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7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (or EI for short) is a controversial but widely-discussed alternative to traditional IQ. EI measures our ability to perceive our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and healthy way.

EI is fundamental to our life experience and can influence how successful we are in our relationships and careers. Whatever stage of life you’re at, you can use the seven simple steps below to improve your Emotional Intelligence and develop your self-awareness and empathy.

Practice Observing How You Feel

In the process of rushing from one commitment to the next, meeting deadlines, and responding to external demands, many of us lose touch with our emotions. When we do this, we’re far more likely to act unconsciously, and we miss out on the valuable information that our emotions contain.

Whenever we have an emotional reaction to something, we’re receiving information about a particular situation, person or event. The reaction we experience might be due to the current situation, or it could be that the current situation is reminding us of a painful, unprocessed memory.

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When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become far more adept at managing them. If you’re feeling out of practice, try the following exercise:

Set a timer for various points during the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what the sensation feels like. The more you can practice this, the more it will become second nature.

Pay Attention to How You Behave

As I mentioned above, a key part of improving our EI is learning to manage our emotions, which is something we can only do if we’re consciously aware of them.

While you’re practicing your emotional awareness, pay attention to your behavior too. Notice how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life. Does it impact your communication with others, your productivity, or your overall sense of well-being?

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Once we become more conscious of how we’re reacting to our emotions, it’s easy to slip into judgement mode and start attaching labels to our behavior. Try to refrain from doing that right now, as you’ll be far more likely to be honest with yourself if you’re not judging yourself at the same time.

Take Responsibility for Your Feelings and Behavior

This is probably the most challenging step, and it’s also the most helpful. Your emotions and behavior come from you—they don’t come from anyone else—therefore, you’re the one who’s responsible for them.

If you feel hurt in response to something someone says or does, and you lash out at them, you’re responsible for that. They didn’t “make” you lash out (they’re not controlling you with puppet strings, after all!), your reaction is your responsibility.

Equally, your feelings can provide you with valuable information about your experience of the other person, as well as your own needs and preferences, but your feelings aren’t another person’s responsibility.

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Once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and how you behave, this will have a positive impact on all areas of your life.

Practice Responding, Rather than Reacting

There’s a subtle but important difference between responding and reacting.

Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion (for example, feeling irritated and snapping at the person who has just interrupted you).

Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave (for example, feeling irritated, explaining to the person how you feel, why this isn’t a good time to be interrupting you, and when would be better).

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Practice Empathizing with Yourself and Others

Empathy is about understanding why someone feels or behaves in a certain way and being able to communicate that understanding to them. It applies to ourselves and other people, and practicing this ability will improve your EI.

Start by practicing with yourself. When you notice yourself feeling or behaving in a certain way, ask “Why do I think I’m feeling like this/doing this?” At first, your response might be “I don’t know,” but keep paying attention to your feelings and behavior, and you’ll start to notice different answers coming through.

Create A Positive Environment

As well as practicing the skills I’ve mentioned so far (self-awareness, self-responsibility, and empathy), make time to notice what is going well and where you feel grateful in your life.

Creating a positive environment not only improves your quality of life, but it can be contagious to people around you too.

Remember EI is a Lifetime Process

EI isn’t something you develop once then drop. It’s a lifetime practice, and it is possible to keep improving. Even when you feel like you’ve mastered these steps, remember to keep practicing, and you’ll reap the benefits of EI for the rest of your life.

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on February 19, 2020

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

Books give us the opportunity to live vicariously through the lives of people with greater wisdom than ourselves. They stimulate our brains and help us not only solve the problems we struggle with, but also motivate and inspire us with new ideas.

One of the great things about people who think positively and live happy lives is that they love to help others do the same. There are countless positive-thinking books and these 15 are a great way to help you start living a happy life.

1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

mans search for meaning

    This book goes through the horrific struggle of Viktor Frankl who survived holocaust concentration camps. The only thing that kept him going was his idea that everything, even the worst of human suffering, had to have meaning. If you’re struggling through anything in your life, I guarantee the words of Viktor will give you courage to press on and find happiness.

