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Emotional Intelligence: What It Is and 5 Ways to Increase It - Self Improvement

Emotional Intelligence: What It Is and 5 Ways to Increase It


Have you ever happened to cross paths with someone who is academically superior yet socially inept, or, intellectually very bright yet unsuccessful at work or in maintaining/forging good interpersonal relationships?

Such a person has a high ‘intelligence quotient’ but is not necessarily emotionally intelligent.

What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It Important?

Every single one of us goes through emotional upheavals as well as days when we feel incredibly low. Navigating through the odds of life and complexities of the workplace requires shrewdness and resilience. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play.

Our conventional understanding of intelligence is somewhat narrow and considers only the cognitive part of intelligence.

I’ll break down for you what emotional intelligence is and why it is considered one of the most essential prerequisites of success in today’s competitive world.

The following four abilities make up the definition of emotional intelligence.

  • Ability to understand your own emotions
  • Ability to understand the emotions of others
  • Ability to regulate and control your emotions
  • Ability to effectively use your emotions

The ability to regulate emotions is associated with financial success ( Cote, Gyurak, and Levenson, 2014). Besides, greater emotional intelligence implies reduced stress levels, greater confidence, optimism, greater coping skills, improved relationships with people, and greater job satisfaction.

Ways to Increase Emotional Intelligence

  1. Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation is essentially a self-awareness practice. There are times when negative emotions take over, so much so, that your productivity levels drastically come down. At times like these, you should pause for a moment and consider practicing mindfulness. Try closely observing your thoughts and feelings without any judgment. Block out all the other thoughts and focus completely on acknowledging the nuances of your emotions and understanding your emotional triggers. Once you become aware of your emotional state, you will be able to look at your emotions objectively and will be able to handle them better. The more you practice mindfulness meditation, the better you learn to recover from emotional hijacks. As you learn to perfect the art of mindfulness, you become more deliberate and thoughtful, rather than reactive and impulsive while interacting with people, thereby developing better relationships.
  2. Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings is yet another self-awareness exercise that works wonders in helping you deal with your emotions constructively. The clarity that comes with journaling on an everyday basis can help you process, acknowledge, and get rid of disruptive thoughts and emotions.
    • Write down the situation you have very strong feelings (both positive and negative feelings) about.
    • Then, write down about the feelings/thoughts that pop up in your head the moment you think about that situation. Don’t censor your feelings in any way.
    • Label your emotions and write them down. For example, “I am feeling annoyed, hurt, jealous, frustrated.” (You might initially face some difficulty in labeling your emotions accurately. Because we, as kids, internalized the idea that expressing negative emotions is bad, we are not very fluent in the vocabulary of emotions. But, with practice, you’ll learn to label your emotions aptly.)

The more you write, the more aware you become of the dynamics of your emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. By using the journaling technique, you will not only become aware of your own emotions but also of the emotions of others. This helps you be more empathetic towards others.

  1. Go for a digital detox every once in a while: Completely ruling out the use of technology is impractical but, limiting your screen time is doable and desirable, isn’t it? We’re all aware of the potential negative impacts that come with the use of technology, but, how many of us knew that, the more the dependence on technology, the less the emotional intelligence? Well, according to research, tech dependence is directly proportional to impulsive behavior. Also, greater time spent on smartphones impairs a person’s ability to read other people’s emotions because the person using a smartphone is estranged from reality and is self-absorbed. A digital detox every once in a while is healthy and important for you to become attuned to your own emotional states as well as those of others.
  2. Practice empathy: Try and be an empathetic person who reads beyond the message relayed by the other person. To be empathetic, you first need to be a good, active listener. If you are a good listener, you will know how to appropriately respond. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person and try to understand their needs even if they are unspoken. When someone shares their problems with you, listen to those problems without judging or jumping to conclusions. When people are rude to you, instead of reacting immediately, pause for a moment, and try to understand what might have influenced them to behave in that way. Also, ask yourself how you would’ve reacted if you were in their place.
  3. Be assertive: If you are assertive, you know how to respond and express your thoughts/feelings and get your point across in a way that will not upset others. Mind you, being assertive is not about being aggressive. Emotionally intelligent people know how to draw a line between assertiveness and aggression. They know how to communicate their thoughts/feelings in a way that respects both their needs as well as the needs of others.

Final Thoughts

Over the last decade or so, the concept of emotional intelligence has been increasingly receiving attention among the educationists as well as the HR managers of companies while hiring the best talent. The curriculum of schools should be designed in ways that focus on increasing emotional intelligence so that they are well-equipped to face the challenges of life head-on.

Nonetheless, you can start off by practicing the above-mentioned tips to increase your emotional intelligence. It’s never too late to start, is it?

About the Author

Kshanika Virwani is a student of psychology at the University of Delhi, India. She is an avid reader and is passionate about writing. She is into community service and has worked with three non-governmental organizations.

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