How to boost your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence or EQ has become a popular concept, and you can see its widespread application in many settings, such as schools and businesses. A definition of emotional intelligence I like is the ‘intelligent use of emotions’, or the capability to access the full range of our emotions and use them appropriately. Research makes a strong case for developing emotional intelligence. From increased self-awareness to improved decision making and better relationships, being ‘emotionally intelligent’ generally makes life a lot easier to navigate by helping us get along with ourselves and others! And if Personal, Academic and Professional Development is important to you, which it is for most of us, being ‘emotionally intelligent’ will do your Development no harm at all. I hope my blog, How to boost your emotional intelligence, is full of ideas to help you boost yours.

How to boost your emotional intelligence. Image shows a tower of batteries that are boosting their power.

How to boost your emotional intelligence: conversations

Conversations, those we have with ourselves (self-talk) and others, can play a crucial role in developing emotional intelligence. Conversations supply the ‘raw material’ that our mind/body systems use to construct our reality – how we view ourselves and the world around us. Harmful conversations produce harmful material, which can lock us into toxic or unhealthy states. Once locked in, we can’t be emotionally intelligent as we only have access to damaging, even destructive emotions. So to boost your emotional intelligence, you need to know which of your conversations are healthy or harmful. Only when you know the answer can you strengthen and encourage your positive conversations and improve or end your negative ones. In the section below is my Conversations With Impact Questionnaires, which can help.

Conversations With Impact Questionnaires

Start by listing your existing conversations, including your self-talk. Then, looking at the list below, consider the importance of each quality or characteristic to you. Choose a number between 1 and 7 (1=none at all, 7=all that you need) that reflects the degree to which a conversation possesses each quality or characteristic. If one is not essential to you, i.e. it makes no difference one way or the other, give it a 7. For those that are important to you, score it appropriately. For your self-talk, replace ‘the person’ with ‘myself’ for the first statement, and then replace the pronouns for the others. For example, ‘I trust myself,’ ‘I understand myself and what I need from me.’

  • I trust the person
  • They understand me and what I need from them
  • I feel respected by them
  • They have the ideas, skills and knowledge I need
  • They do not judge me and accept me for who I am
  • They have the ideas, skills and knowledge I need
  • The conversation follows my agenda, not theirs
  • They believe in me and my potential for change
  • They give me the time that I need
  • I feel challenged by them in a good way
  • They respect my need for confidentiality
  • I feel they genuinely listen to me
  • I can say what I really want to them
  • They are truly interested in me
  • They help me to make sense of my situation
  • They help me set clear, realistic goals and strategies
  • They help me find solutions
  • My conversations with them make a difference
  • They have the X-Factor

What did you discover? Are you having positive conversations that can boost your emotional intelligence? If you are, then great, but if not, how can you change your conversations to find more of the qualities and characteristics you need? 

The role of emotions

At the risk of stating the obvious, being emotionally intelligent means possessing a good understanding of emotions – what they are and why we have them. I encourage people to think of emotions as messages containing critical information about important areas of our lives and how we are handling life. Understood in this way, emotions such as anxiety and depression are messages of concern and those like joy and flow are ones of contentment. Being emotionally intelligent helps someone accurately translate their emotional messages to determine which areas of their lives require their attention and the actions they need to take. If they can’t do this, then they can’t positively influence how they feel, which is a definition of poor emotional intelligence. In order to boost your emotional intelligence, you need to become an expert at translating your emotions and the messages they have for you. The activity in the section below will help.

The Meaning Map

The Meaning Map connects emotions to key life areas. Completing the activity will help you identify which of your areas are in good shape and which need tackling.  

Using a 0-10 scale (0=very good shape, 10=very bad shape), choose a number that represents how you feel about each of the areas below. 

