Woman thinking with emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer – and popularized by psychologist and journalist Dan Goleman in his 1995 book of the same name. In its simplest terms, emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. All of us struggle with heightened emotions—our own and others—especially during stressful times, but improving emotional intelligence allows us to assess emotions and manage them in a positive and effective way. As defined by the Godfather of emotional intelligence himself, Dan Goleman, there are five key components to being emotionally intelligent:

  1. Self-awareness: the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
  2. Self-regulation: refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses
  3. Motivation: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
  4. Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
  5. Social skills:  having competence in facilitating interaction and communication with others

Having a high EQ (think IQ, but for emotions) can set you up for greater success in the workplace, in relationships, and can even be beneficial for physical health. Have you ever noticed that it is harder to communicate your thoughts when you are angry? This may because you struggle to channel emotions in an effective way.

If you need some help sharpening your emotional intelligence, you are in luck. According to a recent study, emotional intelligence is something that can be taught and retained over time. Nelis et al. (2009) conducted a study where participants were divided into two groups. One group received emotional intelligence training sessions, the other group did not receive any training. After the treatment was completed, the training group showed a significant increase in emotion identification and emotion management compared to the control group.  Six months later, the training group still had the same improvement on emotion identification and emotion management. The control group showed no change.

10 steps to improve your emotional intelligence:

  1. Practice positive communication

    Whether it be with a partner, neighbor, boss, or family member,  take your time in practicing positive communication with others. The more you practice the more you can employ positive emotional techniques when you are in a more pressured situation such as a tight deadline or dealing with loss. Our emotional intelligence must be exercised regularly in order to be beneficial during times of stress.

  2. Get in touch with your emotions

    The initial step in honing your emotional intelligence is to find the best way for you to take account of your emotions. It could be through meditating, journaling , exercising, or simply reflecting on your feelings at the end of each day. Everyone is unique and we get in touch with our emotions using different techniques. Where is your mind the most clear? It is in these moments you can truly understand why and how you are feeling the way you are.

  3. Keep track of high pressure situations

    Emotional intelligence is key when we are in heightened situations such as dealing with finances, a big life change, a tight deadline at work, or a heated argument with our significant other. It is in these moments that our emotions can get the best of us and take control of a situation. If you make yourself aware of what causes your stress, you can better prepare yourself to be calm and collected when dealing with the emotions of the situation.

  4. Surround yourself with other emotionally intelligent individuals

    Consider carving out some time to wholly focus on yourself and your emotions. Consider an emotional or spiritual retreat where you can take a moment to reset. This can be a yoga retreat, meditation, or simply a group-therapy type setting where you can talk through some of your blocked feelings. Surrounding yourself with emotionally intelligent friends and family allows you to learn from example and ensures you are reinforcing healthy habits.

  5. Practice positive internal dialogue

    We all have that voice inside our head that helps motivate us to do certain tasks, or helps us to better understand exactly what we are feeling. Often times, this internal dialogue is much more negative and critical than we even realize. Take a moment to shift your thinking from “I can’t/I won’t” to “I can/I will.”

The suggestions above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tools you can use to strengthen your emotional intelligence. One way to acquaint yourself with this new way of processing feelings is to listen to an inspirational speaker on the topic. Jessica Yaffa is an internationally recognized healthy relationship and domestic violence expert who breaks the barriers by being candid about painful issues that other people keep quiet about. If you would like to heighten your emotional intelligence, consider attending one of Jessica Yaffa’s healthy relationship speaking events or book a custom keynote presentation for your audience.