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We hear a lot these days about emotional intelligence. A person’s emotional intelligence is often referred to as their EQ, or emotional quotient, and is the ying to the IQ’s (intelligence quotient) yang. People are evaluated for jobs, in school, and in relationships in ways that take their EQ into consideration and it can be particularly important when creating strong, long-term romantic relationships.

Before looking at the role of emotional intelligence in a successful life and relationship let’s be clear as to what it actually is. Emotional intelligence refers to the way that an individual handles their own emotions and understands and relates to the emotions of others. It is seen in the ways a person regulates and expresses their own feelings, and in the ways they respond to the emotions of others.

There are number of traits that are common to those with high emotional intelligence. Having these traits can be an indicator of success in many areas like jobs, relationships and even parenting. These traits include the following.

  1. The ability to recognize how you feel and verbalize it.
  2. Thinking about the feelings of others and showing empathy.
  3. The ability to offer praise and recognize the efforts of others.
  4. Being able to apologize when needed and admit fault.
  5. The ability to be self-reflective and seek to understand why you feel, think, and act the way you do.

The stronger these traits are in a person the higher their emotional intelligence level. Having a highly developed EQ makes it more likely for a person to be successful in many facets of life, including friendships and romantic relationships.

The most successful and healthy relationships have partners that each have a strong EQ. Everyone is different though, and emotional intelligence varies not only between individuals but also between genders. Women tend to have emotional intelligence levels that are more highly developed overall than those of men.

Why is this all so important?

Having poorly developed emotional intelligence can lead to problems in several areas of life. Consider the work environment. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have reacted in a way that you regret? Perhaps mouthed off to the boss or been rude to a co-worker? What about arguments with your partner? Have you ever found yourself overreacting to something and later regretting the way you handled it? Most of us have done these things to some degree, but there are those who regularly allow situations or people to get the best of them, and then do or say something that they later regret.

Poor emotional intelligence can also be an underlying issue in those with anger problems or narcissistic tendencies. This can be especially true in men. Anger issues in men are somewhat common and can be difficult to overcome. For many the help of a counselor will be needed in order to learn the tools to manage anger, and start to build their level of emotional intelligence to prevent it.

So improving emotional intelligence is possible?

Yes, it is possible. Where IQ tends not to change in an individual, EQ can increase with practice and effort. As with anything it takes time and work though. There are a number of things you can do to increase you emotional intelligence level. Below are just a few.

1. Make an effort to articulate your feelings.

This can be harder to do than it sounds, but people aren’t mind readers and no one “just knows” how you feel. This isn’t just for difficult feelings, but for the positive ones too. Next time you are feeling strongly about something, good or bad, take a deep breath and try to calmly put those feelings into words.

2. Practice self talk.

When things are starting to escalate ask yourself, “why is this bothering me?” or, “how am I feeling right now?” Having to mentally explain your feelings and state of mind to yourself will help you explain them to others. It will also help to calm you and allow you to think more rationally.

3. Look for ways to re-frame negative thoughts in a positive way.

A constant stream of negative thoughts and emotions can be overwhelming and affect your perception and judgment of situations. They can lead you to react in ways that are out of proportion to the circumstance and create unnecessary problems, or make a difficult situation worse.The first step in changing the way you react is to change the way you think.

4. Look at the reactions of those around you to your behavior.

Part of being emotionally intelligent is to understand the feelings and emotions of those around you. The first step in doing this is to recognize the reaction people have to you. If you are fleeing angry or upset, those around you will react to your behavior and body language.

It can be hard to see sometimes. If you are unsure how you are making someone feel, and that person is someone you trust, it would be worthwhile to ask them directly. The conversation you have may help you recognize clues to their feelings next time.