Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the name psychologist Daniel Goleman gave to our ability to understand and manage our emotions in ourselves and those in the people around us. There have been many books and articles written since about how EQ influences our chances of success in life and work, but what about everyday life?
Understanding our emotions and recognizing how they influence other people’s behaviors can help us navigate stressful and turbulent situations. From being better prepared to give a speech at work to delivering bad news to a family member, EQ is useful in every part of life.
Here are a few ways we can use emotional intelligence to reduce stress and develop deeper relationships with the people around us.
Think About Your Feelings
Being emotionally intelligent, you’re self-aware of your emotions and how they impact your life and work. You can label them accurately and describe how they affect your behavior. EQ also gives you the ability to recognize emotions and their impact on those around you. You can recognize how someone’s behavior is influenced by their emotions and can react accordingly. For example, a friend who suffers from anxiety knows what feelings bubble up for her when she gets anxious, so she can recognize it in other people and offer help if they want it.
Name Your Emotions
Fear of the unknown can heighten our feelings because we’re not sure of what’ll happen next. Social cues help us learn about what’s going on, but even then, our emotions sometimes spin out of control. But when we label the feeling and sensations we’re feeling (“I’m scared” or “My thoughts are racing”), it decreases their impact on us. The simple act of labeling our emotions helps create a bit of distance between us, making it easier to deal with.
Showing empathy helps you connect with others. It helps you see the world through their eyes because you seek to understand things from their perspective. Because you’re able to recognize emotions better, you’ll recognize them in others and understand why they’re behaving the way they do. With empathy, you’ll build deeper relationships with the people around you and the world at large.
Focus on What You Can Control
Emotions are so fleeting that they’re hard to control. What you can control are your reactions to the emotions, so they don’t lead to a complete meltdown. Some experts say to focus on your thoughts as your emotions rise since they can often spin out of control at the same time. It’ll help you regain control of the situation, which will help you corral your emotions too and channel them into something more productive. For example, if you’re nervous giving a speech to a crowd, think about your process for getting up on the stage, where you’ll stand, and what you’ll do once you’re done.
Give Feedback & Praise
Feedback is useful, but only if it’s constructive. Most of us take any feedback very poorly and react emotionally to it, causing us to miss the intention or message behind it. We’re so blinded by our emotions that we miss the helpful part of it. Someone who’s emotionally intelligent understands how words can influence emotion and can give constructive feedback useful to the recipient.
But it’s not just feedback we should give. We should offer praise too, even if it’s a simple thank you that acknowledges a small kindness or action. By sharing what we appreciate from others, we’ll inspire people to do those things more often. Mark Victor Hansen, the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, wrote on Success, “Have a positive, joyful attitude, and you’ll have positive, joyful results.”
The next time you feel your emotions rising, take a moment to think about your EQ. Use these techniques to learn more about yourself and those around you. You’ll gain a different perspective on how you react to situations and why people around you behave the way they do. And maybe you’ll gain a little compassion for yourself and others. Who couldn’t use more of that?