emotional intelligence skills

Key emotional intelligence skills and how to develop them

Emotional intelligence enables us to harness the ability to manage our behaviour positively and helps boost our performance in both personal and professional spheres.
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“Emotional self-control―delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness―underlies accomplishment of every sort.” ― Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Emotions play a major role in our lives as they influence and guide our daily actions. They impact our decision-making abilities and behavioural patterns. The American Psychological Association defines emotion as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioural, and physiological elements, by which an individual attempt to deal with a personally significant matter or event.” Emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, excitement, and disgust can influence how we deal with different situations and connect with others. Hence, we could benefit vastly by developing emotional intelligence to boost our sense of self-awareness and intuitive abilities.

In 1990, psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.” Emotional intelligence boosts our performance in both personal and professional spheres. It can even enhance the quality of romantic relationships. A study states that relationships characterised by a high level of emotional intelligence in two partners are “more committed and stable.” It further states that emotional intelligence also “increases the emotional awareness, emotional availability among partners and intimacy level in the relationship.”

Goleman laid down five key emotional intelligence skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Here are a few ways how you can develop them.

Practice effective self-management

Self-management allows you to take the steering wheel of life into your hands. It helps you gain control of your actions, choices, decisions and behaviours. For example, at a workplace, self-management skills can help you deal with stressful situations such as tough deadlines. Instead of losing your calm, you can control your reactions and come up with effective strategies to help reach your target. The same strategy can help you tackle difficult situations in your personal life. For example, self-management skills would come in handy while talking to your child about their low school grades. Instead of yelling at them, you would give them a chance to explain themselves. You can even assess the key areas such as study methods, discipline among others to identify the reasons behind their low grades so you can address them.

Become an active listener

When you are listening to someone, avoid formulating responses in your head and don’t interrupt them when they are talking. Listen to understand them and their perspectives. This emotional intelligence skill enables you to develop empathy and foster better relationships with others. For example, when a misunderstanding arises in a relationship, couples should listen to their partners instead of indulging in mindless arguments that can only exacerbate the conflict. By carefully listening to each other, you develop cognition of your partner’s feelings about the situation and gain a better understanding of the issues that probably led to the confusion.

Be responsible for your emotions and reactions

You are responsible for your emotions and reactions. While it’s easy to pass the blame on others, or an external factor, your reactions are a result of your own emotions. For instance, if you get triggered while talking to a friend about politics, assess whether your reaction is a result of their beliefs or your perception. Take responsibility for your responses that arise due to your perceptions. When confronted with a difficult situation, it helps to recognise whether you are feeling angry, shameful or fearful. Instead of arguing and countering others’ opinions, look within and investigate the root of your feelings. Developing awareness of your feelings will help you gain control over your impulsive reactions, especially during stressful situations.

Take criticism in your stride

The emotional intelligence skill of handling criticism healthily can help you succeed in life. For example, when you are criticised for an assignment at work, take a moment to dwell on the feedback instead of responding defensively. Use the tool of active listening, as mentioned above, to understand the root of the criticism that’s been hurled at you. Engage in a healthy discussion with your superiors, take their feedback professionally, and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. If you feel that their criticism is uncalled for, express your opinion mindfully instead of engaging in heated arguments and counter-questioning.

Become self-aware

“Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection,” says psychologist Courtney E. Ackerman. When we observe our emotions, thoughts, actions, weaknesses, et cetera, we become more aware of how they influence various facets of our life. Self-awareness lets us know whether or not our thoughts, feelings and actions are in sync with the standards that we have set for ourselves. This also helps us understand how others perceive us. You can practice self-awareness through mindfulness meditation, journaling your thoughts and feelings, and seeking external feedback from friends and family.

Practice self-motivation to achieve your goals

Self-motivation helps you take charge of targets that you have set for yourself. While you can always seek help from others, your inner drive towards success is what will propel you towards accomplishing your goals. Never underestimate your capabilities and change your attitude from I cannot to I can. Try to step out of your comfort zone, read inspiring books written by thought leaders or biographies of successful personalities. Tell yourself that if they were able to triumph in the face of adversity, so can you. Even when you experience failure, don’t get frustrated and lose your calm. Use emotional intelligence skills to examine where you went wrong and how you can overcome your weaknesses to succeed.

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