How To Improve Emotional Intelligence

Countless studies have found that emotional intelligence is just as important, if not more important, to your success than your IQ. If you’re unfamiliar, emotional intelligence or EQ, is described as the level that you can be aware of interpersonal emotions of others and yourself and express yourself socially in the best way to achieve the best, most harmonious results for you and others you associate with.

The amazing part about EQ is that it’s a skill that anyone can get better at, while IQ is something that is fixed from birth. We have a shot of improving our success in life by improving EQ!

The tough part is how. I’ve gotten questions from email subscribers and people in real life along the lines of “I understand that emotional intelligence is important. But how do you improve it?” Good content online about the topic has been surprisingly scarce. The articles I found did not cite at all and could have made their tips up.

The following advice I have taken straight from the most reputable books Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman, and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (affiliate links). If that’s not enough, I took a comprehensive, paid, to our emotional intelligence assessments and discovered that I scored in the top 95%. I was shocked because I thought I had below average or average of course, no test can truly define such an abstract skill, but is is still a good sign that my tips may have some merit.

Also, I have taken advice from observation from successful businessman who have found their own strategies to improve their own EQ, like the multi-millionaire entrepreneur Tucker Max.

There are three pillars to improving EQ:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Mastery
  3. Empathy

You can split these out into five competencies you can improve. The first three are personal competencies and the last two are social competencies:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Social Skills
  5. Empathy

So here are some tips.

1. Self-Awareness: Become More Mindful Of Your Emotions

Self-awareness is about knowing ones own intuition, emotions, effects of emotions, strengths and limits, and self-confidence.
Self-awareness is a prerequisite to empathy, so this competence is a good starting point.

Get clear about the truth of your weaknesses and strengths and be open to feedback. Self-awareness helps you become aware of an amygdala hijacking before it happens. The best solution to an unfavorable emotion reaction is prevention.

Many people think they are fully aware of all their emotions when they experience them, but they’re not. Consider the man who flies into a murderous rage or the girl who keeps dwelling on past relationships or jealousy at other women. Are they aware of what they are doing in the present? Probably not.

How to become more aware of your emotions and anger: 

Develop confidence. Work on being able to hold unpopular opinions and stick with a decision because you are confident in your view. Research shows that the kids who were the most confident earliest in life went on to succeed the most later in life. You need to self-confidence to believe and begin.

I suggest getting friends you can trust to be honest and point out your emotions when you are oblivious. When you get into a temper or dwell on negative events, your friend will point it out.

Journaling during and after any emotional events helps you record these feelings. Once you’re in a calm or more logical states, you can review your notes and identify your emotions, why you felt like this, and what you could’ve done differently. In the future, you can use these patterns to figure out better courses of actions and subsystems so that you don’t end up making the wrong decision. Self-awareness is more than just about emotions. It’s also about understanding who you are, whatever communication style is best for you, what type of people you jive with don’t jive with, what use strengths are, and what your weaknesses are.

For example, I know that I am an introvert with a strength in productivity. My strength is also my weakness as I get angry quickly when others impede my productivity or are very unproductive at moments. I learned that about myself and been able to preemptively manage social situations when that comes up so that I don’t burst out in anger when I don’t want to and ruin and interaction or say something I regret later on. I also make time for a long time so I can on charge, which often means politely excusing myself from large social gatherings earlier than others.

Having a socially-skilled coach, manager, mentor, friend, or coworker that can observe you, give you feedback, and point out your traits, strengths, and weaknesses can be helpful.

2. Acknowledge Emotions

Speaking of self-awareness, you have to be aware of it before you can fix it. So how can someone oblivious do that? In many ways — do them all.

Bocalize it. It is one of the most apparent ways of being aware of what’s going on. If you have a tendency to have a temper, force yourself to admit this out loud: “I am angry right now!”

Let others know you’re angry or sad. They may not know.

Journal. Write down the whole story of what happened during a tough, emotional event. Consult that journal entry when you’re calmed down and more rational a week or day later.

