I’ve been doing a little bit of research into Emotional Intelligence as of late, and it’s something that doesn’t get the hype it deserves. EQ is the ability to identify, use, understand and manage your emotions in a positive way that will significantly impact the way you behave and interact with others. Working on your EQ helps you to build stronger relationships and gain the motivation necessary to reach career and personal goals. Why? Because having high emotional intelligence means that you’re able to recognize the emotional state of yourself and others in order to engage with people in a way that draws them to you (and who doesn’t want that?)
How to raise your emotional intelligence
Since all information that we receive is transmitted through our senses, when the info is super stressful or emotional, our instincts respond with an immediate flight or fight response. Having the ability to balance our emotions means granting ourselves a wider range of choices, enabling us to make better decisions based on reason and common sense.
Emotional intelligence is built by reducing stress, remaining focused, and staying connected to yourself and others. You can do this by learning four key skills:
1. Rapidly reduce stress in the moment
High levels of stress can overwhelm the mind and body, interfering with your ability to accurately read a situation, hear what someone else is saying, be aware of your own feelings, and communicate clearly. Therefore, being able to quickly calm yourself down and relieve stress will keep you balanced, focused, and in control—no matter how stressful a situation becomes.
- Realize when you’re stressed: The first step to reducing stress is recognizing what stress feels like. How does your body feel when you’re stressed? Do your muscles tighten up, do your hands clench? Is your breath shallow? Being aware of your physical response to stress will help regulate tension when it occurs.
- Identify your stress response: Everyone reacts differently to stress. So if you tend to become angry or agitated under stress, you will respond best to stress-relieving activities that calm you down. If you become depressed or withdrawn, you will respond best to stress-relieving activities that are stimulating.
- Discover the stress-busting techniques that work for you: The best way to reduce stress quickly is by engaging one or more of your senses. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so find things that are soothing or energizing to you. Visual people can relieve stress by surrounding themselves with uplifting images. If you respond more to sound, find songs that have the ability to calm you down or make you happy (que Pharell’s “happy”, unless that stresses you out because you’re so sick of it).
2. Nonverbal communication
Being a good communicator requires more than just verbal skills. We all know that what you say can often be less important than how you say it. The gestures you make, how fast or how loud you talk, how close you stand, or how much eye contact you make all affect your ability to hold the attention of others and build connection and trust. Be mindful of what kind of messages you’re transmitting with your nonverbal communication, and if what you say matches what you feel. You also need to be able to accurately read and respond to the nonverbal cues that other people send you. When communicating:
- Focus on the other person. If you are planning what you’re going to say next, daydreaming, or thinking about something else, you are almost certain to miss nonverbal cues and other subtleties in the conversation.
- Make eye contact. Eye contact can communicate interest, maintain the flow of a conversation, and help gauge the other person’s response.
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues you’re sending and receiving, such as facial expression, tone of voice, posture and gestures, touch, and the timing and pace of the conversation.
3. Use humor and play to deal with challenges
Humor, laughter, and play are natural antidotes to life’s difficulties. They lighten your burdens and help you keep things in perspective. Playful communication broadens your emotional intelligence and helps you:
- Take hardships in stride: By allowing you to view your frustrations and disappointments from new perspectives, laughter and play enable you to survive annoyances, hard times, and setbacks.
- Smooth over differences: Using gentle humor often helps you say things that might be otherwise difficult to express without creating conflict.
- Both relax and energize yourself: Playful communication relieves fatigue and relaxes your body, which allows you to recharge and accomplish more.
- Become more creative: When you loosen up, you free yourself of rigid ways of thinking and being, allowing you to get creative and see things in new ways.
Be sure to set time aside in your days to do things that allow you to be playful – a hobby, a funny YouTube channel you love, or spending time with children, pets or people in your life who can always make you laugh.
4. Resolve conflict positively
Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in all relationships. Two people can’t possibly have the same needs, opinions, and expectations at all times, but 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 skills. Once you know how to manage stress, stay emotionally present and aware, communicate nonverbally, and use humor and play, you’ll be better equipped to handle emotionally charged situations and catch and defuse many issues before they escalate.
Tips for resolving conflict in a trust-building way:
- Let go of that old sh*t: When you are not holding on to old hurts and resentments, you can recognize the reality of a current situation and view it as a new opportunity for resolving old feelings about conflicts.
- Choose your battles: Arguments take time and energy, especially if you want to resolve them in a positive way. Consider what is worth arguing about and what is not.
- Forgive: Other people’s hurtful behavior is in the past. To resolve conflict, you need to give up the urge to punish or seek revenge.
- Don’t beat a dead horse: It takes two people to keep an argument going. You can choose to disengage from a conflict, even if you still disagree.
Becoming more aware of your emotions and how much power you give to them can be an incredible turning point in your life. Staying present and learning to not be reactive and at the mercy of your emotions can really change your relationships, your career and your life (que Pharell’s “happy” again. I’ll never get sick of it).