I was meeting with a Christian leader last month, let’s call him Dave. Dave was frustrated with one of his team members. His team member has good leadership skills and worked hard but the way he interacted with others was a little off. In short, Dave’s team member was not very self aware, he didn’t understand why people responded to him negatively or didn’t do what he said. Dave knew he needed to have a conversation with this team member and came to me wanting advice. Instead, I asked Dave a couple of questions… how did he feel about his team member, how was he responding to his team member and what would be the most beneficial to his team member. Dave became more aware of how he was responding and the impact that had. Dave went away from our conversation with some next steps for this conversation and feeling more confident in his leadership ability.

I had a follow up meeting with Dave this week, and I asked him how the conversation went? His response: “It couldn’t have gone better! So much better than I expected” – how great is that!

Dave became more aware of his emotions and how that affected the conversation with his team member. He adjusted his behaviour and came out with a very successful leadership win!

So how do we do this ourselves? How can we increase our own emotional intelligence?

Definition Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how they affect the people around you. People who function at a high rate of emotional intelligence have the ability to adjust their behaviors and are more effective at recognizing and managing their own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

3 tips to increase your emotional intelligence

1. Observe

In the process of rushing from one commitment to the next, meeting deadlines, and responding to external demands, many of us lose touch with our emotions. When we do this, we’re far more likely to act unconsciously, and we miss out on the valuable information that our emotions contain.

Whenever we have an emotional reaction to something, we’re receiving information about a particular situation, person or event. The reaction we experience might be due to the current situation, or it could be that the current situation is reminding us of a painful, unprocessed memory.

When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become far more adept at managing them. If you’re feeling out of practice, try the following exercise:

Set a timer for various points during the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what the sensation feels like. The more you can practice this, the more it will become second nature.

2. Respond rather than react

There’s a subtle but important difference between responding and reacting.

Reacting is an unconscious process where we experience an emotional trigger, and behave in an unconscious way that expresses or relieves that emotion (for example, feeling irritated and snapping at the person who has just interrupted you).

Responding is a conscious process that involves noticing how you feel, then deciding how you want to behave (for example, feeling irritated, explaining to the person how you feel, why this isn’t a good time to be interrupting you, and when would be better).

3. Take responsibility

Your emotions and behavior come from you—they don’t come from anyone else—therefore, you’re the one who’s responsible for them.

If you feel hurt in response to something someone says or does, and you lash out at them, you’re responsible for that. They didn’t “make” you lash out (they’re not controlling you with puppet strings, after all!), your reaction is your responsibility.

What do you to to increase your emotional intelligence?

Many thanks to Hannah Braime, LifeHacks, for some of the content in this blog.