Self-regulation is managing one’s internal state and impulses (self-control of disruptive emotions), trustworthiness, conscientiousness (taking responsibility), adaptability, and innovation.

3. Meditation

Meditation has been shown to be an incredible way of being more aware of your breath, your body, and your emotions.

There have been scientific studies that have shown how consistent meditation over years allows people to easier separate emotions from logical decision making. There have even been physical changes in the brain structure in the emotional (Amygdala) and rational areas (Prefrontal cortex) of the brain to support this.

Meditation is also one of those things that I have found an eerily large amount of successful people do.

Here’s a video of billionaire Ray Dalio explaining this:

There are many forms of guided meditation practices. I suggest looking at guided meditation sessions that help you improve social aspects directly related to EQ. This includes meditation that helps you be more emphatic, compassionate, or grateful. There are great Youtube videos and audio sessions on the app Insight Timer on this for free. They are often titled exactly like that “Meditation To Increase Empathy.”

Empathy and understanding another person’s social cues and facial expressions are a critical part of improving social intelligence. Women are naturally better than men because biologically, they have to care directly for their children.

4. Put Yourself In Social (or even Stressful) Situations and Learn

If you’re always comfortable, you’re never growing. You can play basketball for 20,000 hours and still suck at it if you aren’t actively seeking to learn and improve from your mistakes. In fact, I have put tens of thousands of hours into a competitive video game League of Legends yet still rank in the 50th percentile because I always played for fun rather than to learn.

Having said that, just putting yourself into highly social situations often can naturally help, especially if you actively seek to improve.

Great examples of social situations are salesman, bartender, waiter or waitress, hostess, network outreach, network marketing, and events coordinator.

There are more but these are great examples of the theme of things you should look for: jobs or events that require a medium to high level of one on one social interaction with some group interaction occasionally. They don’t necessarily have to be low-tier

They don’t necessarily have to be low-tier worker jobs either. It could be an event like a Programmer Networking Get Together. Or it could be a higher-tier job. Many of the world’s best talk show hosts have gotten better over the years in social skills as they have interviewed more people.

My favorites include Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, and Charlie Rose. If you watch any of them closely, you can tell that they have a very high level of social intelligence: they know when to move a conversation forward, they know how to diffuse a situation with humor, they know when to be humble and make fun of themselves, they know when to wrap things up if people ramble too much, and so on.

5. Have More Flexibility and Learn From Feedback

If you’re too rigid, you aren’t willing to adapt to feedback that can improve. Don’t let arrogance prevent you from tweaking how you communicate. If your boss is telling you that you deliver advice to harshly to your subordinates, refusing to change is a red flag that you’re EQ is low and you’re going to get fired since you won’t change.

To begin, change how you respond to the harshest emotions, like anger. Studies have found that spending more and more time in a state of anger or sadness prolongs the suffering and emotion.

You may say “I can’t stop thinking about it!” I once told a friend to stop thinking about this girl. She was clearly no longer interested but he spent weeks dwelling on her. When I told him to think about something else, he replied with “Stop thinking about a pink elephant in a room.”

His point was that if you tell someone to stop thinking about it, it just reminds you to think about it more.

I used to think this is true because I have been even worse at dwelling on things than him in the past! Although this is partially true, with some willpower and adding fun to your life in multiple ways, you can divert your attention. At first, it may only be for a few seconds. But over the weeks, you will get better at it. Realize there are multiple ways of having fun and enjoying yourself outside of that focus of yours and do it!

6. Work on Your Body Language and Body Language Detection

Small things like a genuine smile at the right moment can make someone open up, feel more comfortable, or reduce tension and confrontation.

Amy Cuddy has given a Ted Talk that showed that your physiologically can change your hormones and chemical structure in your body. For a long time, humans thought that your body language followed your thought. Now, we are realizing that we can start making things happen by faking it with our body first. Don’t go too far with it. Initially, maybe just start with some dancing or body language that’s slightly better than what you’re feeling right now.

