As we already know, there are different types of intelligence and they’re all important in their own way. Emotional intelligence in men is a particular topic because of the societal pressure on men to be stoic and hide their emotions. Of course, all this approach achieves is stunting emotional intelligence.
If you’re wondering how to improve emotional intelligence and become a better you, you’ve come to the right place.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Before we get into answering this question, we have to define what emotional intelligence actually is. Put briefly, it’s defined by the ability to evaluate, perceive, and control emotions.
Most people focus on expression and controlling emotions as crucial parts of emotional intelligence. The truth is, interpreting, responding to, and understanding those emotions is just as important.
Components of Emotional Intelligence
Developing emotional intelligence actually happens on multiple levels, each of which contributes to your EQ. In this next section, we’ll briefly cover all of them.
You can’t hope to understand your own or other people’s emotions without accurate perception. Non-verbal communication is essential here because it allows you to pick up on subtle emotional clues. Just listening to words can often leave you with an incomplete message.
Because emotions influence how we act and what we pay attention to, it’s important to think about how we’re feeling. In other words, reasoning with your emotions can help you understand behavioral patterns and reactions.
Increasing emotional awareness means knowing that all emotions are caused by something. A person can be sad for various unknown factors, and understanding this helps you empathize with the person. It also expands your perspective and shows you the same emotion can have a wide array of causes.
It’s not enough to just be aware of your emotions, you also have to know how to manage them. This might be the most demanding task when it comes to emotional intelligence, and the better you do it, the higher your EQ is likely to be.
Improving emotional awareness includes responding to other people’s emotions appropriately but also doing the same thing for yourself. It helps treat yourself like you would treat a friend, and might point toward potentially different standards and levels of understanding you have toward yourself and others.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?
One reason why people may be skeptical about investing into emotional growth is failure to realize why it’s so important. Emotions are an integral part of everyday life, and learning how to embrace them instead of rejecting them can do a world of good.
Achieving Personal Goals
Increasing emotional intelligence means you won’t struggle to navigate your professional and personal life anymore. When your acts are also guided by reason rather than solely by the emotion you’re feeling in a particular moment, you open yourself to a world of possibilities.
This is because you’ll actually know how to differentiate between long-term goals and momentary feelings. For example, going through a stressful period at work won’t be a big enough reason to quit your job and not advance in your career because you’ll be able to recognize that it’s a temporary difficulty, not a permanent one.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
To improve your EQ, you’ll need to pay special attention to mental health, and particularly mental hygiene. When you don’t regulate and process emotions and stress properly, you become vulnerable to issues like depression and anxiety. The inability to manage your emotions can also be reflected in the lack of strong and healthy relationships in your life, which can lead to loneliness and/or more unproductive emotions.
Taking Care of Your Physical Health
If you want to be healthy, you have to know how to deal with uncomfortable emotions and stress in a productive manner. Developing your emotional intelligence helps with that greatly.
Not regulating your emotions often means not regulating stress either. Stress affects your physical health in numerous ways, be it by raising your blood pressure, debilitating your immune system, or increasing the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack.
Social intelligence and empathy are two very important parts of developing emotional intelligence. When you understand yourself and your emotions, you’re able to better communicate with those around you.
When you can put yourself in other people’s shoes, you can become closer to them. If you want to have healthy romantic relationships and friendships, you simply have to be open to your emotions and the emotions of others.
Learning Emotional Intelligence Through Therapy
Therapy can be an excellent tool for improving your EQ. While there’s still some stigma around therapy, and especially men in therapy, it’s one of the most effective ways to understand yourself.
You can figure out the root of your lack of emotional intelligence, learn to recognize harmful behaviors, and counteract them in the future. Building self-awareness is essential for improving emotional intelligence, after all.
The trick with therapy is that you have to be willing to examine yourself honestly and be prepared for things you may not want to hear. Also, remember that your therapist is there to guide you, not solve your issues and increase your EQ with a magic wand. For it to be truly effective, you’ll have to put in a lot of hard work.
Another important point is not to give up. You may not click with the first therapist you find, but that just means you ought to keep looking.
