Emotional intelligence is a term that’s recently become even more popular than IQ. As opposed to intelligence quotient, EQ focuses on your reaction to situations rather than your knowledge of facts. If IQ is knowing what to do, EQ is having the wisdom to apply it when you need it.
Don’t let the soft-skill nature fool you: Businesses are now measuring EQ alongside IQ in potential as well as current employees, because research shows both are necessary to create an effective workforce.
As nebulous as EQ feels, there are solid ways to increase your emotional intelligence every day.
1. Take a breath. Research shows simply taking a break can help you regain emotional equilibrium. It applies not only in obvious moments — like walking away from a tense situation — but before any potential conflicts occur, too. You likely already prepare for EQ-pressured situations when you get ready for a tough business meeting or a difficult conversation.
2. Start and end the day with a set practice. It might be sitting quietly for a few moments, writing your thoughts in a journal page or taking a brief walk outside. These activities seem passive but actually give you a minute to reflect on how you want to be in the day ahead or how you acted in the day past. It creates personal accountability — essential to increasing your emotional intelligence.
3. Get active feedback from a trusted friend or mentor. It’s tough to be objective about our own actions, particularly since we tend to shut off our logical side in the heat of a tense moment. Another person can help keep you be accountable for how you react and what ways you can be more kind to yourself and others. You also get insight into how you can better navigate emotionally sensitive situations because others often don’t share the same blind spots you have.
4. Support others on their EQ journey. Try being the calm one in an argument or creating a considerate dialogue the next time there’s a conflict at work. It’s not about being patronizing, but actively creating a safe space for other people to express themselves without you adding to the fire. You may be surprised at the result. It may also raise your esteem among your colleagues and leadership in your workplace. When you keep control over your emotions, you develop an objective, strategic advantage in situations and may be able to create a more positive result in the process.
5. Make note of the things that trigger strong emotions in you. It may be as general as slow drivers on the freeway or as specific as that one person in accounting who always smacks her gum. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is knowing what pushes your buttons and then keeping an eye on yourself in those situations. Look for progress rather than having a non-reaction. Did you manage to drive behind a slow driver a few more miles than usual without losing your cool? Were you able to relax a bit more with the annoying noise from the nearby cubicle? It’s an EQ win worth celebrating.