  • Identity: self-esteem/worth, role and status
  • Home and family life
  • Relationships
  • Work/Career/professional
  • Health (mental and/or physical)
  • Financial
  • Lifestyle
  • Social and cultural
  • Environment
  • Past, present or future

As a general rule, scores of:

  • 7 or more indicate areas that are likely to be a major stressor for you
  • 5 or 6 indicate areas that are likely to be moderate stressors for you
  • 4 or below indicate areas that are likely to be positive or very positive

What did you discover? Do you have any high scores? If you do, be good to yourself and commit to doing something about them. Improving your emotional intelligence depends on it. 

Understanding your patterns

Human beings run their lives on the following four patterns:

  • thinking
  • behaving
  • feeling
  • relating (to people, places and ‘stuff’)

Unsurprisingly, the patterns of people with good emotional intelligence tend to be in harmony and form the foundation for a productive and rewarding life. This doesn’t mean that emotionally intelligent people never struggle. Instead, they notice and respond accordingly whenever their patterns deteriorate and threaten to undermine their wellbeing. For example, let’s say someone suddenly becomes irritable and intolerant towards others. Being emotionally intelligent means they will quickly identify this change to their normal patterns, uncover the cause, and do something about it. Emotionally intelligent people can look at themselves critically and objectively, giving them access to their full range of patterns and the ability to modify them where necessary. Therefore, to boost your emotional intelligence, you need to regularly build detailed pictures of your patterns to pick up on any problems. My Pattern Builder below can help.

The Pattern Builder

Answering the questions below can help you build a detailed picture of your patterns and any problems that might undermine your emotional intelligence. 

  1. When, where and with whom were you when your problems started?
  2. What stressors or changes were occurring in your life around the start of your problems?
  3. How often do your problems occur, and how long do they last?
  4. What significant persons are present or absent when your problems occur?
  5. Where do your problems occur?
  6. What are the steps involved in the generation of your problems? Put another way, can you identify the stages where you go from not doing your problems to doing so?
  7. When do your problems NOT occur?
  8. What do you think other people know about your problems, e.g. friends, family or colleagues?
  9. What are your beliefs about your problems? For example, I can never change them? They are my fault?

The power of acceptance

For most people, life is a series of ups and downs. Understandably, we like the good times to last as long as possible and the bad ones to enjoy only a short welcome. But sometimes, what we want isn’t what we get, a predicament in which being emotionally intelligent can come in very handy. One of the defining characteristics of emotional intelligence is finding acceptance in the face of adversity. Instead of denial or avoidance, emotionally intelligent people confront hardship head-on. All denial or avoidance achieves is to stop someone from seeing the world as it is, meaning they might fail to act in a crisis. Emotionally intelligent people avoid this trap by seeing acceptance not as resignation but as the first stage of transformation and catalyst for action. Here’s an analogy. A boat is taking on water. The emotionally intelligent person locates and plugs the hole in the side of the boat. In contrast, the emotionally intelligent person allows it to sink. So to boost your emotional intelligence means accepting when times are hard, digging deep and drawing on your strengths to get you through.

Facing up to the challenge

As most of us know, making progress in life means making challenge work for rather than against us. Too little challenge can leave us feeling bored, hopeless or depressed, and too much challenge can leave us stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out. Having good emotional intelligence means being able to tune in to and understand emotions associated with unhelpful levels of challenge. And with understanding comes the ability to:

  • connect our emotions to the areas of our lives that have unhelpful levels of challenge
  • recognise the resources we need to change the levels of challenge in our priority areas until they become helpful

Poor emotional intelligence makes it harder to spot when levels of challenge have become too low or too high, making it easier to become trapped by them. Therefore, to boost your emotional intelligence means developing the ability to adjust your levels of challenge by:

  • connecting emotions and areas
  • finding resources

The activities in the next section can help

The Challenge Audit

The first activity is to repeat The Meaning Map, highlighting your priority areas, i.e., those that pose the greatest challenge and require attention. The second activity, called The Challenge Audit (below), helps you work out what resources you need to tackle these areas.

Below are nine categories of resources. Using a 0-10 scale (0=you have none of a resource, 10=you have all you need), assign a number that reflects how much of each resource you have.

