Emotional intelligence is also known as emotional quotient (EQ), recognizing the contrast between emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence (IQ). Leading psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, is just one of the many experts who believe EQ is more important than IQ as a predictor of success, arguing that IQ is simply too narrow to represent the wide spectrum of human abilities.
While there may not be a definitive answer on which is more important for success, it’s certainly clear that emotional intelligence plays a huge role. As an example, at one insurance company, sales agents who ranked highly for EQ measures (yes, it can be measured, just like IQ) were found to sell insurance policies worth an average of $114,000 – while colleagues who ranked lower for EQ measures sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. That’s quite a performance difference!
Emotional intelligence may seem like one of those qualities that you either have or don’t have. But it’s absolutely something you can learn and improve. At a very basic level, you’re aiming to be more aware of your emotions and the emotions of those around you – and ideally, learning to regulate those emotions.
Here are nine simple and practical ways to achieve this:
- Be curious. There’s a scientific link between curiosity and emotionally intelligent behaviors. This makes sense when you think about it – part of being emotionally intelligent is being curious about how others feel (and, of course, how you feel). So why not show an active interest in the people around you by engaging them with open-ended questions? Nothing personal, mind you, not unless you know the person well. Try simply asking about their goals, interests, or challenges. It may give you a good insight into how they’re feeling.
- Listen actively and intently. To understand how others are feeling, you have to pay attention. What are they telling you, both with their words and their body language?
- Practice empathy. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes is a key component of emotional intelligence. But when did you last consciously put yourself in someone else's shoes? With our busy, stressful lives, we don't always take the time to stop and think, "How would I feel if I was in their situation?" So try practicing this more often when you talk to people. You might be surprised at how powerful this exercise is when it comes to grasping another person’s point of view.
- Identify and analyze your own emotions. Try to observe how you're feeling – perhaps even apply a label to the feeling, such as anger or happiness – and consider how this might influence your behavior and decisions. Over time, as you become more accustomed to analyzing how you feel, you should find it easier to stop and think before you act rather than letting emotions take over.
- Learn to accept your own emotions. When observing how you feel, practice accepting your emotions without judgment. This can be really hard when you're feeling something like jealousy or anger because we're hard-wired to feel ashamed of such feelings. But accepting your emotions is the first step in being able to manage them.
- Be mindful. A great way to tune into your emotions is to practice mindfulness (being fully present in the moment). Take a few moments to really focus on everything that’s going on inside and around you – thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc. – and use this understanding to analyze your feelings in more detail. This can be especially useful in times of stress.
- Keep a journal. Journaling is another great way to tune into your feelings. Take a few minutes each day to write down how you felt across the day and reflect on where those emotions might have stemmed from.
- Measure your emotional intelligence – and track your progress. As I mentioned, EQ can be measured, just like IQ. There are lots of tools online that will help you measure your EQ and identify areas that you might want to work on. If you repeat the measures over time (say, every six months or once a year), you should be able to see your improvement.
- Invest in an emotional intelligence course. There are free courses online, so this doesn’t even necessarily require a financial investment. More, it’s about investing your time and energy in self-directed study and making a commitment to your continual learning.