Emotional intelligence—or “EQ”—is one of the most powerful tools for success in life. It’s arguably a bigger factor than IQ in determining the success of our relationships. And since relationships are at the core of everything we do in life, it makes sense that EQ would be at the top of the list for crucial life skills.

What is EQ?

Emotional intelligence has five main components:

Self-awareness—The ability to understand our own emotions, where they come from, and what effects they have on others.
Motivation—An internal drive to do better and achieve more.
Self-regulation—Our ability to control our emotions, especially when things get tense. People with high EQ will avoid hurling personal insults or engaging in emotional outbursts.
Empathy—The ability to recognize the feelings of others and put ourselves in their place for better understanding.
Social skills—Being able to communicate what we mean so that others understand.

When we’re skilled in all of these areas, we can readily gain the support of others, avoid conflicts, and lower stress. Our relationships—both personal and professional—will flourish.

How to increase your EQ

Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence is something we can develop with practice and time. It’s a skill that will pay off many times over in the workplace, at home, in our romantic lives—and for our own peace of mind.

Here are 4 ways to improve emotional intelligence:

1. Pay attention to your own feelings

One of the first steps in improving your EQ is paying attention to how you feel. It may seem simple enough, but our own feelings can be neglected in day-to-day life. This can increase stress and affect other people around us as we become more fatigued from built-up pressure.

Start with body language. Pause and pay attention to your body language when you experience different emotions, positive or negative. What do you instinctively do when you get bad news? A lot of people will clench their fists, tighten their breathing, and tense up their shoulders. Release the tension consciously and take control of your breath.

Also, consider writing down your feelings in a journal. It’s not only a good release, but can help you understand more details about how you came to feel a certain way.


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2. Observe other people 

How do people react around you in different situations or when you do certain things? Many people with low EQ will blame others for their feelings and reactions, never taking responsibility for how they process external events. By paying close attention to others, you may notice a pattern of personal behavior which will give you the opportunity to nip your negative and reactionary responses in the bud.

3. Empathize

Pause before reacting and put yourself into the other person’s place. How would you feel in his or her position?What could be a possible reason for their behavior? I’ll often do this while driving. It’s a quick way to release tension and prevent road rage. Sure, “X” drove fast and cut me off, but maybe “X” just had a fight with his or her spouse and isn’t conscious of erratic driving. That’s not a justification, but understanding others’ behavior helps diffuse many situations—while also making us better negotiators.

4. Active listening

Here’s one skill that many people could improve. Active listening is a deliberate attempt to not only hear what someone is saying, but to understand it. This sounds simple enough, but many people will nod to give the impression of listening, but will actually just be waiting to reply—or ignore the other person altogether.

Those with low EQ will impulsively start talking about themselves every chance they get, no matter what the topic is.

For active listening, try what I call the “Snowball Technique.” This approach, when successfully employed, will build a conversation, “snowballing” into mutual understanding. Here’s how it works:

Listen to his/her words—Focus on each thing he/she says and pay attention to key points. This will come in handy later.
Repeat the message back to him/her—Repackage what he/she just said in your own words. This will show you’re listening and also help you understand better because you’re using your own language. Any misunderstandings can be filtered out here.
Add your opinion, if appropriate—To keep things conversational, consider adding your two cents. But be aware of others sharing thoughts or feeling that don’t need your opinion. In these cases, just acknowledge that you heard and understand.
Dig deeper—Now bring it full circle and ask a “why” question. Why is he/she interested in that? Why did he/she start engaging in this activity? This question will uncover motivations and go beyond the superficial.
Recall—Since you were paying close attention, you’ll be able to bring up points or topics that came up earlier in the conversation. You can tie it into the current topic or move to another one. Either way, your listening abilities will be clear and will create the opportunity to connect on a deeper level.

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Eddy Baller is a confidence coach who specializes in overcoming shyness and relationship skills. He helps guys crush personal obstacles to become the kind of men that women desire and men respect. Learn more about about Eddy’s confidence and dating coaching at conquerandwin.com.