Emotional intelligence (EI) is an often-discussed leadership skill which is used by modern HR to identify candidates, manage promotions, and even develop employees into the leadership positions. It’s also a skill that can be learned over time, meaning that even if you aren’t innately emotionally intelligent, you can work to improve your EI.
These 5 ways to improve your emotional intelligence will give you a basis to begin practicing factors that make you emotionally intelligent so you can move forward, learn from your mistakes, and objectively look at what you are doing and why.
1. Keep a Journal
Writing out your thoughts and experiences is an important way to observe how you feel, reflect on your actions and why you took them, and determine if you could have taken better actions. Some people can easily manage this in their head, but most people benefit from writing out their actions, emotions, and why you may have felt that way. Daniel Goleman, one of the pioneers of EI suggests that you should understand what you are feeling in different situations, why you react in a certain way when something happens, and how you could react better.
However, you don’t have to journal out every experience. If you’re short on time, keep daily sessions short to one experience and write it out at the end of the day, or shortly after it happens. Tools like digital diaries can be practical here.
2. Learn Stress Management
Stress management and remaining calm under pressure are extremely valuable tools for EI. Learning stress management through tools like mindfulness, meditation, or sports can help you a great deal. For example, mindfulness works to help you focus your attention on the present moment rather than on anxiety and worries, which can help you to stay calm and react more positively, even under pressure. Other stress-management techniques like meditation, yoga, and even general sports can also help you to reduce general anxiety and learn to react better in the moment. Tools like HeadSpace and Oak can help you get started if you don’t have the time to attend a class in your area.
3. Take up a team Sport or Activity
Building teamwork will help you to foster an active understanding of what other people are doing and why, which you can take back to the workplace. If you’re already participating in teamwork outside of the office, you can begin to use it to actively pay attention to how things work together, why, and how interactions affect the whole team. Teamwork and emotional intelligence are a well understood phenomenon in both sports and in the office, but sports give you the opportunity to learn and fail quickly so that you can improve and grow without affecting your career or work output.
4. Practice Listening and Giving Credit to Others
Active listening and active feedback are two skills crucial to EI, but they are among the most difficult things to learn. Most people automatically go on autopilot when listening, either allowing themselves to form instant judgements without hearing the whole story or begin to formulate a response while the other person is talking. Instead, practice actively listening and paying attention and only answering after. There are plenty of active listening courses online but you can also often practice and pay attention to what you are doing. Similarly, giving active feedback will help you to boost your emotional intelligence. For example, if you notice someone struggling with something you can actively figure out why and help and complement them when they succeed.
5. Actively Put Yourself in Other People’s Shoes
Most people do things for reasons that are as complex and valid as the reasoning behind your own actions. Working to understand their motivations and the emotional decision making behind them. For example, if someone shows up late, ask them why and think about their reason. How would you feel or act in that situation? If someone is late on a project, why? Actively forcing yourself to look at situations as though you were in their shoes will help you to make more empathetic decisions, which will improve your EI.
If you’re ready to learn more, there are plenty of resources available to help you improve emotional intelligence. Most notably, you should consider reading some of the works of Daniel Goleman, one of the pioneers of emotional intelligence, or Travis Bradberry, who is largely regarded as one of the most important thinkers on emotional intelligence today.