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7 Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Image of single blue flower against blurred green background.  Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway, emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is our ability to perceive our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and healthy way. Empathy, compassion, listening, self-awareness and the awareness of others are vital skills needed to be emotionally intelligent.

Here are 7 ways to develop emotional Intelligence so that you can improve your relationships in all areas of your life.

1. Pay attention to your feelings:

It is important to observe yourself and what you are feeling, as well as to reflect on what you observe. You can do this by taking time to sit and look at how you feel when:

  • Your significant other blames you for something that happens.

  • You read an email that contains a criticism.

  • You are in the presence of someone who exhibits strong emotion.

  • Another driver cuts in front of you in heavy traffic.

Learning to identify your emotions will help you become mindful and begin to build choices about how you respond.

2. Pay attention to your body:

Our body gives us many clues about how we are feeling even if our conscious mind does not. By paying attention to our body sensations and breathing, we can decode unconscious feelings.

3. Pay attention to your behavior:

Behavior is the key to self-awareness, and will tell us about our unconscious feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.

When we react to others, we act out of the unconscious mind, rather than making conscious decisions about how we want and need to respond. The value of paying attention to your feelings is that when a situation triggers a reaction, you will notice it in time to make a conscious choice about how you respond.

Learning how you respond when you experience specific feelings and how your responses impact others increases your ability to have a positive impact on your relationships. Take responsibility for your behavior; it is empowering.

4. Rather than reacting, ask a question:

By asking a question, you can slow down the action and give yourself time to think. It will give you information about the person and situation in which you find yourself. Often, understanding what is going on will help calm your emotions, and give you a different perspective on what is happening.

First questions that you can ask include:

  • Can you tell me more about the situation?

  • Can you help me understand what is upsetting you?

  • Why does this person feel the way he does?

  • What is she dealing with that I don’t see?

  • Why do I feel differently than she or he does?

When there is a gap in experience, it is hard to have empathy and understanding for the struggles of others. By finding a way to imagine what it feels like to be in the other person’s position, it is easier to have empathy and compassion rather than criticism and judgment.

5. Be observant:

Taking time to stay outside of the action and observe others and their interactions will give you important information about what is needed in the moment. Emotional intelligence is not just about how you manage your emotions; it is about how you can read and understand others. Learning how to be empathic and how to express it is helps you manage the feelings of others.

As you observe others, you will discover how behaviors impact them. That, in turn, will help you make decisions about how to have positive interactions. Each person is different and will respond differently.

6. Learn when a “pause” will help.

There are times when pausing before you answer will give you time to think about what you are observing and feeling before you act.

Pausing is not easy, and, at times, not helpful; however, it often gives a moment to let emotions settle. When you say, “Give me a moment to think about this,” it lets others know you are still engaged.

7. Developing emotional intelligence is a lifetime process that takes practice.

We are constantly impacted by our own emotions and the emotions of others. Because life is dynamic, we must continue to develop our skills. Practice does not make perfect, but it does help us grow our skills and our relationships.

Emotional intelligence can influence how successful we are in our relationships and careers. Creating a positive environment not only improves your quality of life, but it can be contagious to people around you too. This leads to improving your relationships, both personal and professional.

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