What makes someone successful? Is it book smarts, street smarts or a combination of the two? Is someone naturally gifted in their field? In fact, most successful people have emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is knowing how to remain calm in the face of adversity and collected and focused despite external challenges. Moreover, it is the quality that makes people happy and successful.
That is good news because unlike being naturally-gifted, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned, practiced and improved.
In a study on emotional intelligence, a group of participants given emotional intelligence training were better able to handle difficult situations and manage their emotions than the group that received no training at all. The study also showed that the one-time training lasted well beyond the experiment. This means the work you do now will benefit you well into the future.
Here are 6 ways to develop your emotional intelligence:
1 – Be Self-Aware
The first step to increasing your emotional intelligence is to understand your emotions by becoming aware of them. We are often told to hide our feelings but to tap into your emotional intelligence you need to feel.
Start by observing what you are feeling during one given day. Stop yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling.
Feel it and then describe it. When you describe it, you are becoming more aware and will begin to understand your emotional triggers and patterns.
2 – Adapt Your Emotions
Now that you are becoming more aware of your emotions start looking for patterns and triggers. Look back at a situation where your emotions got the best of you and think of what you would do differently if you had remained calm and collected.
This mental exercise isn’t about beating yourself up; it is about learning from your past experiences to better prepare you for the future. The best place to be when reacting to a situation is in a place of calm. Once you begin to recognize the patterns, you can talk yourself out of overreacting and begin to react with more intention.
3 – Forgive
Forgiveness is often misinterpreted as letting someone off the hook. The reality is forgiveness is about taking back emotional control over your feelings and releasing the control someone else has over you. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
Forgiveness is acknowledging that the action happened and how it made you feel. There is nothing there that can be changed. You can choose to reside in the feelings of the past or choose to move through them. Moving through it and letting it go is the one the healthiest and most beneficial things you can do for yourself.
4 – Be Empathetic
Understanding your feelings is only half the equation, the other half is understanding and being able to imagine how others feel. Empathy connects you to another person through shared feelings.
By nature we are selfish beings; we want what we want. And that works just fine until you have to interact with another selfish person. It is through shared feelings that we begin to find our true, authentic self. Our ability to empathize with people gives us the courage to live outside of ourselves.
5 – Manage Criticism
We are critical beings, and one of the best and easiest ways to increase emotional intelligence is to stop taking everything so seriously. In other words, lighten up.
How you manage the criticism you receive, can impact every area of your life. If you are holding onto critical statements and carrying them with you throughout the day, that negativity is infecting everything you touch.
It’s important to realize that most criticism that evokes negative feelings in us is usually designed for that purpose by the other person. When we react negatively to criticism, whether constructive or not, we are reacting out of our fears and insecurities.
Go back to becoming more self-aware and adapt your emotions to the situation. When you begin to react to criticism from a place of calm rather than anger, you begin to see the criticism as a valuable tool for improving your performance and showing someone’s true colors.
6 – Stand Up for What Is Right
When you begin to develop your emotional intelligence, you are just trying to get better acquainted with your feelings and how to adapt them to serve you better. Every interaction comes with emotions from everyone involved, and now it’s time to take your emotional intelligence to a new level by standing up for what is right.
Gossiping is a prime example. When you are in a conversation that includes gossip, you might not have the most positive feelings yet you let the gossip go on. There are a million reasons why you do: you don’t want to offend anyone, you want to be part of the crowd, or you don’t know how to take a stand.
By not doing what is right, which is speaking from your experience, you are not adapting your emotions to the situation, you are giving in to them. Do what’s right and take a stand for your truth. It is not always easy swimming upstream, but the effort always pays off in the end.
Developing and growing your emotional intelligence is something that anyone can do. It doesn’t require a high IQ or access to higher education, it simply requires you to become vulnerable enough to listen and learn from your feelings.