7 Ways to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence or EQ, which stands for ‘emotional quotient’, is a seemingly new and emerging area of human behaviour and interaction as far as mainstream awareness is concerned. The truth is, emotional intelligence has existed throughout the ages; examples of such can be found throughout history. I will leave the history research to you, if you are interested, but for now let’s focus directly on the subject of EQ and why it is so important to develop as a skill.

There have been several studies completed on the subjects of emotional and academic intelligence, and for some time the two were sort of fused at the hip. The view was, and still is in many countries, that IQ is the best indicator of success in life. People from many countries have placed academic intelligence on a pedestal, even referring to people based on their titles, such ‘Master’s or PhD candidates’, rather than their names, separating the other essential aspects of a person’s character. Many of the studies and data surveys have uncovered the fact that EQ translates into success at a higher frequency than academic intelligence. Although academic intelligence is, of course, important, particularly in certain fields, without a degree of creativity, academic intelligence can become somewhat inert and relies heavily on dogmatic approaches to complex problems.

Being able to retain vast amounts of information, apply this knowledge and achieve the desired outcome is necessary to the integrity of practice. It is of great worth in fields such as engineering and medicine where having a depth of knowledge is imperative. Unlike the aforementioned examples where the importance of IQ holds true, EQ implies a kind of flexibility and ability to interact more effectively with the people and world around you. EQ is about adaptation, understanding, compassion, empathy, sensitivity, intuition and more. It is based heavily on feel and think, rather than memory, repetitive thought and intellect alone.

An emotionally intelligent person is someone who can read others quite well, see through their behaviours and understand the underlying reasons for their actions. It is intellectual agility and flow of thought. A tyrant may impose order and force submission through fear and manipulation, while a true leader will use their EQ to read the people they lead, to understand them and then make decisions based on that understanding. Manipulation is the dark side of EQ. Although it may require EQ to deliberately manipulate others, the truth is, even infants and young children learn how to manipulate through practice, trial, error and success. This kind of manipulation is born out of necessity and want. It is simply a matter of testing the waters until a successful outcome is reached.

Deliberate manipulation for the sake of control and oppression is extremely negative in effect. The immediate results may cause the manipulator to believe they have the upper hand and control over those who are unfortunate enough to be their targets, but this kind of control is false and essentially a ticking timebomb. Once the person or people being manipulated uncover this strategy, or see an opportunity to rid themselves of this control, they will. Manipulation also creates bitterness and resentment, eroding relationships and building anger.

Avoid the dark side of EQ and seek the true and positive version.

The foundations of EQ can be found in psychology, neuroscience, economics, biology and human behaviour in general. It is essential that you practise awareness in every interaction, be willing to dig under the surface and understand the true motivation behind any outward expression. Cultivating EQ requires an open mind, a willingness to learn, sensitivity to the emotions of others as well as your own emotions, intuition and empathy. The practice of mindfulness can be helpful in improving EQ because it helps us become less reactive to the outside world, less judgemental and more transcendent of the interactions we experience.

The following are some steps you can take to help improve your EQ:

  1. Learn, research and study subjects such as psychology, neuroscience, economics, biology and human behaviour.

  2. Practise mindfulness.

  3. People watch: delve into the everyday interactions of others, their dialogue and behaviours. People watching is simply observing others and reading the details.

  4. Learn about body language; after all, the majority of communication is non-verbal.

  5. Test your influence and understanding of others. Try an experiment. Do or say something you believe will have a predictable outcome on another person within a certain context. Of course, not in a negative or manipulative way. Like a game of chess, one move sets up the next. It may be something as simple as causing someone to behave in a certain way or take a particular action. Imagine you want your partner to cook your favourite meal, how could you get them to do it without asking? Maybe you will tell them a day before that you love when they cook this particular meal for you, then you might fill the fridge with the exact ingredients whilst removing other options. Possibly you will cook the night before, making it their turn the following night. In a way, you are setting up triggers that lead someone down a path to a certain expected outcome. Yes, in a way this is manipulation, but as long as it isn’t hurtful at all, then it is a sneaky way to develop your EQ.

  6. Read and research EQ specifically. Buy books, read, study courses, do whatever it takes to improve it.

  7. Understand how you are perceived by others. Anthony Robbins says the definition of communication is not what you intend to communicate, but rather how it is perceived and understood by those you engage with. You may intend to show love, but if someone takes offence to your communicative approach, then love isn’t what you communicated. It is vital that you learn this skill to aid you on your journey forward. It’s about adapting to others, becoming a chameleon of sorts in order to elicit a specific behaviour from another person. In a perfect world, we would simply say what we think and do what we want to do. In a way, it is childish that we have to play such games to please others, but we do. The real world requires us to be strategists of communication at times. What if your boss annoys you, but you know he is thinking about making more redundancies? Would you fire up and lash out? Unlikely. It’s far more likely that you will play the game to keep your head off the chopping block. Unfortunately, sometimes we must play these games, and to have the best chance of winning or surviving, you need to understand how others perceive you in your everyday interactions. To the individual, ‘perception is truth’.

There are other strategies to help you improve your EQ, but these are some of the ones that have served me best. EQ is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal when you are developing and evolving into a more empowered human being.