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20 Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Give your EQ a little TLC.

There are countless of ways to improve your life, but chances are you're overlooking one of the major areas: Your emotional intelligence (or EQ), which is defined as "the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others." Improving your emotional intelligence can make a major difference when it comes to your personal happiness, your relationships with others, and even your professional life.

"Emotional intelligence is not based on intellect, but involves a separate skill set. Some very smart people are emotionally tone deaf and some people with average intelligence are brilliant at understanding emotions," explains Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. "Emotional intelligence can be learned like other skills, but you must have curiosity about how your mind and the minds of others tick to start the process."

So, how can you make yourself more emotionally attuned? We've rounded up 20 easy ways to increase your emotional intelligence, making it easier to meet your own emotional needs and those of the people who matter most to you. And when you want to improve your health and well-being in no time, start with these 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress!

Find Stress-Relieving Techniques That Work for You

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One of the simplest ways to improve your emotional intelligence is to identify your sources of stress and head them off at the pass. Stress-relief measures, like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation may all work for some people, but for others, hitting the speed bag, going for a run, or even just getting in a good yell may be more effective.

Finding out and practicing the stress relief measures that work for you will help you become more emotionally intelligent in no time. And for more ways to reduce stress, try out these 10 Best Non-Exercise Stress Busters.

Pause Before Judging

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Judging is such second nature to many of us that we don't even realize we're doing it. That said, if you want to increase your emotional intelligence, identifying your judgmental thoughts and trying to take a beat before judging in the future can make a big difference.

When you actually pause to think about it, you may find that you're actually not upset at the person you think you are, but are dealing with stress in another part of your life that's spilling over. And when you want to reduce those judgmental feelings about yourself, start with these 15 Body Positive Affirmations That Actually Work!

Prioritize Kindness Over Being Right

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It feels undeniably great to win arguments. That said, not every conversation is a win or lose matter. When you start feeling that competitive streak rise up during a normal conversation, do what you can to put kindness first, and your own need to feel as though you've won on the back burner. And when you're ready to be kinder, start with the 20 Easy Ways to Be Less Mean.

Sit With Your Feelings

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Instead of trying to immediately combat negative feelings, sit with them for a while first. Understanding what it means to actually feel anger, hurt, or resentment without an immediate fix can help you better address what's causing those feelings and find healthier ways to deal with them. And when you're ready to turn your day around, start with the 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters.

Learn to Take Criticism

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It's never easy to feel like you're being criticized, but learning to accept constructive criticism is a major part of being emotionally intelligent. Understanding why that criticism may be necessary, and learning to believe what's being said about you may be true and adapt your performance is a big step toward greater emotional intelligence. And when you want to take your career to the next level, start with these 20 Daily Confidence Boosters for Getting Ahead at Work!

Accept Your Weaknesses

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We can't all be perfect all the time, and that's okay. However, if you're pursuing greater emotional intelligence, it's essential that you accept your weaknesses and learn from them, rather than simply denying that they exist. And when you're ready to boost your skill set, start with the 30 Life Skills Every Man Should Know.

Master "Active Listening"

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There's a big difference between simply listening and actively listening. In the pursuit of greater emotional intelligence, try to actively listen to people rather than simply wait for your turn to talk. Remember what they're saying, wait until they're done to respond, and repeat some of what they've disclosed back to them as a means of showing that you've really heard what they said.

"Rather than telling someone what you think they feel, emotional intelligence is the capacity to reflect back what you are hearing," explains Koenig. And for more ways to increase your emotional availability, try the 50 Best Ways to Be a (Much) Better Man!

Admit When You're Wrong


Hard as it may be, admitting that you're wrong is a big step toward greater emotional intelligence. Although it will likely be uncomfortable, learning to admit your mistakes and grow from them, rather than sweep them under the rug, will make a big difference in your emotional health and the health of your relationships in the long run. And when you want to make your relationship healthier, make sure you ditch these 40 Relationship Tips That Are Actually Terrible.

