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10 Ways to Grow in Emotional Intelligence

10 Ways to Grow in Emotional Intelligence

It was a heated team meeting. On the table that day were some “hot topics.” Everyone had different ideas, different perspectives, different opinions... different everything.

Tension was clearly in the air. It was the same tension for everyone present in the room10 Ways to Grow in Emotional Intelligence that day. It was even possible that many of us were feeling the exact same emotions inside—frustrated, angry, disappointed, unheard, impatient, resentful. 

However, not everyone in the room was reacting in the same way.

The team leader was poised and calm, at least on the outside. He listened carefully and patiently, trying to mediate and be a peacemaker for those he was leading. His wife, on the other hand, was anything but calm. She was fuming, and she let us all know it. Openly expressing her thoughts and opinions, it was easy to see that she was not in agreement with the majority. Nothing was hidden—nothing.

Others in the room fell somewhere in between. They were trying to hear the others and understand, but they were also emotionally charged and verbally and non-verbally expressing a full range of emotions and feelings. The emotional reaction among the eight team members went from one extreme to the other. 

How was that possible?

It was the same room, the same meeting, the same topics, the same air, maybe even the same emotions inside. However, on the outside, everyone was expressing and managing their emotions differently.

Yes, personality and character, even family history and background, play a part in how one expresses their emotions. But is there something else going on too? Is it a question of “emotional intelligence”?

How can we know if we have emotional intelligence?

Annie McKee, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "How to Be Happy at Work" and "Primal Leadership," offers a short and simple quiz to help us better understand our level of emotional intelligence. It looks at 5 critical dimensions: emotional self-awareness, positive outlook, emotional self-control, adaptability, and empathy.

If your results show that you already possess high emotional intelligence, good for you! On the other hand, for those of us who have some room (a little or a lot!) to grow in this area, is it even possible? Is there hope? Can we still learn how to identify and manage our emotions, as well as help others around us do the same?

Is it possible to grow in emotional intelligence?

According to Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at University of Massachusetts Amheurst, emotional intelligence can be learned. Many companies and organizations are implementing training programs in order to help their employees develop these much-needed skills. 

For those of us who don’t have an opportunity to have an organized training program in our workplace, here are 10 ways we can grow in emotional intelligence:

  1. Get to know yourself. Take a good look at yourself. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and recognize how you may be seen by others.

  2. Get honest feedback from those you love and trust. Peers, family, and friends can help you identify and uncover your emotional blind spots.

  3. Honestly observe how you react to people. Do you stereotype or judge too quickly? How are others viewing your reaction to them? How are your emotions impacting others?

  4. Examine how you react in stressful situations. Do you become upset and angry when something you want or need is delayed? Do you blame others? Identify your triggers when under pressure.

  5. Own your emotions. If you have hurt someone, apologize and take responsibility for your actions. If you are hurt or offended, pause and reflect on what has happened. Why do you feel this way? Stopping to reflect and identify what’s going on will help you to slow down your emotional reaction.

  6. Try to look at situations from the shoes of others in order to grow in empathy—an important skill in motivating and encouraging others.

  7. Get to know your family members and coworkers better. Learn to ask open questions and to listen well with other-centered listening, not me-centered listening.

  8. Observe other people’s body language and learn how to interpret people’s non-verbal cues. Body language is a huge indicator of emotions going on inside of others.

  9. Listen to your gut and what your body may be telling you. Emotions can be a huge source of valuable information. For example, if you have nervous butterflies or a sick feeling in your stomach every time you interact with your boss, listen to your body and try to understand what is going on inside.

  10. Develop your emotional intelligence by increasing your emotional vocabulary. Instead of just saying “happy,” “sad,” or “angry,” expand your emotional language. See Beyond’s emotions chart is a great tool to help you identify your full range of emotions and learn how to name them. Our charts are now available in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic.

What are my next steps?

Whether it’s obvious to you or not, we can all take a close-up look at how well we do in the area of emotional intelligence. I want and need to grow in this area in order to be a better friend, parent, spouse, coworker, and leader.

Now, I’ve got some next steps to take. I’m going to start by taking the short quiz to identify my areas of strengths and weakness in emotional intelligence, and I’m going to start being more aware of myself, my feelings, and my reactions. I can also learn how to expand my emotional vocabulary with See Beyond’s handy emotions charts.

What are your next steps?

If you need some more help and ideas, here’s a short video from Mind Tools on how to develop emotional intelligence.



About the Author: Marci writes for an IDEAS Associate’s project, SeeBeyond, in North Africa. Click here for the original blog posting, and visit Marci’s website at Enjoy other blog posts by Marci such as, Hobbies – Have You Forgotten How to Have Fun?