How To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence?

The physical pathway for emotional intelligence is shown below:

Physical pathway for emotional intelligenceThis means that everything you see, hear, smell, touch enters your brain through the spinal cord and triggers emotions before it triggers thoughts. The communication between the emotional and rational part of your brain is the physical source of emotional intelligence.

All emotions that we have fall into the following categories: happy, sad,  angry, afraid and ashamed.

We have no control over our emotions but we have control over our thoughts. So if can become aware of our emotions, we can control the way we react to it.

Emotional intelligence is our ability to recognise emotions in ourselves and others, and the ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships.

As a person we have intelligence( which is difficult to change), our personality( which is again difficult to change) and emotional intelligence( which we can change) and it has been shown that this emotional intelligence can contribute to a lot of success in our jobs and lives.

This emotional intelligence has four components:

1. Self-awareness
2. Self-management
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship management.

Self – awareness consists of two abilities: 

  • Accurately see your own emotions in the moment.
  • Understand your tendencies across various situations.

How to become more self-aware?

The first thing to do is think about what is really important to you in life – your core values and beliefs. These are different for everyone but it is necessary to take some time and jot them down somewhere. They should not be a lot; probably 3-7 core values and beliefs that you consider important. They will act as guideposts to help you act in a certain way when life presents you with various options to choose from.

The second thing to do is to not react immediately to any of your feelings. If you feel in a very good mood and have the impulse to do something, then do not rush to do it. If you feel in a bad mood and have the impulse to do something, then do not rush to do it. Step back. Give yourself some space between stimulus and response. Use this space to become aware of yourself.

The third thing to do is to become aware of what your feelings are. Just be aware. Do not judge them as good or bad. Just check yourself from time to time and be aware of what feelings are there. Feelings often express itself as physical reactions, so look at how your body is reacting physically, your breath, your muscles, etc. Look at what may have caused the feeling to come about: whether it is a person or situation.

The fourth thing to do is to become aware of what happens when you express your feelings. How you are affected? How others are affected? What is the ripple effect as a result of expressing your emotions?

The fifth thing to do is to reflect. You can do this by writing about your feelings and how you responded to them in a journal. This crystallizes your thoughts and helps you become more aware of yourself. You should also reflect upon how books, movies, music and other events in your life trigger emotions and what they are. This will give you insight into your personality and understand yourself.

Self management consists of two abilities:

  • Using awareness of your emotions to stay flexible.
  • Using awareness of your emotions to direct your behaviour positively.

How to manage yourself?

The first thing to do is to change certain physical habits. The physical habits to change are the way we breathe, the way we sleep, to smile and laugh more and to do physical exercise:

  • The correct way to breathe is to breathe diaphragmatically. To do this correctly is simple. Place one hand on the middle of your chest and another hand on the your stomach. When you breathe the hand on your stomach should move more than the hand on your chest. This will give a good amount of oxygen to your lungs and this makes us calmer and more relaxed.
  • To get a good quality sleep, do the following: Keep your bed for sleeping alone; do not work or watch TV in your bed. Avoid caffeine completely, or if you cannot do that, do not take caffeine after noon. Turn off the computer at least 2 hours before bed time. Getting twenty minutes of morning sunlight that is not filtered by windows or sun glasses resets your inner clock and makes it easier to fall asleep in the evening.
  • Smiling and laughing more makes you feel more happy and can counteract a bad mood.
  • Exercise, yoga, walking are all relaxing ways to give your mind some rest. These activities release chemicals like serotonin and endorphins and help you to be alert and happy.

The second thing to do is to do certain physical actions that will decrease stress:

  • Count to ten. When you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry, stop yourself by taking a deep breath and saying the number one to yourself as you exhale. Keep breathing and counting until you reach the number ten.
  • Sleep on it. This means be patient and allow yourself extra time( day, week or month) to digest the situation before moving forward. Wait for the dust to settle before you make a move.
  • Be aware your body-language. If emotions are getting the better of you, then your body language will change. Being aware of this can help you find this change and calm your emotions before things get out of hand.

The third thing to do is to do certain mental actions that will help us succeed:

  • Visualise yourself succeeding in challenging situations, small and big.
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive ones. Turn I always or I never into just this time or sometimes. Replace judgmental statements like I’m an idiot with factual ones like I made a mistake. Accept responsibility for your actions and no one else’s.
  • Focus your attention on your freedoms, rather than your limitations. Remember you always have a choice in how you respond to what’s before you.Act in your circle of influence.
  • Learn a valuable lesson from everyone you encounter. Approaching everyone you encounter as though they will have something valuable to teach you – something that you will benefit from – is the best way to remain flexible, open-minded, and much less stressed.
  • Remember that change is constant. Accept that change is right around the corner. Set aside a small amount of time either every week or every other week to create a list of important changes that you think could possibly happen.

The fourth thing to do is to adopt certain tactical methods.

  • Make your goals public. This will help you to meet deadlines.
  • Create an emotion vs reason list. On one side write what your emotions are telling you do. On another side write what your reasons are telling you to do. This will allow you to decide whether you should allow the emotional or rational sides of your thinking to have more say in your decision.
  • Set aside some time in your day for problem-solving. A 15 minute period where you get away from your phone and computer and just think can ensure that your decisions are not muddled by emotions.

