Why do you want to develop emotional intelligence? Perhaps it’s because you want to be in true control of your life. After all, we control only three things in life: our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.
The most important of these three is our feelings because they drive our thoughts and behaviors. In fact, about 80% or more of our decisions and actions come from our feelings and emotions. However, our feelings are also the most difficult part for us to control since we have the least direct influence on our emotions.
Gaining control of your emotions requires that you develop and harness your emotional intelligence, which is the ability to be aware of your emotions and then manage those emotions.
By following the daily habits described in this article, which are all informed by research in neuroscience and psychology, you will develop emotional intelligence skills and gain much better control over yourself and your life.
1. Delay Displaying Emotions
Have you ever reacted rashly during a tense situation and later on wished you could turn back time? How about regretting something you said in the heat of a moment? Whether these impulsive reactions are a rare occurrence or something that happens to you all the time, there’s a lot of advantages to being able to delay showing your emotions.
But first, let’s talk about how our minds work and our two thinking systems. The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions, while the intentional system reflects our rational thinking.
Since our intentional system is slow, it takes time to activate it and reflect on the kind of errors that the autopilot system can make. To address this, you need to develop a daily habit of counting to 10 before following emotion-driven behaviors and decisions. This will allow your intentional system to turn on and address your feelings before you show your emotions.
Simply understanding how these two systems work and taking some time before reacting will allow you to be more in control of your emotions.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings regularly is beneficial for developing emotional intelligence. Journaling is also an act of self-care that promotes creativity and self-awareness. Research has also shown that journal prompts or simple guide questions to get you started are useful for stimulating reflection.
While there are no exact rules for journaling, make it a habit to do so daily and establish a process. Develop a morning or evening journaling activity that involves three habits relevant to emotional intelligence:
- Journaling about yourself and your feelings at the moment
- Journaling about what you learned about your feelings over the last day
- Journaling about where you would like to focus on in developing your emotional intelligence, including both the ability to know and manage your feelings, over time
Remember, the key is to get started and to be consistent. Keep it simple by picking a journaling method— you can write in longhand, type, use a voice recorder, or pick a journaling app—and just keep at it.
As you start to practice the habits listed here, you’ll want to review your journal entries from time to time. It will also be a good way to check your previous stumbling blocks and how far you’ve come.
Meditation is another way of improving emotional intelligence. While most people tend to associate meditation with spirituality, meditating can build new neural pathways, which may aid in managing stress and emotions.
In particular, meditation can also help men who struggle with traditional norms around emotions and difficulty expressing their feelings. Studies have shown that meditation has helped men engage with their emotions constructively.
I recommend developing these two daily meditation habits:
- At least 10 minutes of Zazen (empty mind) meditation – This type of meditation aims to clear and calm the mind. To do this, get into a cross-legged sitting position. Next, breathe, empty your mind, and try not to think of anything. Zazen will help you build attention and focus, which can then be used to have more attention to your emotions.
- At least 5 minutes of loving-kindness meditation – This type of meditation will help manage your feelings toward other people and make these feelings richer and more positive. By practicing this, you can strengthen your connection and feelings of kindness towards your loved ones and even acquaintances. This can be done by visualizing the people in your life, focusing on these people, and thinking of these people sending and receiving love and kindness to and from you.
You may have heard of its many health benefits, but let me highlight how it also has a significant impact on emotional intelligence. Practicing yoga teaches you to be in the present and prompts you to become self-aware, thereby allowing you to more easily recognize your emotions. This also translates to body awareness and the ability to manage your body.
Emotions often manifest physically, so body awareness will help you be more aware of your emotions, be able to discriminate between these emotions, and manage them better. Get into a daily yoga habit for at least 15 minutes.
5. Regularly Identify Cognitive Biases
Our emotions often lead us in the wrong direction due to mental blindspots called cognitive biases. These are dangerous judgment errors that can cause you to make poor decisions in your personal and professional lives.
You need to get ahead of these troublesome blindspots by assessing and learning which ones are relevant to you. Then, figure out a daily ritual to address the cognitive biases most impactful for you.
The first four habits I described will also best position you to identify and deal with these biases. For example, you can use journaling to write down how you plan to address them.
6. Relating to Others
While the first five habits on this list will allow you to reflect, assess, and deliberate internally, you should also equally consider how you relate to people. After practicing the fifth habit, I’m sure you will realize just how full we are of cognitive biases when it comes to our emotions concerning other people.
To manage your emotions better, have a daily habit of evaluating your emotions when you interact with other people. Pause, reflect, and identify what you can learn about yourself during these interactions. You can even use this as one of your journal prompts.
Equipped with the information you’ve learned about yourself, plan how you will interact with others moving forward. Remember to continue delaying showing your emotions to others, especially at first, to learn to manage yourself well.
7. Develop Active Listening Skills
Many people listen without actually hearing what is being said. This is especially true for many arguments when people adopt a combative stance and spend their time formulating a response in their mind instead of really listening to the other person.
Without the right listening skills, no emotional intelligence can form or be employed, and most conflicts would remain unresolved.
When conversing with others, listen actively instead of just as an afterthought or as a way to pass the time until it’s your turn to speak. Rather, listen to ensure that you have a good understanding of what is being discussed.
When resolving conflict, active listening helps you determine how you can contribute to solving the problem. This is because it gives you time to clarify any confusing points as well as employ your emotional intelligence to help you come up with an appropriate response.
8. Use an Assertive and Collaborative Communication Style
While each habit can be practiced individually with good results, I’m rounding out this list by highlighting the importance of an assertive and collaborative way of communicating. That’s because the first 7 habits all work harmoniously to allow you to be more assertive and direct.
Keep in mind everything you’ve learned about yourself, your biases, and how you react to others. Then, develop the habit of being assertive—not aggressive—and being more direct when communicating. This allows you to express your opinions more clearly, thereby encouraging others to communicate with you clearly as well.
No matter what your reasons are for wanting to hone your emotional intelligence, you only stand to benefit from the attempt.
Adopting these daily habits is the key to developing emotional intelligence, which is your gateway to having true control over your life. While the learning curve can vary per person, anyone can take a shot at—and master—these habits.
Practice just a few to see how it enriches certain aspects of your life, or utilize all 8 to reap the compounded benefits of an emotionally intelligent mind.
More Tips on How to Develop Emotional Intelligence
- 7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
- What Is Emotional Intelligence (And How to Develop It)
- 10 Books Which Can Effectively Increase Our Emotional Quotient
Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com