    2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

    tuesday with morrie

       

      What is life’s greatest lesson? Morrie, a retired professor with a fatal disease, opts to use his predicament to share that message as opposed to just giving up and dying. Following the last few months of Morrie’s life will help you realize what is truly important in life.

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      3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

      Lecture_Book

        Similar to Tuesdays with Morrie, Randy is a college professor who finds he has a fatal disease with only a few months to live. It is customary for professors at his university (Carnegie Mellon) to give a final lecture with the basis of ‘what wisdom would you impart to a large group of people if it was your last chance?’ Randy stays incredibly positive throughout and even keeps the lecture humorous and entertaining. Amidst it all, his wisdom is a powerful reminder about how to live a happy, full life.

        4. Earning Freedom by Michael Santos

        earning freedom

          Michael Santos was sentenced to 45 years is prison for selling drugs. During his term he fought hard to earn a masters degree and half of a doctorate (halted by the warden) while writing numerous books educating students about the criminal justice system. This book provides a fascinating window into his entire sentence (released in 2012) and how a positive attitude and strong work ethic got him through it. If he found happiness in prison through positive thinking, we can do it anywhere.

          If you don’t have the attention span to finish a long book, the following quick reads are shorter but just as powerful.

          5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

          little engine that could

            This book has shaped childrens’ minds for years. It illustrates the undeniable fact that when you think positively and believe in yourself, you can accomplish extraordinary things.

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            6. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

            The_Giving_Tree

              Happiness is found in giving. What does it mean to love someone? What would you sacrifice for someone you love? This children’s book teaches a valuable lesson about unconditional love and what it truly means to be happy.

              7. The Dash by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson

              the dash

                “When your life is over, everything you did will be represented by a single dash between two dates—what will that dash mean for the people you have known and loved?” (Linda Ellis) We don’t choose a lot of things about our life – parents, birthplace, etc. – but we can choose what that dash between those two dates means. This short book will give you a great perspective on making your life worthwhile.

                8. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

                As-a-Man-Thinketh

                  “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state… Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.” (James Allen) This book might be short, but it is jam-packed with statements that will make you stop and think. We truly become what we think we are. Negative thoughts affect us more than we know. Positive thinking = happy life.

                  9. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald  Miller

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                  a-million-miles-in-a-thousand-years

                    You are the author of your story. No matter how boring or dull your life has been, you can always turn it around. Donald was in a rut in his life. He had no desire to get out of bed and found himself questioning the meaning of life. Eventually he realized he wasn’t a slave to a pre-written script. He used that mindset to turn around his thoughts, actions, and life. When the closing credits roll on the story of your life, what will people say? Never forget that you have the power to push your limits and live an interesting, happy life.

                    10. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

                    travelersgift

                      The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story about a man who is overwhelmed with life and finds himself thrown into numerous true events from history – including Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He interacts and learns important life lessons from seven different experiences. The book is full of ways to think more positively and find more success in life.

                      11. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

                      david and goliath

                        Malcolm Gladwell motivates you to challenge your preconceptions of underdogs and misfits in this thought-provoking book. When you break down the facts in the story of David and Goliath from the Bible, you find that David really wasn’t an underdog at all – he was the one with the advantage. This book outlines story after story after story of people who were at a disadvantage and learned to find the strength in their weakness.

                        12. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

                        how will you measure

                          How would you feel if you got to the end of your life only to realize you had been measuring success wrong? Clayton provides a mass amount of wisdom and advice on how to live a life you won’t regret.

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                          13. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

                          Dont_Sweat_Small_Stuff

                            The small things we worry about every day may not seem like a big deal, but they wear us down slowly and stop us from living up to our full potential. Learn how to get rid of those worries and negative thoughts and live a happier life.

                            14. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

                            mere christianity

                              C.S. Lewis, who used to be an Atheist, explains how he came to find meaning in life through Christianity. He breaks down all the reasons we doubt and falter in life and how living the principles of Christianity fixes our weaknesses. Lewis is famous for his deep, thought-provoking quotes and this book is no exception.

                              15. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

                              bushido

                                Bushido is based on the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. The document’s purpose was to shape the mind and the spirit of the samurai warrior.

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                                Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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