The fifth thing to do is to take the help of others.

  • Speak to someone who is not emotionally invested in your problem. This will help you gain new perspectives, see things differently and expand your options.
  • Talk to a skilled self-manager and get tips from him or her.

Social awareness consists of two abilities:

  • Recognise the emotions of others.
  • Understand the emotions of others.

You can use the following strategies to increase your social awareness:

  • Greet people by name. Practice saying, Hello, ( Ram) rather than saying Hello. Keep using names throughout the conversation.
  • Watch body language. Watch the person’s head and face. Look at their eye-contact. Look at a person’s smile. Look at their shoulders, torso and limbs and look for whether they are slouched and fidgety or calm and upright.
  • Timing is everything. Your goal is to ask questions at the right time and right frame of mind both for yourself and the person or audience you are asking the question to.
  • Develop a back-pocket question. A back-pocket question is one you use just in case to bail you out of any awkward silence or uncomfortable moment. This buys you time and helps you to get to know the other person better. Avoid politics, religion or other sensitive areas.
  • Don’t take notes at meetings. At meetings you want to recognise and understand how others are thinking and feeling. Observe others at meetings but do not take notes, unless it is essential.
  • Plan ahead for social gatherings. List who is going to be at that event and list any talking points or to do’s. This will help you enjoy the event more because you will be less stressed and more present while you are there.
  • Clear away the clutter in your head. The clutter you will have to clear are the conversations and chatter that is going on in our heads constantly and to stop forming responses to the other person while they are still talking. To do this, do not interrupt the other person until he or she is completely finished and become aware of when you interrupt others and make that effort to listen to them fully.
  • Live in the moment. Remember planning the future and reflecting on the past are valuable exercises, but doing this throughout the day interferes with what is in front of you – your present.
  • Tour your workplace 15 minutes twice a week for a month. Do not make assumptions or conclusions. Just simply observe. Observe things and moods.
  • Watch movies for emotional intelligence. Observe character interactions, relationships and conflicts. Look at body language. It is an entertaining way to build your social awareness skills for the real world.
  • Practice the art of listening. When someone is talking to you, stop everything else and listen fully till the other person is finished speaking. Don’t do anything else but listen.
  • Go people watching. Just sit down and watch people, their body language, the way they talk and converse, their moods. Easy and very effective.
  • Understand the rules of the culture of the organisation where you are. Listen and watch for a longer period of time. Ask specific questions. Get to know the culture and follow it.
  • Test for accuracy. If you are in doubt, ask. Don’t make a judgment. But, state what you think you see, then clarify and ask whether it is right.
  • Step into their shoes. Ask yourself: If I were in his shoes, how would I respond?
  • Seek the whole picture. Ask everybody for their views as to what they think and feel.
  • Read the mood of the room; whether people are alone or in groups, whether there is energy or quiet and look for how the mood in the room is.

Relationship management consists of two abilities:

  • Use the awareness of your own emotions to manage interactions successfully
  • Use the awareness of others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully

You can use the following strategies to improve your relationship management:

  • Be open and be curious. Be open by sharing information about yourself with others. Show interest and learn about the other person.
  • Enhance your natural communication style. Think about how you communicate. Look at what are the positive aspects and what are the negative aspects. See if you can enhance the positive aspects and get rid of the negative aspects.
  • Avoid giving mixed signals. Match your tone and body language to what you are really trying to say.
  • Remember the little things. I’m sorry. Please. Thank you. Use them more often.
  • Take feedback well. Consider that the person has something valuable to say. Listen, hear and clarify what the person is really saying. Then take time to ponder. Then act based on what you think is right for you in the long run.
  • Build trust.
  • Have an open door policy, so that anyone can come and talk to you about what they want.
  • Use anger with a purpose – when it is really needed and in a proper manner.
  • Sometimes you have to work with people who you do not like. Try to do it as best as you can.
  • Acknowledge the  other person’s feelings.
  • Complement the person’s emotions or situation. This means listening, being present, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person, identifying where someone is emotionally, and choosing an appropriate and complementary response.
  • When you care, show it. A simple meaningful thing, like a card or a kind word can work wonders.
  • Explain your decisions, don’t just make them. Instead of making a change and expecting others to just accept it, take time to explain the why behind the decision, including the alternatives, and why the final choice makes most sense. If you can ask for ideas and input ahead of time, it’s even better. Finally, acknowledge how the decision will affect everyone. Be transparent and open.
  • Make your feedback direct and constructive. Share your opinion and offer solutions for change. Then allow the other person to talk, thank the person for his willingness to consider your suggestions.
  • Align your intentions with what you actually say. Do not slight somebody.
  • Offer a “fix-it”  statement during a broken conversation. Rather than trying to be right, try to find a solution that is acceptable to all.
  • Tackle a tough conversation by doing the following: Start with agreement. Ask the person to help you understand his or her side. Resist the urge to plan a rebuttal. Help the other person to understand your side, too. Move the conversation forward. Keep in touch.

– notes from the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves


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