  • RESOURCES Do I have what I need? If I don’t, can I find them myself, or does someone else have what I need?
  • SKILLS & ABILITIES Do I have what is required? If I don’t, can I develop them independently, or will I need support?
  • CONFIDENCE & BELIEF Do I have enough? If I don’t, can I build these qualities on my own, or will I need the backing of others?
  • WELLBEING Do I feel resilient? If I don’t, can I increase my own resilience, or will I need encouragement?
  • SUPPORT Do I have enough around me? If I don’t, where does it exist, and who will provide it?
  • MOTIVATION Do I feel sufficiently energised? If I don’t, can I galvanise myself, or will I need inspiration from colleagues and peers?
  • TIME Do I have spare capacity? If I don’t, can I create it individually, or will I need to collaborate?
  • ENVIRONMENT Am I in the right environment? If not, can I change my existing surroundings, or do I need to be somewhere else?
  • STRATEGY Do I have the right strategies? If I don’t, how will I acquire them? On my own or through co-operation?

As with The Meaning Map, scores of:

  • 7 or more indicate resources you definitely need more of
  • 5 or 6 indicate resources you will need to find more of in time
  • 4 or below indicate resources you have enough of, even if a little more would do no harm at all

What did you discover about the current state of your resources? You will know if you have the right resources in the correct quantity because your emotional intelligence will improve.

How to boost your emotional intelligence: transformation

Fact: we are all transforming whether we like it or not, otherwise known as the ageing process. Ideally, we are in control of this process, and, yes, you guessed it, good emotional intelligence can help. Emotionally intelligent people often have a well-developed sense of who they want to be and what they want to do in life. Consequently, they can visualise their personal and professional futures and direct their energies towards achieving them. Put another way, they see transformation as both the journey and the destination and spend time travelling between the two to keep them connected. The opposite is true for people with poor emotional intelligence. Without a well-developed sense of identity, status and role, it is hard for them to visualise a desirable destination and the journey that could take them there. So for the final way to boost your emotional intelligence, you need to create a solid future vision for yourself and a well-mapped journey you can follow to get you there. As a coach and therapist, I fully appreciate that while this is not an easy task, it is achievable. The activity below can get you started.

Visualising your transformation

My Destination Finder activity can help you visualise your desired destination and the journey that can take you there. Consider the areas from The Meaning Map that are most important to you and that you wish to transform. Then follow the steps below.

  • Step One: establish your current reality: how is your life right now? Describe yourself, what you do, and the life you lead.
  • Step Two: now establish a desired future for yourself (your destination). Who would you like to be, what would you like to be doing, and what life would you like to be leading?
  • Step Three: establish a timeline of when this transformation might occur, i.e. when you have reached your destination. Is it a month, 6 months or a year?
  • Step Four: take some time to deepen the ‘vision’ of your destination. Make it a multisensory experience: imagine, engage and fully ’embody’ this future state for yourself. Some questions you can ask are: What is happening? What do I see? Who am I now? What am I doing? What has changed? How have I changed? Speak as if your desired future were a reality, i.e. “This is who I am, this is what I am doing, and this is the life I am living.”
  • Step 5: from this future state, look back and describe the journey you took to get to your destination. Travel back through the stages you went through, speaking in the present as if you are there, e.g. “To get to this stage, I achieved this,” or “To get to that stage I achieved that.”
  • Step Six: Then bring yourself back to the present—the now—and explore what this exercise has given you in terms of learning, understanding and insight. What actions will you take to start the journey that will take you to your desired destination?
  • Step Seven: approach this exercise as a work in progress. Repeating regularly will help maintain your progress.

How to boost your emotional intelligence: getting support

I hope you have enjoyed my blog, How to boost your emotional intelligence. If you would like support, I’d love to hear from you. My IMPACT Model and IMPACT Programmes have helped many people boost their emotional intelligence (read my testimonials).

To book an initial consultation, visit my Make a Booking page. You will have the opportunity to tell me about what you are going through and find out how I can support you. Even if you choose not to work with me, I promise your consultation will give you more ideas, knowledge and insight than you had before.

Here is another good article on emotional intelligence.