveness is acknowledging that the action happened and how it made you feel. There is nothing there that can be changed. You can choose to reside in the feelings of the past or choose to move through them. Moving through it and letting it go is the one the healthiest and most beneficial things you can do for yourself.

Girl on swing at sunset

 

Be Empathetic

Understanding your feelings is only half the equation, the other half is understanding and being able to imagine how others feel. Empathy connects you to another person through shared feelings.

By nature we are selfish beings; we want what we want. And that works just fine until you have to interact with another selfish person. It is through shared feelings that we begin to find our true, authentic self. Our ability to empathize with people gives us the courage to live outside of ourselves.

Manage Criticism

We are critical beings, and one of the best and easiest ways to increase emotional intelligence is stop taking everything so seriously. In other words, lighten up.

How you manage criticism you receive, can impact every area of your life. If you are holding onto critical statements and carrying them with you throughout the day, that negativity is infecting everything you touch.

It’s important to realize that most criticism that evokes negative feelings in us is usually designed for that purpose by the other person. When we react negatively to criticism, whether constructive or not, we are reacting out of our fears and insecurities.

Go back to becoming more self-aware and adapt your emotions to the situation. When you begin to react to criticism from a place of calm rather than anger, you begin to see the criticism as a valuable tool for improving your performance and showing someone’s true colors.

Stand Up for What Is Right

When you begin to develop your emotional intelligence, you are just trying to get better acquainted with your feelings and how to adapt them to serve you better. Every interaction comes with emotions from everyone involved, and now it’s time to take your emotional intelligence to a new level by standing up for what is right.

Gossiping is a prime example. When you are in a conversation that includes gossip, you might not have the most positive feelings yet you let the gossip go on. There are a million reasons why you do: you don’t want to offend anyone, you want to be part of the crowd, or you don’t know how to take a stand.

By not doing what is right, which is speaking from your experience, you are not adapting your emotions to the situation, you are giving in to them. Do what’s right and take a stand for your truth. It is not always easy swimming upstream, but the effort always pays off in the end.

Developing and growing your emotional intelligence is something that anyone can do. It doesn’t require a high IQ or access to higher education, it simply requires you to become vulnerable enough to listen and learn from your feelings.

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The Surprising Motivational Power of Self-Compassion

We all have a kind of virtual policeman living inside us. Amongst other things he’s the guy that helps us work towards our goals, whether personal or professional.

When things go wrong and we stray off the straight and narrow, he reminds us what we were supposed to be doing.

But what kind of policeman is he? Is he the kind with a riot shield, a baton and a bad attitude or does he offer a forgiving smile, a friendly word and a helping hand?

People sometimes think of the latter, more relaxed internal policeman, as being weak and ineffectual. The danger, it is thought, with going easy on ourselves, is that it will lead to lower motivation. Surely if we don’t use self-criticism to push ourselves, we’ll never get anywhere?

So, what stance should we adopt towards ourselves?

mirror
We all make mistakes,
but should you beat yourself up
or show a little mercy?

Antitoxin of the soul

Let’s say someone is trying to deal with a recent period of low self-confidence. Here are three ways the inner policeman might deal with it:

  • Self-esteem boost: think about positive aspects of the self to boost confidence.
  • Positive distraction: think back to nice memories to create a distraction from the problem.
  • Self-compassion: think about the self with kindness and compassion, seeing the period of low self-confidence in context, without evaluating or judging it.

When psychological researchers tested these approaches they found that self-compassion was surprisingly powerful (Breines & Chen, 2012). In comparison to self-esteem boosting and distraction, this study found that self-compassion was most likely to help participants:

  • See the possibilities for change,
  • Increase the motivation to change,
  • Take steps towards making a change,
  • Compare themselves with those doing better, to help motivate their change.

So self-compassion did not emerge as the soft-option: in fact, quite the opposite. By being sympathetic and non-judgemental towards the self, people were able to avoid both harsh self-criticism and potentially fragile self-enhancement.

When participants thought back to insecurities in their relationships, their shyness or social anxieties, it was showing compassion towards themselves that helped the most.

This may be because self-compassion builds a more balanced way of reacting to both failures in ourselves and difficult situations we find ourselves in. As the American writer Eric Hoffer said:

“Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.”