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10 ways to improve your emotional intelligence (EQ)

Having a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ) is what will make the difference between getting the job at the end of an interview or never getting a call back, being given more leadership opportunities at work or staying in a stagnant career, and landing the next big client or struggling to retain your existing book of business. Whether you’re just starting your career, or you’re a top executive, leading research proves that emotional intelligence is the most important factor that distinguishes between top performers and everyone else.

So what is EQ anyways?

Your EQ is what determines how you manage your own behaviour and the emotions of others, how you build relationships and navigate social situations, and your ability to harness your emotions and apply them to achieving results. While each of us has some degree of emotional intelligence, it can be difficult to know how strong your own EQ is and how to improve the areas you’re lacking in.

How high is your EQ?

If you’re curious to know how high your EQ is, you can take a scientifically valid test, like the one offered in the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you’re short on time, we’ve pulled the top indicators of a high EQ and listed them below.

  • You often have a positive outlook
  • You show gratitude to those around you
  • You aren’t a “grudge holder”
  • You’re generous (and don’t expect paybacks)
  • You’re good at reading other people
  • You take time to self-reflect
  • You’re curious about people and care about their well-being

10 ways to improve your EQ

While it’s true that we are born with an innate degree of emotional intelligence, thankfully due to ‘plasticity,’ our brain’s ability to change and learn new skills, it is possible to increase your EQ.

Below is a list of the top 10 strategies and behaviours that will lead to strengthening your emotional intelligence and in turn, opening the door for you to achieve your next big thing.

  1. Identify your own emotional patterns. Do you lose your patience with the same colleague again and again? Are you holding onto a grudge for weeks or even months? When was the last time you did something for someone else without expecting anything in return?
  1. Assume positive intent. After you’ve worked with someone for a period of time, you begin to hold a ‘script’ about that person that might not be truly fair to who they are or what they are about. Everyday try to see your colleagues with fresh eyes and remember that 95% of people have positive intent and want to do a good job. 
  1. Never interrupt. With pressing deadlines, smart phones and a constant need for multi-tasking it’s easy to get distracted or think about the next thing you need to do when you’re in a conversation. But, truly listening is the key to building relationships, and remember, it's rude to check your smart phone when someone’s talking to you. 
  1. Work to diffuse situations—not elevate them. It’s easy to get worked up and be the person who escalates problems to the next level. Companies are looking for individuals who are solution oriented and problem solvers, not problem creators, and this applies to interoffice working relationships as well.
  1. Be humble. Being humble means that you take accountability for your own actions and that you’re a team player. Showing humility also demonstrates that you care about other people and not just what benefits your own personal plan.
  1. Listen to your body. Often physical cues that we are upset or stressed out appear before we realize our own emotions. Remember that your body and mind aren’t separate, they’re connected and that your body language can often give away what you’re really thinking, even when you think you’re feelings aren’t obvious. 
  1. Practice a new habit until it becomes natural. If something like providing positive feedback doesn’t come naturally to you, the best way to foster a new skill is to practice it until it becomes natural. Set a reminder to thank your team at the end of an email and before you know it, this will become the usual way you end your messages.
  1. Improve your ability to be empathetic. When you truly understand how someone is feeling, you can use that information to better inform your decisions and improve your relationships. Try to see where someone else might be coming from, and remember there are often parts of people’s lives that we don’t see or don’t understand. 
  1. Be open-minded. Flexibility and adaptability are two of the most sought-after traits from employers today. If you find that you fear change or react negatively to new situations, increase your EQ by decreasing your urge to resist new opportunities, and welcome different ways of approaching your day-to-day work.
  1. Take a break and recharge. One of the number one indicators of people who have a high EQ is the ability to know when enough is enough. Sometimes walking away or proactively taking time to recharge can be the best thing to boost your performance. And this means taking time away from technology too.