Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand both your own emotions and those of others. It’s the foundation for empathy, self-control, and resilience. Your emotional IQ, also known as EQ, can be improved by taking care of your mental health, investing in close relationships, practicing self-reflection, and more. Let’s walk through what exactly emotional intelligence is and how we can strengthen it each day!
Jump to see the 10 ways to practice here.
1. Defining emotional intelligence
Defining emotional intelligence can be difficult because it’s a complex skill that incorporates many different aspects of our lives. We can think of emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive, understand, and manage our own emotions, and the emotions of others. It’s a skill that allows us to regulate our reactions, stay flexible in the face of stress or adversity, and build positive relationships (2).
2. Why it’s important to have this skill
Those with strong emotional intelligence skills are better able to navigate through life’s challenges and setbacks. They’re more resilient, less reactionary to their own emotions and the emotions of others.
Resilience can be defined as “the capacity to rebound from adversity, trauma, or misfortune.” It’s about being able to get back up after we’re knocked down. Having the grit to persevere through the bad. They’re also better at handling stress, and they often have better self-control.
It’s not only important for individuals to have high EQ skills, but it’s also vital for businesses and organizations. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that a team’s EQ was a better predictor of workplace success than cognitive ability or technical expertise (3). And when a team has high emotional intelligence, the whole organization benefits.
3. Increasing your own EQ level
There are tons of ways to practice raising your emotional intelligence. Taking an EQ test can be helpful as you begin working with your own emotions. Check out this one by the Institute for Health and Human Potential – Take the Test.
10 ways to practice being more emotionally intelligent:
- Evaluate your environment and your reactions
- Take care of your mental health
- Invest in personal relationships
- Practice self-reflection
- Have empathy for yourself and others
- Use healthy coping mechanisms in difficult situations
- Be patient with yourself
- Have mindful activities you go to daily (journaling, meditating, time in nature)
- Learn something new
- Speak positive affirmations
4. An example of where someone would need to be emotionally intelligent
Making an effort to be more empathetic towards others also increases our own EQ. This includes listening with intent (instead of just waiting for our turn to talk) and asking questions. Creating a safe space and agreeing with statements that people make instead of disagreeing or arguing with them. It can also mean using “I” statements when talking about our own emotions and supporting those around us by naming their feelings. Creating awareness around our emotions and others is key to increasing our EQ.
5. Understanding EQ through your reactions
When we’re faced with difficult situations, it’s often helpful to have a set of healthy coping mechanisms in place (1). There are many different ways to deal with difficult interactions, and what works best will vary from person to person.
Some people find it helpful to physically leave the situation, take deep breaths in response to stress, use positive self-talk to reorient themselves or focus on their mission or goals.
6. How does emotional intelligence differ from empathy
Emotional intelligence and empathy are often confused with each other, but they are actually two different things. Emotion researchers usually define empathy as the ability to feel what someone else is feeling, while EQ is the ability to understand and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others. Empathy is often a natural response, but emotional intelligence must be learned and practiced.
No matter who we are or what we do, we can always work on increasing our emotional intelligence. By taking care of our mental health, investing in personal relationships, practicing self-reflection, and being more empathetic towards others, we can all make strides in becoming emotionally intelligent individuals.
1. “The Importance of EQ.” Mind Tools. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/importance-emotional-intelligence.htm (accessed December 20, 2021).
2. “What Is EQ?” Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/01/what-is-emotional-intelligence (accessed December 20, 2021).
3. “EQ: A Key to Success.” Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/07/emotional-intelligence-a-key-to-success (accessed December 20, 2021).