5 Very Practical Ways To Boost Your Emotional Intelligence, According To Psychologists
Emotional intelligence is a popular term that's often thrown around in conversations dealing with effective communication and fostering long-lasting, healthy relationships. However, developing a robust amount of emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ, or emotional quotient) could present as overwhelming, especially if you're not sure where to start or what the term actually means.
Essentially, EQ is honing in on your ability to become aware of and regulate your own emotions while also empathetically being aware of the emotions and reactions of those around you. As you become more and more emotionally intelligent, you're enabled to govern your relationship with yourself and others more efficaciously, even in the face of conflict.
Propitiously, there are practical ways you can start boosting your EQ today and, in turn, grow your self-awareness and improve your relationship with both yourself and others. Below, five psychologists reveal their go-to methods for pragmatically heightening your EQ:
1. Stop distracting yourself when something feels bad.
We've all been there: Something bad happens, whether a breakup or a tough meeting at work, and we come home and drown out the feelings by distracting ourselves with anything that's available to us. According to licensed clinical psychologist Amber Groomes, Ph.D., numbing emotions out is a surefire way to deplete your EQ. "Stop numbing out," Groomes tells mbg. "There are endless ways to numb ourselves to our emotions. Relying on drugs or alcohol, screens, social media, food, television, etc., to avoid feeling our emotions can become a hard-to-break habit that puts us chronically out of touch with what we feel."
When you have an impulse to turn to any of these coping mechanisms, take a step back and ask yourself why you want to escape the emotion you're housing. Once you figure out the excuse, acknowledge it, and then choose instead to sit with your emotion as long as it needs to be felt.
We talk about it all the time here at mbg, but that's because it's the truth: Journaling daily for self-reflection is a great tool to stimulate self-awareness and, tangentially, EQ, according to counseling psychologist Melissa H. Smith, Ph.D.
Her suggested prompts:
- "What lessons did I learn?"
- "How was I challenged today?"
- "How did I grow today?"
- "What did I learn about myself today?"
- "What did I learn about others today?"
3. Create emotional "check-ins."
Check in periodically about your emotional experience. "Set an alarm throughout the day and check in with your emotions," Smith says. "Ask, 'What am I feeling?' Get curious about your emotions and ask, 'What is contributing to these feelings?'"
Cultivate curiosity about your emotional experience and begin to draw a connecting link between your thoughts and your emotions.
4. Practice validating other people's emotions.
Learn to validate. According to Groomes, validating another's emotions means being able to identify what a person is feeling and why that feeling makes sense based on what they are going through.
"When we validate, we are communicating that we really understand another's emotional experience," Groomes explains. Though validation is different from agreeing, she says, "We do not have to agree with someone's emotion in order to understand why they are feeling that way. It's the difference between saying, 'I understand how you feel; I felt that way too when I was fired' and 'I can see how you would feel confused since your boss never gave you a warning about that behavior.'"
5. Try mirroring in conversations with others.
To support your practice of validation, clinical social worker and therapist Alixandra Foisy, LCSW, RYT, suggests repeating what you hear when you're engaged in conversations with others. "We often think we have heard someone but don't really get it," Foisy tells mbg. "By repeating back what someone says in your own words, you can show them that you are listening and want to get it right."
The more you train yourself to identify other people's emotions—and check in to make sure you're right about them—the better you'll be at it.
Of course, after you've begun implementing these five practical EQ-boosting methods, you might want to continue working on your EQ in more in-depth ways by, say, beginning a daily meditation practice or attending therapy sessions if that's accessible to you. And once you've started to cultivate your own sense of self-awareness, you'll notice yourself identifying other emotionally intelligent people around you more easily. Emotionally intelligent people tend to attract and enjoy the company of other emotionally intelligent people, and navigating the process of growth alongside someone else who is committed to expanding EQ can prove to be a beautifully complex and vulnerable process.
Georgina Berbari is a multidisciplinary artist focusing on photography and writing. Through these mediums, she creates works exploring the human body, sexuality, nature and psychology. Her work has been featured in the Hecksher Museum of Art on Long Island, ZEUM Magazine, Women’s Health, Bustle, SHAPE, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. She is a Master's graduate of the creative writing program at Columbia University and a Yoga Alliance RYT-200 yoga and meditation instructor.