Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and use emotions positively in order to manage stress, communicate well, empathise, overcome issues, and manage conflict. It is about perceiving, evaluating and managing emotions in yourself and others.
People with low emotional intelligence may: be frustrated by themselves and why they feel or act the way they do; be unable to empathise or communicate successfully with others; find it hard to manage or regulate their emotions; experience difficulty negotiating or resolving conflict; and be at odds socially or in working relationships, with things often breaking-down or becoming conflicted. Increased emotional intelligence leads to greater personal, social and professional success and fulfilment.
Biological and social issues may influence emotional intelligence, but everyone can enhance their emotional intelligence. The pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. These involve noticing and identifying your emotions including when and why they arise; managing your emotions whilst being true to yourself; developing empathy by listening to, hearing and accepting others, including noticing body language; successfully communicating empathy and understanding; and being able to negotiate with others.
Tips for Developing Emotional Intelligence
1. Self-awareness (identifying your emotions)
- Pay attention to your emotions. What are you feeling? Try to tune into yourself and name your emotions. When and why do you feel a particular way? What was happening, and what were you thinking at the time? What happens in your body? Some people are not used to this and find it hard. Be patient and allow yourself space and time. Stop at least twice a day and ask ‘How am I feeling?’
- It helps to be aware of and to allow your emotions and thoughts, rather than trying to squash them down or deny them. You are then able to choose how to manage them and avoid feeling overwhelmed, or reacting in a ‘knee-jerk’ or uncontrolled manner without understanding what is behind your reaction.
2. Self-management (managing your emotions)
- Take ownership of your feelings rather than blaming others. When appropriate practice saying how you feel without blaming anyone, e.g. say ‘I am worried about seeing the door open again as we might have another burglary, please keep it shut’, rather than yelling ‘You idiot for leaving the door open again’.
- Notice what helps manage your feelings healthily. For example, when you are stressed notice what helps relieve your stress, such as regulating breathing, taking time-out or looking after yourself. Put what is helpful into practice.
3. Social-awareness (developing empathy)
- Be interested and open to other people’s experiences. Aim to see things from another point of view, rather than being restricted to your own viewpoint.
- Allow others time to talk without interruption. Focus on what they are communicating with the aim of seeing things from their perspective, rather thinking about that what you might say or do next or any advice you might want to give.
- What clues does someone’s posture and body language give about what they are thinking or feeling?
4. Relationship-management (communicating empathy)
- What does your body language say about you? Giving eye contact and adopting an open body posture demonstrates you are engaged and listening.
- Say or summarise what you think you hear others say. Do this sensitively, allowing the other person to correct you if you have got it wrong.
- Aim to ask open questions. These encourage communication to open up. For example, an open question such as ‘What do you think about this?’ invites open exploration, whilst a closed question such as ‘Do you like this?’ invites a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response tending to shut-down further communication.
- Accept differences. We do not all have the same needs, opinions and expectations. Conflict is normal and can be worked with helpfully if not perceived as threatening or punishing. When people feel heard and accepted differences may be experienced safely and positively, and as promoting freedom and creativity.
- Be playful when appropriate. Sometimes humour and laughter help keep things in perspective. Creativity and playfulness can be energising and refreshing.