We usually associate good decisions with knowledge and virtuous analytical abilities. But who is to say our emotions can’t be a valuable tool in our decision-making, or in living a happy, purposeful life?
Developing my emotional intelligence has been a key in my personal growth journey. It has allowed me to increase my self-awareness, identify my emotional triggers and develop my emotional resilience.
Some psychologists who study emotional intelligence even claim that it’s actually more important than general intelligence. No wonder why it has become an increasingly popular skill to have in the professional world.
Let’s be honest: it’s not the smartest people who are the most successful or accomplished. I’m sure you know people who are super clever and quick-witted, yet have no interpersonal skills whatsoever. They’re not in touch with their emotions, nor do they empathize with others.
That’s precisely why we should all prioritize the development of our emotional intelligence. Without it, we can never fully appreciate and enjoy life, because we’re always limited to a rational, superficial perspective.
So, unless you’re planning on living isolated from the world, this is a skill you want to improve — and even then, how’d you get to know your true self?
“Intellectual ability or your intelligence quotient (IQ) isn’t enough on its own to achieve success 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. IQ and EQ exist in tandem and are most effective when they build off one another.”
Jeanne Segal, Ph.D et al, in Improving Emotional Intelligence
To make it easier for you, here are 5 ways to increase your emotional abilities and live your life as authentically as possible.
1. Practice observing how you feel
Developing your self-awareness is key. The most emotional intelligent people always have an amazing ability to be honest with themselves about their feelings and emotions.
I’m not going to lie. At first, when you start paying attention to how you feel, it won’t be easy. This is particularly true if you’re the kind of person who has been suppressing everything for the past few years.
You might realize that you’re actually very sad, scared or anxious. And you might come to the conclusion that you have been numbing yourself. But allow those emotions to come up to the surface without judgement, and give yourself some credit for having the courage to feel them.
When I first started to practice observing my feelings, it freaked me out. I became aware of a million things I had been ignoring for years. It hurt a lot, and I want you to be prepared for that.
But down the road, you’ll realize that you not only trust your emotions now, but that you’re also much better at managing them.
2. Become aware of non-verbal communication
Our emotional state plays a huge part in how we communicate with others. When verbal and non-verbal signals do not match, it creates distrust, misunderstandings and confusion.
Controlling our verbal communication is easy, but the true emotional intelligence comes from understanding non-verbal clues, which gives us the ability to read other people better.
Facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, frequency of glances, blink rate, gestures, postures — it all matters.
“If you are emotionally aware, you will also be able to take the time to notice the emotions of other people and how their feelings influence the way they communicate. Whether it’s helping an anxious employee cope with stress or convincing your CIO to give you the promotion/raise you feel you deserve, you need to be able to gauge the situation, adapt as needed over the course of the interaction, and then be ready to come to some type of satisfactory resolution.”
3. Pay attention to your behavior and take full responsibility for it
Notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your relationships and your day-to-day life.
If someone says or something that hurts, acknowledge that feeling, and take responsibility for your reaction. Because we can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we respond.
So, practice responding rather than reacting.
Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way; whereas responding is a choice of being conscious of our triggers and responses.
Once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and behave, you take your power back. You’re no longer a victim of your circumstances, and you use that power to create the life you want.
4. Practice empathy: recognize emotions in others
Being empathetic means that we understand not only the circumstances of someone else, but also the feelings that those circumstances may cause.
This is why you can’t really build healthy relationships without emotional intelligence.
How can you be loved by someone who doesn’t respect your emotions? How can you be a good friend without recognizing your friends’ feelings and emotional needs? How can you build authentic connections without the ability to listen and be vulnerable?
This doesn’t mean you need to completely understand someone, but it does mean you need to accept them as they are — which is what empathy allows you to do.
5. Get clear about your values
Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about this point until I read this article by Mark Manson, in which he raises a very important question:
“You might have the most emotionally intelligent CEO on the planet, but if she’s using her skills to motivate her employees to sell products made by exploiting poor people or destroying the planet, how is being emotionally intelligent a virtue here?
A father might teach his son the tenets of emotional intelligence, but without also teaching him the values of honesty and respect, he could turn into a ruthless, lying little prick — but an emotionally intelligent one!”
In your journey to emotional intelligence, it’s crucial that you use your abilities for good.
If we look at the most manipulative people, one of their abilities is reading people’s emotions — to take advantage of them. They use their emotional intelligence for their own personal gain.
He concludes saying:
“So in order to live the life you truly want to live, you have to first be clear about what you truly value because that’s where your emotional energy will be directed. And knowing what you truly value — not just what you say you value — is probably the most emotionally intelligent skill you can develop.”
Emotional intelligence has become a hot topic over the past few years. It’s obvious now that when it comes to happiness and fulfillment in life, emotional intelligence matters just as much as intellectual ability.
True happiness comes from self-acceptance, and that includes accepting our emotions.
They’re nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, we can use them to understand ourselves better, to build healthier relationships and empathize with others.
The question is: are you brave enough to do it?