Developing Heightened Emotional Intelligence

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Our emotions drive our behaviour and have an impact on others. We respond to stimuli in our environment on an emotional level and many of our decisions are based on these feelings.  Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is defined as the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions as well as recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others.

According to Talent Smart, 90 percent of high performers possess high EQ, while 80 percent of low performers have a low EQ. Increasing our EQ can have a huge impact on our relationships, careers, self-control and perspective. The good news is that your emotional intelligence can be enhanced and improved overtime so long as you have the desire to learn and grow.

While emotional intelligence is commonly treated as a quality in and of itself it is actually a collection of many traits. Here are some of the top qualities associated with high EQ and ways you can enhance them:


Self-Awareness

To be self-aware is to understand how we are interacting with and reacting to stimuli in our environment. It is the ability to understand and see ourselves and adjust our behaviour accordingly. Increasing our own self-awareness involves being mindful of how our thoughts manifest themselves in our body. Pay attention to how your feelings feel, whether it be carrying tension or an increased heart rate. By developing deeper mind-body awareness we are better able to recognise our emotions and the impact they may be having on us. By becoming more aware of our emotions we are better able to evaluate them and deal with them accordingly.


Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and is an essential quality of emotional intelligence. It gives us perspective and connects us to others on a deeper level. While our primary experience of empathy is simply a reaction to others, greater empathy can be learned and improved by experiences and mindfulness. Taking the perspective of another person is not something most of us do reactively. It involves taking the time to mentally imagine how they may be feeling. To become more empathetic take a moment to put yourself in the other person's shoes and then determine the best way to interact with them.


Adaptability

Emotionally intelligent people recognise that they can always change and know when to adjust their sails. Adaptability is recognizing that the current method or course is not leading them in the direction they need to be going and trying different strategies rather than giving up. Frustration or feeling as though you are ‘in a rut’ can be a red flag that you need to adapt. Leaders constantly need to adapt their leadership method in order to motivate and inspire those who follow them. If you have been trying one approach and find you are not getting the results you want, it may be time to adapt.


Prioritisation

A major part of increasing your EQ is being able to distinguish between things you need and things you want and prioritise them accordingly. This also involves an internal awareness about what we need and want in our lives versus what society tells us we should want: a mansion, luxury car and the latest phone. We all have the potential to do many things, but only 24 hours to do it in. It is easy to make a long list of things we should be doing but at the end of the day the difference lies in knowing what not to do.


The Ability to Analyse & Apply Logic

It is important to be able to look at our emotions and behaviour, and that of others, with a non-reactive, more logical lense. By thinking deeply and analyzing the information we have rather than simply reacting we are able to evaluate our habits and ways of doing things and determine how we may improve them in the future. It is when we are on the verge of losing control, take a step back and try to process your emotions in a more logical manner. This will help you regain your sense of control and move towards problem solving rather than being a victim of your own emotions.


Being Inquisitive

Emotionally intelligent people ask lots of questions because they are willing to learn and improve. A sense of curiosity is essential to personal growth. This quality also has a positive impact on relationships as it allows you to deepen your empathy and understanding of others by asking lots of questions. This is a fairly straightforward quality to cultivate, you simply need to start asking more questions and you will slowly find that you get better at knowing what questions to ask and getting the right answers.


Optimism

Developing heightened emotional intelligence means believing in yourself and others. Approaching tasks with a positive attitude tends to lead to better outcomes.

The most important part of maintaining a positive attitude is being able to manage our own negative emotions. Try to be less reactive and avoid jumping to conclusions. Look at the situation from multiple perspectives before reacting. This reduces the chances of a misunderstanding due to a negative assumption.

Another obstacle to optimism is fear. Fear of rejection can hold us back. An emotionally intelligent way to deal with fear is to give ourselves lot of options when dealing with important situations, also termed scenario planning, so that no matter what happens we have confidence in our ability to cope and choose alternatives.

Staying Calm

We all experience stress, it is how we handle this stress that makes the difference. Emotionally intelligent people know how to be assertive rather than reactive when under pressure. When faced with stress our bodies often go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. One of the best ways to stay calm is to get rid of the physical presentation of stress in the body and back into your mind. This can be done through breathing exercises, physical activity and making sure we get enough rest when under stress.


We all have varying degrees of emotional intelligence and different strengths and weaknesses within our EQs. Identify which aspects of developing heightened emotional intelligence need the most attention. This approach will help you deepen your understanding of yourself and others and allow you to be a better friend, family member, partner, parent, coworker and leader.