Of course, we also have to be realistic and bear in mind that therapy isn’t something affordable to everyone. Thankfully, books to improve emotional intelligence exist and they can be just as helpful. Approach them the same way you’d approach searching for the right therapist, though. If you’re struggling with one, try another one. Doing some research on what books have helped others and how is also a good idea that will get you where you need to go more quickly.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence With Listening
Understanding how other people feel is just as important as understanding your own emotions. Taking into account different perspectives and experiences can help you connect and strengthen bonds with others, too. The easiest way to do this is by actively listening.
Don’t just dismiss the people around you as being dramatic but instead really try to hear them out. You can use the same tactic on yourself to increase your EQ. Listen to what your mind is saying and try to analyze those thoughts and where they came from.
When someone tells you they’re feeling a certain way, ask questions that point to the cause of the feeling. The most important thing you can do here is to let the person speak and say what they need to say.
Your first instinct might be to try to fix the issue and jump in with your own suggestions but that could do more harm than good. If you really want to improve emotional intelligence, you need to give people an opportunity to speak their mind, show you who they are, and how they process their emotions.
Body language is also an important indicator of one’s true emotions. You should pay attention to it as much as to the words a person is saying.
We instinctively take body language into account to an extent when we’re talking to someone. However, by training yourself to actively pay attention to it, you can grasp the meaning of their message even better, read between the lines, and find what may lie behind the obvious. After a while, you’ll be able to tell how someone’s feeling by acknowledging their body language, which is a good sign of your improving EQ.
If you want to appear more open and friendly toward people, work on your own non-verbal communication skills. For example, avoid folding your arms during a conversation so the person you’re talking to doesn’t get the impression you’re uninterested or disagreeing with them.
How to Increase EQ Through Empathy
Exercising empathy is vital on your journey of self-discovery and EQ improvement. It’s not enough to just listen to what someone has to say. You also have to try to put yourself in their shoes and expand your perspective.
The true power of empathy is being able to relate to people even if you haven’t personally experienced what they’re going through. The best way to do this is to imagine how you would feel in the same situation.
The trick here is to be realistic about your potential emotions. By taking into account your personality and life experience, you’ll be able to more adequately guess how you’d feel in a certain situation, and thereby improve your emotional intelligence. Lying to yourself or convincing yourself you’d react in a better way than you realistically know you would, isn’t going to do much for your emotional maturity.
Finally, don’t forget that working on empathy is a long, demanding process, but over time, it will get easier. Keep your long-term goal in mind and you’ll have stronger emotional skills before you know it.
How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence Through Reflection
A big part of high emotional intelligence is the ability to reason with your emotions. How do your emotions influence your behavior and decisions? Do you impulsively do something just because you were feeling a certain way?
The same can apply to other people. Ask yourself what might make a certain person feel (and act) a certain way. Are there factors you haven’t thought of before that might be influencing those emotions? Are your emotions all that different from theirs? The more you analyze emotions in this way the easier it will be to see the link between emotion and behavior and increase EQ.
The ABC Method
Another way to see the correlation between what you think, how you act, and how you feel is to use the ABC method. Put simply, it highlights how our first reactions influence our emotions and behaviors. By noticing your reaction, you’re able to counteract negative thoughts in similar situations and turn them into something more productive.
This is the way it works:
- A – activating event
- B – your belief about the situation
- C – consequences, reactions, emotions you feel.
People often think that A leads to C, but the truth is that B does. While developing EQ, you start to realize that you can’t change A. You can only accept what life brings you, but you can change B. For example:
- A – you get fired
- B – “I’m going to starve”
- C – anxiety, anger, depression.
The easiest trap people fall into here is thinking that “I’m going to starve” is the only possible option and reaction to this situation. By thinking so, they trap themselves in feelings of anxiety, which can easily lead to feeling helpless.
If you genuinely wish to improve the EQ, try shifting the way you think, instead of surrendering to your first reaction and spiraling into these emotions. In the example above, that would mean replacing B with something like “oh well, I’m skilled enough to find something else”.
Of course, it’s normal to feel a certain level of anxiety in a situation like the one above. Merely thinking about your skills and reassuring yourself that you’ll figure things out could lead you to a hole that’s hard to get out of.
The question of how to improve emotional intelligence isn’t an easy one. Embracing your emotions and learning to understand them is a challenging journey, but also a highly rewarding one. Strong men are kind, self-aware, and know how to express themselves. You can possess all those traits, too.