We often think of intelligence as our factual knowledge or academic skills, but intelligence takes on a wide variety of forms. One of the most important for your overall well-being is emotional intelligence, which is your ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others.
Some people naturally have greater emotional intelligence than others, but emotional intelligence isn’t something you’re simply born with. You have the ability to strengthen your emotional intelligence so that you can regulate your own emotions and connect on a deeper level with others. Improving your emotional intelligence is one of the best ways to strengthen your mental health and enhance your relationships.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand your own emotions and the emotions of others. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are self-aware about how they feel and why. They accept their emotions without judgment, but they also know how to self-regulate when feeling overwhelmed. Emotional intelligence isn’t necessarily the ability to control your emotions but rather the ability to understand why they happen and how they influence your decisions.
A sense of empathy is also a key component of emotional intelligence. An emotionally intelligent person can understand the emotional reasoning behind someone’s decisions, and they can pick up on subtle cues to recognize how someone feels. This skill allows you to connect more easily with friends, family, colleagues, and romantic partners because you instinctively know what people need to hear to feel accepted and validated.
Examples of Emotional Intelligence
Emotionally intelligent people use their skills in every facet of their daily life, so there are countless examples you may encounter. Here are some beliefs and actions that indicate emotional intelligence:
- Noticing when you’re becoming stressed or upset and removing yourself from the frustrating situation.
- Being compassionate with yourself when you’re having a bad day.
- Seeking out situations or experiences that you know will bring you joy.
- Viewing challenging situations as an opportunity for growth.
- Embracing change and welcoming new experiences.
- Focusing more on the current moment and the future than on the past.
- Empathizing with others when they express emotions or talk about their difficult experiences.
- Understanding why someone made a mistake.
- Actively listening during conversations and making sure everyone’s voices are heard.
- Communicating about conflicts before they escalate with the goal of working together to find a resolution.
- Approaching professional opportunities with a high level of confidence.
6 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has so many benefits, so strengthening this skill is always worth the effort. Here are six strategies you can use to become a more emotionally intelligent person:
1. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a great way to become more in-tune with your mind and your body, and it’s especially helpful for developing your emotional awareness. When you practice mindfulness meditation, you notice all of the thoughts and feelings that float through your mind without lingering on any one idea. You don’t react to your emotions or judge yourself for your thoughts. Your goal is simply to be a neutral observer of your own experiences. By practicing mindfulness, you learn to become aware of your emotions without letting them control your decisions.
2. Think before you react.
One of the best ways to develop your emotional intelligence is to practice taking a beat before you speak or act. Our behaviors often stem from brief impulses, and when we don’t take the time to evaluate a situation, we make insensitive or regrettable statements. Learning to wait before responding can be incredibly difficult, but when you take a moment to consider the needs, wants, and feelings of those around you, you’ll become more compassionate and empathetic.
3. Put yourself in others’ shoes.
Imagining yourself in another person’s situation can strengthen your sense of empathy. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can more closely connect with how they feel and why they make the choices they make. You’re not just thinking about their observable behavior or actions, but you’re considering the underlying emotions that drive them.
4. Check in with others.
While being able to empathize with others is a major part of emotional intelligence, you also shouldn’t assume that you can read minds. Sometimes, you have to check in with a friend, family member, or coworker to learn more about how they feel. Don’t be afraid to have a heart-to-heart with someone when you’re trying to connect with them. Clear and honest communication helps you better understand those around you.
5. Adopt a growth mindset.
Emotionally intelligent people have a heightened awareness of their strengths and their shortcomings, but they don’t feel defeated about their flaws. A growth mindset empowers you to take on challenges and learn from your difficult moments so that you become a stronger, happier, and healthier person. Whenever you feel like you’ve failed or made a mistake, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. By embracing these moments as learning opportunities, you become more compassionate and patient with yourself.
6. Work with a therapist.
If you’re struggling to develop your emotional self-awareness on your own, you could reach out to a therapist for support. Therapy is a valuable opportunity for you to explore your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions with a supportive, nonjudgmental figure. Many people believe that counseling is only helpful for individuals in a mental health crisis. However, therapy can be an immensely helpful experience for anyone who is trying to learn more about themselves or embark on a self-improvement journey.
Strengthening your emotional intelligence can improve your relationships and enhance your overall mental health. While this may not be something you can accomplish overnight, you can take active steps every day to become a more grounded, self-aware, and empathetic person. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides counseling services for clients who are working toward a wide variety of personal and mental health goals. If you’re interested in speaking with a therapist in Los Angeles, you can contact us today.