Have you ever felt out of touch with your own emotions? Do you wish you could empathize more with the way others feel? Try these six exercises to improve your emotional intelligence and become an emotional Einstein!
Take an Emotional Inventory
During a typical day, you probably feel dozens of emotions, and these emotions influence your actions. It is easy to go about your business without examining why you do the things you do, but for one day, attempt to track your feelings. When you notice you are conducting an activity on autopilot, take a moment to analyze your thoughts and the way you feel and write them down in a journal. When you develop an ability to identify the emotional motivation behind your actions, you will grow a much better understanding of yourself and the ways you feel.
Knowing how you feel is one thing. Being able to express how you feel to others is another. Once you can identify your own emotions accurately, it is just as important to be able to convey them to others in an appropriate manner. And the only way to become better at expressing your emotions is to do it! The next time you are feeling scared, sad, excited, or another of the thousands of emotions under the sun, call a friend or relative who you feel has a high EQ. Tell them the situation you are experiencing that your emotions stem from. Ask them to identify what emotions they think you are feeling and see if they match up with your own identifications. If you find yourselves in conflict, discuss ways that you could have conveyed your emotional state more clearly.
Learn to Manage Your Negative Emotions
Stress, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the negative emotions you may experience over the course of a day or week. Becoming more emotionally intelligent requires an ability to manage your negative emotions. After you have learned to identify your feelings, you must attempt to mitigate the negative ones when they occur. Different strategies work for different people, but you may find it helpful to create a list, either mental or written down, of solutions that work for you when your emotions are not working in your favor. Refer to your list when you are experiencing harmful emotions and counteract them with one of your personal strategies.
Take a Lesson in Listening
There's an old saying, "God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak." In the recipe for improving your emotional intelligence, listening is a key ingredient. The next time a friend comes to you with a problem, make a conscious effort to truly listen to what he is saying. Allow him to fully express himself before jumping in with your opinions. Listening intently before speaking will allow you to perceive his emotions in the most accurate manner possible before coloring your advice with your own predispositions.
Study Nonverbal Emotional Cues
Oftentimes, people get their points across without saying a word. In understanding and empathizing with the emotions of others, it is important to accurately evaluate their nonverbal cues. To practice this, try watching part of a movie or television show with the volume turned down*. See if you are able to tell what emotions the actors are portraying by their facial expressions and body language.
*Just make sure you choose a quality show or movie, not a cheesy soap or direct-to-DVD flick!
Try Personality Mirroring
If you've ever watched "The Office," you know of character Andy Bernard's humorous exploits in personality mirroring. Even if you haven't seen the show, however, you can take a page from Mr. Bernard's book - in a more serious way, of course. Personality mirroring is a good way to read the emotions others are displaying and reflect these same emotions back to them through your actions. If you are able to effectively mirror others' personalities, in the right situations, this technique can help you to increase rapport with professional contacts and build relationships with casual friends.
While exploring your own emotions and those of others can be intimidating, difficult, and sometimes confounding, it can also be rewarding. If you are willing to take time to hone your emotional intelligence, you never know where it may lead you.