21 Strategies to Improve Emotional Intelligence

Most people have heard of an IQ quiz to test how smart someone might be, but what about “emotional intelligence”? Find out more about emotional intelligence and how you can work on improving your own.

Have you heard of emotional intelligence? Different from our IQs, emotional intelligence is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

While emotional intelligence might sound like some crunchy bunch of woo-woo, it’s an increasingly important metric by which companies evaluate new hires. In many ways, it’s become a skill people want to develop.

Fortunately, that’s very possible. Qualities associated with high EQ (such as self-awareness, inner motivation, empathy and ability to recognize and manage our own feelings and those of others) account for about 90% of our professional effectiveness. they also enhance our intellectual performance, and can be developed like a muscle.

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If you’re interested in improving your EQ, here are 21 actionable strategies to get you started right now.

21 Strategies to Improve Emotional Intelligence

Want to boost your EQ and start leading your life with your heart? Here are a few smart tips to begin the process:

1. Learn to trust your intuition

Your intuition is one of your greatest tools, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

For a long time intuition and rational thinking were considered two mutually exclusive concepts.

Only now have scientists started to realize that our intuitive emotions serve as an efficient mechanism that improves our ability to make better, sounder decisions.

With this in mind, learn to trust your intuition and start relying on it more often!

2. Learn to quiet your mind

When we are under stress, we lose the ability to accurately “read” a situation, hear what someone else is saying, think rationally, and communicate clearly.

One skill that can improve our emotional intelligence is to find a way to manage stress and quiet the mind during times of great emotional turmoil.

Mindfulness meditation is a great tool for this, and using something like the Headspace app is a simple way to get started.

3. Realize that you are not your emotions

Many people waste time thinking they “ought” to feel a certain way. Usually we are brought up to believe that it is wrong to express and even feel certain emotions, as if it somehow makes us a “bad person.”  

In reality, it’s not the feeling that matters, but how you choose to act on it. You’re not your emotions, and the sooner you learn to see that, the better.

4. Talk about your feelings

Some people associate feelings with weakness.

While we were learning to smile politely and keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, we should have been practicing to express those feelings.

This is what people with high EQ do. They are not afraid to expose their feelings, vulnerabilities and thoughts.

With this in mind, practice being more vulnerable and open about your feelings and see how the world reacts.

5. Practice “learned optimism”

Notice how you explain events to yourself, both good and bad. Do you take credit for your achievements or do you dismiss them as pure luck?

Do you take responsibility for your missteps or does it seem more natural for you to shift the blame on something or someone else? Practice being more optimistic to make more room in your emotional and spiritual life.

6. Start with your ego

Ego plays a huge role in how we perceive and react to different situations. You can’t feel unappreciated, offended or hurt unless you let yourself feel that way.

And the fact that you are feeling that way almost always means that your ego has been rubbed the wrong way. But you are not your ego. You are a spiritual human being and your natural state is happiness, not anger, resentment, or envy.

7. Acknowledge your emotions

Another way to improve emotional intelligence lies in developing understanding that denying, ignoring or numbing our feelings will not make them go away.

Acknowledging our emotions, both good and bad, allows us to get in touch with our own motivations and needs, and to communicate effectively with others.

8. Think about how you think

You may not always choose the situation or people you work with, but you CAN always choose the way you frame it in your mind. Spend more time thinking about how you react to situations and why.

This will provide the clarity you need to start choosing new patterns.

9. Choose your words carefully

The words we use carry emotional baggage with them and evoke certain associations in your mind. One way of changing your thoughts and getting negative emotions under control is to choose positively-charged words and be more mindful of your speech.

Need some inspiration?

Consider this Master Class video with Maya Angelou:

10. Step into their shoes

Being able to see a situation or a point of view from another person’s perspective is a skill that most of us develop at the age of 5.

In some settings, though, we get overcome by negative emotions and start acting like we are 4, acknowledging only our thoughts, emotions and arguments.

The next time you are in the middle of a heated argument, try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes really understand where they are coming from.

You might discover that they have a valid point! No matter what, this approach will soften you and enhance your understanding of the other person.

11. Think Law of Attraction

If you believe that “What goes around comes around” think of what may come back to you every time you send negative emotions and thoughts into the Universe.

The Universe does not care about the reason for your negativity – only that it exists. Other people’s deeds are their karma. Take care of yours!

12. Breathe anger out

Anger is a powerful emotion, but it has equally powerful ‘side-effects’. After it dies down we are left feeling exhausted, drained and often foolish.

A great way to keep anger at bay is to put some distance between you and the object of your irritation.

Take a few deep breaths, imagining your breath shooting the anger and tension away and cool air calming your mind and slowing your heart rate down.

Do not tackle the problem that pushed you off your balance until you will feel completely calm and composed.

13. Listen

Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.” We would add, speak only if it objectively improves the conversation. Otherwise, listen!

14. Give yourself some love

If you do something well – celebrate. If you fail – learn from the experience and improve next time. There is no sense in dragging yourself down for every little mistake. Judging and criticizing yourself will not make you a better person. Self-awareness, understanding and compassion, on the other hand, will.

15. Give positive feedback to others

Train your mind to see things that are worth complimenting, rather than focusing on cherry-picking little things that can be criticized or judged in others. When you learn to compliment with ease and refrain from judging, your EQ will sky-rocket and your relationships will flourish.

16. Pick your battles

Arguments take time and energy, especially if you want to resolve them in a positive way. Before getting yourself into one, consider what is worth arguing about and what is best left alone.

17. Forgive

People with high EQ have less emotional ‘baggage,’ while people with low EQ tend to have more unresolved personal issues which act as triggers for conflicts. The best way to deal with these issues is to forgive those who have wronged you in the past. Not for their sake, but for your own.

18. Understand your buttons

Pay attention to the times when you let other people push your buttons.

What are your triggers?

What are the specific conditions that make you likely to let your guard down?

Try to avoid putting yourself in these situations where you aren’t able to choose a graceful response.

19. Look out for sarcasm

Sarcasm is usually an indication that someone is being defensive. When you hear sarcasm or are the one using it, ask yourself why. What is the underlying emotion? Why are you or the other person being defensive?

20. Pay attention to people’s nonverbal communication

Often the key to successful relationships at work and harmony in your family lies in your ability to understand non-verbal cues communicated through gestures and body language.

Being able to read these cues makes you more empathetic and helps enhance your relationships.

21. Practice empathy

You have the power not only to improve your emotional intelligence, but to become a good influence on others, improving their creativity and intellectual performance.

Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard expert on empathy, has demonstrated that when people administering IQ tests treated their subjects warmly, the test scores were higher.

Want more info to improve your Emotional Intelligence?  These 3 books are must reads:

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Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. Many times the content is not written by a single author, instead it is usually a team effort.