There’s controlling your body language, but there’s also accurately detecting body language in others. Is that person feeling threatened or just sad? Are you usually accurate? Joe Navarro‘s books are a great place to start. He was the lead manager for the CIA on body language.

7. Work on Your Empathy

“The best skill I’ve developed and the one that’s served me best as a founder, a CEO, and a marketer is empathy. Being able to put myself in the shoes of other people and imagine their pain, their problems, their workflows and speed bumps has been invaluable both on the product side and in creating content. Side note: this does not come naturally… Spending lots of time with people I want to learn about, getting to know them personally, and asking questions, listening, and watching has been huge, too.” –Rand Fishkin

Empathy is about being aware and understanding others’ feelings and concerns, anticipating needs, cultivating opportunities between people, and reading people’s political and power relationships.

Empathy is about understanding the emotions and motives behind a person’s behavior. It’s important in preemptively anticipating and preventing someone else’s amygdala hijacking.

Seeing different perspectives clearly and putting aside biases is important to selling products and forming relationships.

Empathy may just be the most important factor related to emotional intelligence. Most people are playing stupid when it comes empathy. That means there selfish. They don’t take a second to understand what the other person wants or the other person same. If they do, there wrong in their essence.

Use empathy exercises to practice your empathy. Whenever you have some free time, choose someone around you and list out what you think that person is thinking, feeling, and what their goals are. You can do this in a calm setting with someone you know, like a friend who is just chilling by the account. Or, it sometimes more informative to do this exercise during a more tense situation where emotions are a flare since you can identify more concrete problems, emotions, and solutions. One example of a good situation for this is during an argument with a coworker or manager while you’re at work.

Empathy is the holy grail of emotional intelligence because you can’t get much more of what you want by first helping other people get more of what they want. And to do that, you have to understand what they want, and many people fail at doing this. You see is all the time at keynote speech is, question-and-answer sessions, or any type of interaction with successful, famous people. 99% of the comments are asking them.. Why would this person want to give you stuff when you have given them nothing in return yet? Unfortunately, most people don’t even take a moment to think this through and that’s why they act selfishly in this way.

Salesmen with more conscientiousness make more money. Bosses are more biased to see them favorably because of their reliability. But conscientiousness without empathy is bad because you demand as much of others as you demand of yourself even when others may not be able to meet your expectations. So empathy is crucial.

Social skills can be defined as adeptness at producing desired responses in others, communication, influence, conflict management, leadership, inspiring and guiding others, initiating change, collaborating well, and persuasion.

What To Avoid

  • Seeing people in black and white
  • being too proud to acknowledge feedback or weaknesses
  • taking credit for others’ work
  • making yourself look good at all costs
  • arrogance
  • narcissism
  • rebuffing and refusing to believe areas of improvement or weaknesses that people acknowledge
  • making it seem like you did more than you did
  • lack adaptability to feedback or deliver feedback to others in ways that is too cold, unfeeling, and unempathetic
  • being unable or unwilling to change

Parting One-Sentence Gold Nugget Tips

Credibility stems from integrity. People trust you if you stick to your values.

You must take responsibility and change your behavior rather than deny it and become defensive.

Great managers give feedback so their subordinates improve. They don’t withhold feedback.

Optimists can make a more realistic assessment of a setback.

Top performers recognizes when logical arguments won’t work and appeal to emotions. Great leaders build camaraderie.

Research shows that managers that ate assertive but also more warm, democratic, social, and trusting dis better than those who were more draconian. Simply put, nice guys finish first.

Networking and winning allies is important for finding work and career advancement.

Giving feedback too harshly, softly, or not at all can demoralize. To see noticeable gains with emotional intelligence, you need at least three to six months of consistent practice. Don’t trust promises of substantial progress with a two day workshop or rapid improvements from just talking about the concepts.

Many of these skills, like listening, are relevant in private life too.

To succeed, you must be motivated. Motivation is about striving to improve or meet a standard, commitment, initiative, optimism, and persistence. What’s your favorite tip? How will you use it?

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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