People who are emotionally intelligent understand four important things:
1. They are able to read others’ emotions. This is tough, especially when dealing with people who are not very emotion-forward. It is easy to tell someone is sad when they are crying, but how can you tell someone is sad when they are trying to hide it? Emotionally intelligent people can, and with practice, you can too.
2. Emotionally intelligent people are also able to understand and regulate their own emotions. This means that they are in touch with what they are feeling, rather than stuffing it down, mislabeling it, or brushing it aside. The regulation of those emotions is really key — this means being able to wait to show your frustration at your boss until after the meeting, because you know the consequences of showing it at the exact moment you first feel it. It also means holding it together long enough to be there for a sibling when a parent is diagnosed with cancer, even if you are feeling the same amount of fear and sadness they are.
3. Emotionally intelligent people understand that their thoughts create their emotions, and that facilitating and controlling thought has the ability to decrease the power of their emotions. Moods and feelings can also enhance certain kinds of thinking: for example, knowing you are better able to handle conflict when you are calm, and make decisions when you are not upset.
4. Finally, emotionally intelligent people understand the connection between their actions and other people’s emotional reactions. For example, they know that breaking a promise will result in others feeling hurt.
Building emotional intelligence is a tough task, but it’s a great way to improve how you relate with others. One way to build emotional intelligence is to observe your thoughts. Watch how your thoughts connect with your emotions throughout the day. Thoughts release chemicals in the brain that fuel the way we feel about things. Once we notice the connection, we can work to decrease the negative emotions we experience by not giving power to the thoughts that create negative emotions, and by focusing on increasing the thoughts we have that are related to positive emotions.