Emotional Intelligence. You've most likely heard of it before but could you describe it to me if I asked you what it means? Most people find this difficult, but it needn't be. In fact, if we learn to listen to our emotional intelligence we can get much better results out of life, from our home life and relationships to workplace situations.
So how do I start enhancing my emotional intelligence you ask? Well you are in luck, as there are a number of ways in which you can do so!
1. Listen to your body
Our bodies are amazing things. Often times we overlook the clues they give us regarding how we are feeling about various situations. For example, that knot in your stomach when you wake up in the morning may be a clue you are feeling stressed. Or that flutter you get in your stomach when your date turns up may indicate an attraction to this person. Pay closer attention to your own body language and see how much insight you gain into your feelings.
2. Tune in to other's body language
You are chatting with your partner after work and you are worried about an upcoming job review so you find yourself being distracted and not really listening to them. They are unaware of your worry and keep discussing their day with you. You notice them frown or look at you with confusion on their face. This is where the emotionally intelligent person reads these non-verbal queues and realises they need to clue their partner in on why they seem distant. It might be tempting to just say 'I've had a long day and don't feel like talking' but this might shut your partner out and leave them feeling even more confused and maybe even wondering if they have done something to upset you. Rather, to encourage the emotional connection in the relationship, the emotionally intelligent individual might respond by saying, 'I'm sorry that I am not paying close attention to you tonight. I have a job review coming up and its making me so nervous that I can't focus on anything else.' This will clue the partner in to why you are shut down to them and may encourage further discussion where your partner has the ability to support you in your worry.
3. Ask a friend
Not really sure how you are feeling? Why not ask a friend or family member for their input? Other people can be a great tool for working out how you are feeling and how you are coming across. Asking someone you know and trust how you seem can be eye-opening and informative. In my work as a psychotherapist I have seen time and again that a problem shared really is a problem halved!
4. Pick up a pen
A handy tool for self exploration and good mental health is to write your thoughts and feelings down. This can be as simple and quick a task as starting the day by jotting down five things you are grateful for. Or, if you've a little more time on your hands why not keep a log log book of your day to day feelings, assessing your mood on a scale of 1 to 10. This can be extremely helpful in identifying days when your feelings are more extreme allowing you the chance to think about any ideas or associations attached to those feelings. Research has proven time and again that journaling is good for your health and happiness!
5. Make time to chill out and relax
Sometimes we find ourselves dwelling too much on our feelings and when these feelings are negative, we end up stressing ourselves out. Learn to acknowledge when you need to stop looking inward and focus more on the world around you. Mindfulness can be a great tool for relaxation and living in the here and now. Focus on your breathing, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you or find a guided meditation on youtube. Maybe you just want to escape in the pages of a book, whatever it is that helps you to switch off, do it! Emotional intelligence involves more than just the ability to look inwards, its about being present in the world around you too!