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What is Emotional Intelligence and How Can We Increase It?

Emotional intelligence has become a term loosely thrown around in various situations. Whether it’s utilized to praise someone or put someone down it seems evaluating someone’s emotional intelligence has become as commonplace as recognizing an individual’s intellect. Although the terminology has become more commonplace, do we know what we’re actually saying when we refer to emotional intelligence? “Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, deals with people’s ability to recognize the presence of a negative or ‘hot’ emotional reaction in themselves or others.” Unlike other forms of intellect, having a high level of emotional intelligence allows individuals to manage emotional situations in a positive way, cultivating respect and working towards positive results. For instance, “…researchers on emotional intelligence have identified that 58% of an individual’s successful performance in all types of jobs is attributed to emotional intelligence.” 

This information leaves little room to dispute the importance of this form of intelligence. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that comes naturally to many people and can be difficult to achieve. However, by learning to recognize and control our emotional reactions, we can begin to cultivate and grow our emotional intelligence. Ways to do just that are discussed below. 

Bring Awareness to your Emotions

In order to increase your emotional intelligence, the first step is to begin identifying when exactly your feelings start to show up. We can’t control and utilize our emotions effectively if we’re not aware of the emotions themselves. Bringing awareness to when your emotions start to show can help you to be one step ahead of any reactive or impulsive responses. 

Identify the Thought Preceding the Emotion

When we experience intense emotions, it can be difficult to slow down and identify the thought that sparked the current response. Once you’ve identified the emotion you’re feeling, try utilizing it to narrow down your thoughts. Finishing the sentence, “I’m angry because…” or “I’m sad because…” can bring awareness to the many thoughts that are likely floating around in your mind. Keep in mind that, “The more time you take to identify your thinking, the more complete picture you will gain of what is driving your feelings.”

Focus on Your Values

When we have a strong emotional response it’s likely something has crossed a line or violated one of our values. Once you’re able to identify your values, it’s easier to see if whatever cause the emotional response stemmed from one of your core values being violated. 

Question, Breathe, Move

While it might seem strange, asking or answering questions is a great way to decrease emotional intensity. Either way, it’s necessary to abandon the emotional center of the brain where our protective/reactive center is located in order to ask/answer the question. Once we’ve vacated the emotional center of our brain, it’s crucial to bring awareness to our breath. Typically, when feelings become more heightened our breathing becomes quicker and shallower putting us in a fight, flight, or freeze mode. By intentionally slowing our breathing we allow our cognitive brain to take back control. Additionally, physically moving and bringing awareness to our bodies can ground us in the present moment. 

Change the Language

When our emotions become heightened, we enter a vicious cycle of our strong emotions eliciting strong language and vice versa. However, using positive language leads to more positive emotions creating a more beneficial cycle. Our minds strongly attach feelings to words, which can be harmful but can also be used in our favor. Understanding this connection can allow us to choose words that will shift our emotional intensity to a state that’s more effective. 

By following the steps above, each and every one of us can establish and grow our emotional intelligence leading to more positive experiences and interactions in the day-to-day. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to understand or foster your emotional intelligence, it may be useful to try talking to a licensed therapist. Get in touch with Symmetry Counseling online or call us at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled Chicago counselors today!

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