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Many argue that emotional intelligence, also called Emotional Quotient (EQ), is of more importance than one’s intelligence (IQ) in achieving success in life. Having mature emotional intelligence skills is what enables us to recognize, understand, empathize and negotiate with other people (Akers & Porter, 2020). Emotional intelligence affects one’s performance at school or work, one’s physical and mental health, one’s relationships and one’s social intelligence too (Segal, Smith, Robinson & Shubin, 2019).

Emotional Intelligence can be described as the ability to identify, understand and manage one’s own and others’ emotions, and to use emotional information to guide one’s own thinking and behaviour regulation (Mayer & Salovey, 1990, as cited in Ackerman, 2020). An emotionally intelligent person is known to be more sensitive towards and more in tune with his own and others’ emotions and experiences. This enables one to be a better friend, parent, leader, or romantic partner. Furthermore, such skills can continuously be improved and refined.  The following 5 categories and skills are what one needs to focus on in order to improve his emotional intelligence (Ackerman, 2020; Akers & Porter, 2020):

1. Self-awareness

  • Try to observe and tune into your emotions. Being able to evaluate and recognize your emotions and their effects will enable you to manage them more easily.
  • Evaluate and be aware of your weaknesses, strengths and limits.
  • Get in touch with and be sure of your self-worth, capabilities, and values.

2. Self-regulation

  • Identify your triggers and notice how you react to stressful or overwhelming situations. Try to work on remaining calm, composed and under control. Breathing techniques help.
  • Practice self-discipline and self-control. Meditation and removing temptations helps one to achieve this. 
  • Maintain values of honesty and integrity.
  • Take full responsibility for your actions. 
  • Be open to change, and adapt to it. Try to be flexible in handling it and see it as an exciting opportunity for self-development.
  • Be open to new ideas.

3. Self-motivation

  • What are your goals? Make a list of personal goals you want to achieve.
  • Try to hold a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. This will push you further and will give you the required determination to achieve your goals.
  • Reframe negative thoughts or situations into more positive ones.
  • Commit to your goals.
  • Be optimistic and resilient. Strive to achieve your goals, despite any setbacks.

4. Empathy

  • Try to sense and understand others’ feelings and perspectives.
  • Actively listen and be interested in others’ concerns and needs. 
  • Place yourself in others’ shoes and see things from that perspective. Examine how your actions will affect others before acting and try to understand the consequences as perceived by the other.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable in relationships.
  • Be open to diversity and people from all walks of life.

5. Social Skills

  • Be yourself.
  • Stay present to the moment.
  • Smile; as we know, smiling is contagious.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Notice tensions in your body and try to relax them.
  • Actively listen to people, be interested in their stories and follow up on them.
  • Communicate in a clear way.
  • Love and see the best in people: respect, admire, compliment, forgive, help, and no judgement.

Being mindful and practicing the above skills can help you improve your emotional intelligence. Reading and informing yourself of emotional intelligence is key, however, applying the knowledge to your life is what enables the real growth to take place (Segal, et. al, 2019). At times we might be overridden by stress and daily frustrations, that we might not fulfil such application of knowledge and skills. Therefore, it is important to learn how to handle stress in situations and relationships in order to remain emotionally aware and open to growth (Segal, et. al, 2019). 

Michela Aquilina is a trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy at the Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute Malta (GPTIM) and is working as a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist with Willingness Team. Michela offers therapy to young adults and adults who are experiencing various challenges and issues relating to mental health and psychosocial, emotional wellbeing.

References
Ackerman, C. E. (2020). What is emotional intelligence? + 18 ways to improve it. Positive Psychology. Retrieved from: https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-eq/

Akers, M. & Porter, G. (2020). What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?. PsychCentral. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-emotional-intelligence-eq/

Segal, J., Smith, M., Robinson, L. & Shubin, J. (2019). Improving emotional intelligence. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm#:~:text=Paying%20attention%20to%20others%20doesn,as%20your%20values%20and%20beliefs.