Listen to Other People's Suggestions

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Respecting other people's suggestions can go a long way when you're working toward greater emotional intelligence. While not every suggestion is going to be a home run, learning to listen and consider other people's lived experience and the information it may provide will make you more emotionally attuned in the long run. And once you've mastered active listening, start telling her the 30 Things Women Always Want to Hear.

Learn to Label and Express Negative Emotions Calmly

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When you're feeling strong emotions, it's often hard to express them in a levelheaded manner. However, in the pursuit of greater emotional intelligence, learning to explain what you're feeling and work through it without an emotional outburst is key.

"Practice labeling your own emotions—short non-judgmental labels, such as 'sadness,' "anticipation,' 'uncertainty,' "contentment,' 'gratitude,' etcetera," says licensed clinical psychologist Inna Khazan, Ph.D. "Pause for a minute several times a day and check in with yourself —what am I feeling? This is a good exercise to practice mindfully." Feeling like your stress is unmanageable? This is The Best Way to Chill Out When You Totally Want to Lose It.

Question Your Opinions

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We all have those strongly-held opinions that feel like core parts of our being. If you want to be more emotionally intelligent, however, learning why you hold those opinions, and whether or not they're actually accurate, can go a long way.

Allow Yourself to Say No

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Having new experiences is undeniably great and can even change the way we view the world. That said, knowing your emotional limits and allowing yourself to say no is a huge part of increasing your emotional intelligence. Allowing yourself to sit certain activities out in favor of a more balanced emotional state is a big step toward being more emotionally attuned.

Turn Off Your Reactive Impulse

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So, somebody hurt your feelings. What's your first impulse: defend yourself, insult them, or detach completely? Trying to understand those reactive impulses and, whenever possible, choosing to pause and calm down before responding, will make you more emotionally intelligent in no time.

Acknowledge Other People's Feelings

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On an intellectual level, you likely know that your feelings aren't the only ones that matter. However, putting that into practice can be difficult, albeit worth it in the long run.

"Practice recognizing other people's emotions. Start with people you know well and feel comfortable with," says Khazan. "During an interaction, pause and reflect on how the other person may by feeling. Then check in with them: 'I think you are feeling… am I on the right track?'"

Recognize Your Motivations

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Our feelings and behaviors don't exist in a vacuum. When you're ready to yell at your co-worker for making a mistake or on the verge of leaving your spouse for loading the dishwasher wrong, step back and try to think about what's really making you feel that way. Did you have a long day? Are you tired? Is something else stressing you out? Understanding your motivations can go a long way in becoming more emotionally intelligent.

Work On Being Trustworthy

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Trustworthiness is a major component of emotional intelligence, and an important one to work on. If people feel like everything they tell you becomes gossip, they'll stop trusting you. Trust is a two-way street, and one that can open up a world of healthy emotional relationships to you if you start to treat it as sacred.

Understand and Accept That Feelings Change

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Want to become more emotionally intelligent in a hurry? Learn to accept that people's feelings and beliefs—both your own and those of others—can evolve over time. Realize why and how your own opinions and those of other people have evolved, and don't force yourself to stick to beliefs or opinions that no longer fit.

Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable


Being vulnerable is hard, but it's an essential component when you're trying to improve your emotional intelligence. Allowing yourself to admit when you're feeling hurt, frustrated, sad, or scared is a major step toward greater emotional availability.

Learn to Move On From Failures

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It's hard to shrug off failures, but doing so can help you become more emotionally intelligent in the long run. Treating failures as learning tools, rather than events that have done little more than sidetrack you, will help you become more emotionally healthy—and less frustrated—in the long run.

Learn to Say You're Sorry

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An honest apology can make all the difference when it comes to making your relationships with others healthier. Learning to acknowledge your wrongdoing, and truly apologize for those you've hurt will increase your emotional intelligence and make it easier for others to open up to you, too. And for more lessons in how to say sorry, discover How Smart Men Apologize to Women.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more