Emotional intelligence (EQ) matters just as much as intellectual ability (IQ) when it comes to personal and professional relationships and leadership capabilities.

A high level of emotional intelligence helps you to build stronger relationships, create success at work, and achieve your career and personal goals. Learn more about why emotional intelligence is so important and how you can boost your own EQ by mastering these key skills.

Group BUSINESS MEETING

What is emotional intelligence?

 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others.

If you have high emotional intelligence you are able to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others, and engage with people in a way that draws them to you. You can use this understanding of emotions to relate better to other people, form healthier relationships, achieve greater success at work, and lead a more fulfilling life.

Man and woman holding hands

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:

 

Why is emotional intelligence (EQ) so important?

 

As we know, it’s not the smartest people that are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual intelligence (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to be successful in life. Yes, your IQ can help you get into college, but it’s your EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions when facing your final exams.

Emotional intelligence affects:

How to raise your emotional intelligence

 

Man Woman TalkingAll information to the brain comes through our senses, and when this information is overwhelmingly stressful or emotional, instinct will take over and our ability to act will be limited to the flight, fight, or freeze response. Therefore, to have access to the wide range of choices and the ability to make good decisions, we need to be able to bring our emotions into balance at will.

Memory is also strongly linked to emotion. By learning to stay connected to the emotional part of your brain, as well as the rational, you’ll not only expand your range of choices when it comes to responding to a new event, but you’ll also factor emotional memory into your decision-making process. This will help prevent you from continually repeating earlier mistakes.

To improve your emotional intelligence—and your decision-making abilities—you need to understand and manage your emotions. This is accomplished by developing key skills for controlling and managing overwhelming stress and becoming an effective communicator.

Developing emotional intelligence through a few key skills

 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is built by reducing stress, remaining focused, and staying connected to yourself and others. You can do this by learning key skills. The first two skills are essential for controlling and managing overwhelming stress and the last three skills greatly improve communication. Each skill builds on the lessons learned in practicing the earlier skills and include:

How to learn the key skills that build emotional intelligence

 

The key skills of emotional intelligence can be learned by anyone, at any time. There is a difference, however, between learning about emotional intelligence and applying that knowledge to your life. Just because you know you should do something doesn’t mean you will—especially when you become overwhelmed by stress, which can hijack your best intentions.

In order to permanently change behaviour in ways that stand up under pressure, you need to learn how to overcome stress in the moment, and in your relationships, by remaining emotionally aware. This means that you can’t simply read about emotional intelligence in order to master it. You have to experience and practice the skills in your everyday life.

 

Step 1: Learn how to gauge situations accurately by managing stress

High levels of stress can overwhelm the mind and body, getting in the way of your ability to accurately “read” a situation, hear what someone else is saying, be aware of your own feelings and needs, and communicate clearly.

Being able to quickly calm yourself down and relieve stress helps you stay balanced, focused, and in control—no matter what challenges you face or how stressful a situation becomes.

How to function well in the heat of the moment

 stress

 

Step 2: Reduce relationship stress with emotional awareness

 

Being able to connect to your emotions—having a moment-to-moment awareness of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and actions—is the key to understanding yourself and remaining calm and focused in tense situations with others.

Many people are disconnected from their emotions—especially strong core emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy. This may be the result of negative childhood experiences that taught you to try to shut off your feelings. But although we can distort, deny, or numb our feelings, we can’t eliminate them. They’re still there, whether we’re aware of them or not.

Unfortunately, without emotional awareness, we are unable to fully understand our own motivations and needs, or to communicate effectively with others. We are also at far greater risk for becoming overwhelmed in situations that appear threatening.

What relationship do you have with your emotions?

 

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be turned down or turned off. In order to be emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent, you must reconnect to your core emotions, accept them, and become comfortable with them.

Developing emotional awareness

 

Emotional awareness can be learned at any time of life. If you haven’t learned how to manage stress, it’s important to do so first. When you can manage stress, you’ll feel more comfortable reconnecting to strong or unpleasant emotions and changing the way you experience and respond to your feelings.

You can develop your emotional awareness by learning the mindfulness meditation.

Listen to my free guided visualisation and meditation here.

 

 

Step 3: Improve your non-verbal communication

 Dog shaking hands

Being a good communicator requires more than just verbal skills and the ability to manage stress. Often, what you say is less important than how you say it, or the other nonverbal signals you send out—the gestures you make, the way you sit, how fast or how loud you talk, how close you stand, or how much eye contact you make. In order to hold the attention of others and build connection and trust, you need to be aware of, and in control of, this body language. You also need to be able to accurately read and respond to the nonverbal cues that other people send you.

These messages don’t stop when someone stops speaking. Even when you’re silent, you’re still communicating nonverbally. Think about what you are transmitting as well, and if what you say matches what you feel. If you insist, “I’m fine,” while clenching your teeth and looking away, your body is clearly signalling the opposite. Your nonverbal messages can produce a sense of interest, trust, excitement, and desire for connection—or they can generate fear, confusion, distrust, and disinterest.

Tips for improving nonverbal communication

 

Successful nonverbal communication depends on your ability to manage stress, recognize your own emotions, and understand the signals you’re sending and receiving. When communicating:

 

Step 4: How to use humour and play to deal with challenges

Humour, laughter, and play are natural antidotes to life’s difficulties; they lighten your burdens and help you keep things in perspective. A good hearty laugh reduces stress, elevates mood, and brings your nervous system back into balance.

Playful communication broadens your emotional intelligence and helps you:

How to develop playful communication:

 

It’s never too late to develop and embrace your playful, humorous side.

 

Step 5: How to resolve conflict positively

 

Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in relationships. Two people can’t possibly have the same needs, opinions, and expectations at all times. However, that needn’t be a bad thing. Resolving conflict in healthy, constructive ways can strengthen trust between people. When conflict isn’t perceived as threatening or punishing, it fosters freedom, creativity, and safety in relationships.

The ability to manage conflicts in a positive, trust-building way is supported by the previous four skills. Once you know how to manage stress, stay emotionally present and aware, communicate nonverbally, and use humour and play, you’ll be better equipped to handle emotionally charged situations and catch and defuse many issues before they escalate.

HANDSHAKE

Tips for resolving conflict in a trust-building way

 

References:

The Language of Emotional Intelligence – Dr. Jeanne Segal’s latest book offers specific methods to improve your emotional Intelligence skills. (PsychCentral)

Emotional Intelligence – How to improve your emotional intelligence and “people skills.” (MindTools)

10 Ways to Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence – Tips to improve your EQ. (Psychology Today)

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace (PDF) – How to build and practice EQ to improve your success at work. (USF)

What is Emotional Intelligence and How to Improve It? – Zoey Miller (The Babble Out)

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