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Why Emotional Intelligence Is The Key To Your Success


 (And A Few Ways You Can Improve It)

Emotional intelligence includes the ability to understand and control emotions. Experts agree that this type of intelligence plays a vital role in success, and some have suggested that emotional intelligence may be more important than IQ.

Emotional intelligence (or EI) is the ability to:

  • Identify, understand and manage our own emotions and;
  • Identify, understand and influence the emotions of others.

Managing emotions is especially important in situations when we are under pressure. For example, when we’re:

  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Meeting strict deadlines
  • Managing challenging relationships
  • Have a lack of resources
  • Navigating through change
  • Working through drawbacks or failure

So what exactly does it take to be emotionally intelligent? According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, there are five critical elements to it:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation.
  • Empathy.
  • Social skills

Fortunately, you can learn to develop these skills. 

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

If you think about it, our emotions come following whatever thoughts we’re thinking. And when emotions run high, they change the way the brain functions, reducing our ability to think, make decisions, even communicate with other people. Understanding and managing our emotions helps us become more successful in both our professional and personal lives.

At a personal level, emotional intelligence helps you:

  • Have those uncomfortable talks without hurting anyone’s feelings
  • Manage our own emotions when we’re stressed and overwhelmed
  • Improve relationships with the people you care about

At work, emotional intelligence can help us:

  • Resolve conflicts 
  • Coach and motivate others
  • Create a culture of collaboration
  • Build psychological safety within teams
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5 EI skills and a few ways you can improve them

1. Self-awareness.

Self-awareness is your first step in building emotional intelligence. It is about identifying and understanding your emotions, specifically how they drive your behavior and the impact your actions have. 

To become self-aware, you have to feel comfortable monitoring your emotions, recognizing your emotional responses to things, and correctly identifying emotions as they arise.

Self-aware people can also recognize how certain things or situations impact the way they feel and behave. Experts suggest that people who have solid self-awareness also have a good sense of humor, are confident in themselves, and know-how other people perceive them.

Here are a few ways to improve self-awareness:

  • Keep a journal
  • Learn new skills
  • Meditate
  • Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions
  • Pursue your passions
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Reflect on your experiences
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Work on building a growth mindset

2. Self-regulation.

Self-awareness opens the door to self-regulation, which is your ability to manage your emotions and behaviors. Once you’re aware of the way you feel, you can then begin managing them. At the same time, keeping disruptive emotions or impulses under control. 

While this doesn’t mean hiding or suppressing them, instead of waiting for the right time and place to express them, it’s all about expressing your emotions appropriately and in a healthy way.

Solid self-regulation skills allow you to pause and take a deep breath when you’re in an intense and stressful situation, and in turn, help you think before you speak or act.

On the other hand, people that have a more difficult time controlling their negative emotions often set off a chain reaction of those negative emotions in others.

A few ways you can improve self-regulation:

  • Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Practice distress tolerance skills.
  • Find ways to control challenging emotions healthily.
  • View challenges as opportunities.
  • Practice healthy communication skills.
  • Practice choosing how you respond.
  • Accept your emotions for what they are.

3. Social skills.

Another key element of emotional intelligence includes having solid social skills or building meaningful relationships with other people. As you build upon your awareness and ability to control your emotions, this level of EI puts that information to work within your day-to-day conversation and interactions.

In a  professional setting, supervisors can benefit by building relationships with employees. On the other hand, employees can benefit from developing a solid rapport with managers and co-workers. Necessary social skills include active listening, verbal communication skills, nonverbal communication skills, leadership, and persuasiveness.

A few ways to improve your social skills:

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Find icebreakers that will help start conversations.
  • Notice other people’s social skills.
  • Practice good eye contact.
  • Practice your social skills.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Show interest in others.
  • Watch your body language.

4. Empathy.

Empathy isn’t about knowing how you would feel in a person’s situation, but rather, how they feel. According to Jamil Zaki, a Stanford professor and author of The War for Kindness, empathy has three components, which are:

  • Identifying what others feel
  • Sharing this emotion
  • Wishing to improve their experience

People with a strong sense of social awareness tend naturally towards kindness. They may be better at delivering ‘tough love’ because they understand what the other person is thinking and feeling, and they want to help them improve. 

A few ways to improve empathy:

  • Be willing to share your feelings
  • Actively listen to other people
  • Make an effort to meet and talk to new people
  • Visualize yourself in someone else’s shoes

5. Motivation.

These emotional intelligence skills come from within. If you’re passionate about fulfilling your goals and inner needs, you may have a solid foundation for these skills already. You seek internal requirements and experience a flow state from being in tune with a task or activity.

Those who are skilled in this area are usually action-oriented. They establish goals, have a desire for achievement, and always look for ways to do better. It’s essential to note that this isn’t the same as high functioning anxiety but rather an internal, secure state. 

How to improve your motivation:

  • Avoid overusing extrinsic rewards
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Focus on setting small, attainable goals
  • Challenge yourself to keep things interesting

Signs of high and low emotional intelligence

Here are a few ways you can determine where you’re emotional intelligence is at:

Low EI:

  • Often feels misunderstood
  • Get upset easily
  • Become overwhelmed by emotions
  • Have problems being assertive

High EI:

  • Understand the connections between your emotions and how they influence your actions
  • Remain relaxed and composed during stressful situations
  • You can influence others toward a common goal
  • Handle difficult people with tact and diplomacy

If you’d like to assess your emotional intelligence to understand better what areas are natural strengths and which ones could use a bit of improvement, click here

Remember, emotional intelligence is a skill you can learn.

Building emotional intelligence takes time and effort but is well worth your success both personally and professionally. It’s the first step you can take to recognize your greatest potential.

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Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success (you know) you deserve.