By Dr. Patricia Thompson for Healing Lifestyles and Spas
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) involves understanding yourself and understanding others by: (1) having an awareness of your own emotions and managing them effectively while (2) empathizing with others’ emotions and managing your relationships with them effectively. And, unlike IQ, which some people believe is pretty much set in stone, EQ is something that can be developed with practice.
So, how do you develop your emotional intelligence? Here are 6 quick tips to get you started:
1. Be Self-Reflective – The foundation of emotional intelligence is being self-aware. So, deepen your level of self-understanding by regularly taking the time to reflect on your behavior and emotional reactions. For example, when you have a strong emotional reaction to something, take out a journal and reflect on what triggered you, and why. As you develop a deeper knowledge of what makes you tick, you will be in a better position to use that information in your connections with others.
2. Take Care of Yourself – We are often at our worst under stress (I know I can be a bit of a pain when I haven’t had enough sleep), and so by being intentional about managing your stress levels, you decrease the odds that you will say or do things that you will later regret. So, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, and engage in your favorite stress-busting luxuries. Your body (and the people around you) will thank you!
3. Be Curious – To deepen your relationships, cultivate an attitude of curiosity. Ask questions with the goal of learning more about the other person and strengthening your relationship. And, don’t forget to listen! Not only will you deepen your understanding of others, you will find that by giving others the space to talk about themselves you will actually be perceived as more likable.
4. Look Underneath the Surface – Very often, what people present about themselves on the surface or through their communication doesn’t convey the whole story. So, instead of just taking others’ words at face-value, consider what isn’t being said. Is there a disconnect between their words and body language? What is their tone of voice conveying? Does this person seem to have certain triggers? By better understanding others’ personalities, values, and motives, you can be more effective in dealing with them.
5. Read Character-Driven Books – Reading great literature can be an excellent way to learn more about others’ psychology. A skilled author can help us to better understand the inner-workings of someone’s psyche and learn about those who may seem very different from us. In fact, research has shown that people who read fiction are more empathetic than those who read other sorts of works. As writer, James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
6. Just Breathe – A key element of emotional intelligence is having the ability to manage your reactions so you can communicate constructively. However, for a lot of us, our emotions can be hardest to control when we are upset or angry. So, when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe deeply, from your abdomen. This simple act, called abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, will calm down your body and allow you to think with more clarity. (For best results, practice this sort of breathing when you’re not upset so that when the need strikes, you will be a pro at doing it properly).
Put these 6 tips into practice and see your relationship improve!
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