Many leaders will tell you that while intelligence will get you a job, it’s emotional intelligence that will get you promoted – we are social creatures after all! Knowing how to manage our emotions and the emotions of others is key to our success and happiness, and it’s simpler than you might think! Here are five steps to boost your emotional intelligence:
- Allow yourself to feel
When we experience uncomfortable emotions, it’s normal to try to escape them though distraction or avoidance – but these tactics aren’t always healthy. Often we use food, alcohol, drugs, technology or social drama to escape, which only make us feel worse in the long run.
Instead, try sitting with your feelings. Remind yourself that your emotions can’t hurt you and notice the sensations they create in your body. Become interested in the story your mind is creating and imagine yourself as a container for your emotions and allow them to wash over you. By doing this, you’ll notice the intensity of your emotions starts to lesson and you’ll feel calmer and more able to move forward with a level headed response.
- Be a mirror
In our brains, we have specific neurons called mirror neurons that make us wired to mimic the moods, expressions, and body language of others so that we can feel empathy and compassion. Next time you’re speaking with someone you like, notice that you start to mirror their body language – changing your posture when they change theirs, taking a drink when they do, and even matching their tone of voice and speed of talking. We’ve all felt our mood plummet in the presence of a negative or critical person, and felt uplifted after spending time with a positive, genuine friend, and we’ve got our mirror neurons to thank for this.
Use mirror neurons to your advantage by purposely projecting a positive mood to the people you interact with. Even something as simple as a genuine smile and eye contact increases feelings of positivity and rapport in both parties – it’s almost impossible not to return a genuine smile!
- Validate all emotions
All emotions are completely valid – but our mind likes to tell us that we should only feel ‘good’ emotions, and avoid ‘bad’ emotions at all costs. Our goal shouldn’t be to feel happy all the time but instead to experience the full spectrum of emotions so that we can live a full and meaningful life.
Next time you feel stressed, anxious, sad, overwhelmed, or any other emotion that your mind tells you is ‘bad’, mentally remind yourself ‘It’s OK to feel how I feel’ and notice that you instantly feel more at ease.
Do this for your friends and loved ones too by being understanding when they open up about their emotions. Try responding with ‘I can imagine that would be very difficult’ or ‘It’s completely understandable that you feel that way’ instead of ‘You’ll be fine’, ‘Just don’t let it bother you’ or ‘Don’t worry about it’ – the latter responses all act to tell the person that their emotion isn’t valid which can increase distress.
- Stay emotionally aware
We often leave dealing with our emotions until we’re in an acute moment of distress, but we can improve our emotional intelligence by being aware of our emotional state day-to-day.
Get into the habit of regularly asking yourself ‘How am I feeling right now?’. You might like to set a reminder on your phone to do this several times a day and follow this question with another – ‘How can I emotionally support myself right now?’. It might mean taking a short walk to de-stress during a busy day, or playing your favourite song to boost your mood before an event.
By tuning in and becoming aware of your less intense emotions, you’re able to manage stress, anxiety, sadness, or frustration before they boil over into a panic attack or outburst so you can maintain emotional resilience in difficult times.
- Become a great listener
Increase your emotional intelligence by practicing active listening – giving your full attention to whoever you’re speaking with, reflecting that you’ve understood what they’re saying, and asking thoughtful questions. We’ve all been guilty of just waiting for our turn in conversations rather than engaging with the speaker!
One study looked at managers who practice active listening and found that their teams were more motivated and completed tasks more effectively, and that they had a more open and honest working relationship. Often listening is a more powerful action than speaking!
Use these steps and start honing your emotional intelligence to boost your success and improve your relationships starting today!
by Amelia Harvey
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