Are You Smart About Your Feelings?
By Tara Rummell Berson
Five ways to boost your emotional intelligence.
Who hasn't picked a fight with her guy for some random reason? Or
unintentionally embarrassed or humiliated a good friend? Everyone's emotions go
haywire from time to time, and lead us to behave in undesirable ways. But you
can actually train your brain to keep your emotions from getting the best of
you. Read on for tips on raising your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) —
the measure of your ability to identify, assess, and manage your own emotions
as well as others' — so you can better understand and care for yourself and
enjoy happier, healthier relationships.
"See" your feelings in full color.
Take a moment each day to imagine that you're a blank wall waiting to be
painted, suggests Joshua Freedman, of Six Seconds (6seconds.org), an
emotional-intelligence Website. "Let your imagination run wild as you
assign colors to your feelings and paint your wall," he says. Orange could
signify frustration, for example: You might find that streaks of orange appear
on your canvas when you interact with a certain coworker, indicating that it's
your relationship with that person — not your job itself — that's causing you
workday angst. "Monitoring your mural will help you sense your emotions
more clearly," says Freedman. And once you know your patterns, you can
brainstorm and implement solutions for dealing with people and situations in a
healthy, positive way.
Cultivate your curiosity.
We frequently ask questions out of habit without really caring about the
answer (for example, asking someone, "How's it going?" as you speed by
her in the hallway). "Try honing your empathic skills by asking a question
you want to know the answer to," Freedman suggests. It could be as
simple as, "How is it going with that new babysitter?" When you ask,
look the other person in the eyes and wait for her answer. She'll see that
you're truly interested, so she'll answer thoughtfully — and likely ask how
you're doing. Creating these moments for emotional understanding has its perks,
Freedman adds: Your blood pressure drops when you're fully attentive to what
someone else is saying — plus, you'll develop more satisfying
Pinpoint the situations that shake you up.
Do you always flip out when your kids start whining in the grocery store, or
when your mom offers unsolicited advice? "When something repeatedly bothers
you, take time to reflect on why, and on how you reacted — then work on
concrete ways to stay calm," says psychologist Maurice Jesse Elias, Ph.D.,
coauthor of Educating People to Be Emotionally Intelligent. For example,
if you notice that your voice goes up when your temper flares, try controlling
your tone. "Through deep breathing, make your tone drop from a 5 (on a
scale of 1 to 5), which is 'out of control,' to a 4, which is 'upset,' and then
work your way down to a 1, which is 'under control,'" says Elias. With
practice, you'll be better able to catch yourself before you spin into a
more negative place.