“We are not born with emotional intelligence, so this key aspect of the self must be learned,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear. “Although some people are blessed to have had good EQ modeled for them early in life, we can all improve our emotional intelligence with intentional, consistent self-work.”
On the upside, she points out that EQ is completely non-discriminatory. It isn’t just available for some people, it’s accessible to everyone. And once you have the awareness and exert the effort, you can start up-leveling your EQ. It comes down to five key components: maintaining self-knowledge, exerting self-control, having personal motivation for self-growth, sharpening social skills, and holding space for empathy.
So…no big deal, lol. It can sound a little tall order or existential to some, but there are a few simple and tangible ways to use these concepts. Below, Dr. Manly shares a few tips to raise your emotional intelligence.
How to develop emotional intelligence in 3 concrete ways
1. Pick up journaling as a hobby
“One easy way to begin to raise your EQ is to journal freely; when you journal—and later step back to read what you wrote without judgement—you are increasing your self-awareness,” says Dr. Manly. “And, as self-awareness is a key component of EQ, we can learn a great deal about our inner worlds when we process the fruits of our journaling in a nonjudgmental way.”
2. Adopt a centering practice for when our emotions start to fray
We run away with our emotions with external or physical factors run us down. Being stressed, exhausted, lonely or hungry (oof, especially hungry) can see our emotions get the better of us. Having a go-to regulating technique in your back pocket will keep you present, and not allow misplaced negative emotions to run rampant.
“Strong EQ is based on learning to honor your emotions while not letting them control you,” says Dr. Manly. “Practicing meditation and breathing exercises help build emotional self-regulation, and this increases EQ.”
It also doesn’t hurt to keep a snack in your tote bag, just in case.
3. Look at things from another person’s perspective
As the main character of our own movies (at least, I hope you’re the main character) it’s easy to think that our way is the only way. I, personally, bear a sort of self-righteousness that leads me to A. Feel like I have all the answers and B. Give a lot of unsolicited. And listen, just because I happen to be right…95 percent of the time, doesn’t mean my way is the only way. Sometimes you have to take a step back and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, because even if you don’t completely understand their choices, you’ll at least understand what feelings motivate them.
“As you practice appreciating another person’s perspective and experiences, you are building empathy—a key component of healthy EQ,” says Dr. Manly.
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