How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence for Great Relationships


In a breakout session on how to improve your emotional intelligence at IT Nation Explore, an attendee commented, “You say to avoid saying things like, ‘You make me so happy’ or ‘you make me so angry’ because it gives power to the other person. Yet, you also say to be assertive and tell the other person that their behavior makes you feel a certain way. Aren’t those in conflict with each other?”

Own Your Emotions

That’s a great question and, in fact, I usually feel a sense of conflict when I’m talking about this, so I’m really glad he asked the question. Yes, it sounds like they’re opposite responses, but they’re for different audiences. It’s true that we need to own our emotions and not let other people define us. 

At the same time, the words and/or actions of others can certainly affect our emotions. For example, when others insult us, it’s normal to react negatively, perhaps feeling hurt or angry.

Dealing with this in a healthy manner involves what we say to ourselves (that’s one audience) and what we say to the other person (that’s the other audience). When someone does or says something that elicits a negative emotion, we don’t want their comment to become part of what we believe about ourselves. Similarly, we don’t want it to affect our emotional state in the moment. 

Internal Language Must Affirm

That means that the language we use internally needs to reaffirm our positive self-image. In other words, we don’t allow the other person to define us. There’s a saying, “What you think of me is none of my business!” Whoever said that was very wise!

However, we can also establish standards for how others are to treat us. Using the previous example, when someone says something insulting to us, we can call them on their specific comment. We can let them know how it makes us feel, and explain the consequences of their actions, especially in terms of continuing the relationship. 

For example, you could say, “Jarod, when you say that, it makes me feel disrespected and devalued. I value our relationship, but if that’s going to continue, I’m not going to be able to work with you. I hope we can continue working together.” 

Notice, in the example, how nothing was said about Jarod’s character, nor his personality. There was no value judgment. The comment dealt strictly with Jarod’s specific behavior. It then explained specific consequences of the behavior continuing and it concluded with the positive wish to continue working together.

Notice, also, as mentioned above, there are two audiences for the same issue. In the first case, the audience is yourself. Recognize your emotions and be intentional about choosing your reactions when someone says or does something with the potential to make you feel bad. 

Intentionality About Behavior Choices

Recognize that each of us has different emotional responses to different situations. You can make a choice to manage your personal state of mind, to remain calm and in a positive emotional state. It’s about making an intentional behavior choice in the moment.

In the second case, the audience is the person who says something to you that makes you feel bad. By dealing with the other person directly, calmly, and assertively, without being aggressive or insulting, you will probably be successful in changing their behavior toward you. (I say probably because we humans are unpredictable creatures!)

Additionally, when you use high emotional intelligence skills to manage the problem with the other person, you’re also demonstrating for others how to treat you more respectfully. You’re establishing standards for how you expect to be treated.

In her book, Power Phrases, author Meryl Runion cautions us to, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.” When we have an emotional experience with another person, it’s easy to let our human emotions control our response and to say things we might regret later. 

That’s why you should be intentional about calling attention to specific behaviors by the other person, and not criticizing their personality or character. (Remember, when it’s necessary to correct someone, do so in private and never in front of other people.) 

Combine Your IQ with Your EIQ

My friend, Todd, was a brilliant engineer. He designed highly sophisticated systems for the broadcasting industry. Todd also had the ability to understand, get along with, and influence people through his use of emotional intelligence techniques. He paid close attention to nuance, such as body language, facial expression, and tone-of-voice. 

When combined with his high IQ and engineering skill, his emotional intelligence skills allowed him to become a high-level executive in a large broadcasting company. He eventually owned his own radio station.

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

In his work on how to improve your emotional intelligence, author Daniel Goleman explains how your IQ allows you to perform the tasks of your job. He goes on to explain that it is your EIQ (emotional intelligence quotient) that is a better predictor of your long-term career success. 

In information systems and technology, many of us get caught up in the fairly predictable world of coding and system configuration but struggle with the murky world of humans and their basic emotions. We know, when we set up a system correctly, that it will usually do what we expect. Not so with our fellow human beings!

The most successful people, in IT or nearly any other field, are those who demonstrate high levels of competence, combined with high levels of charisma. They understand both the technical aspects of their work, as well as the importance of working successfully with the people around them. 

They have a high level of technical competence and they have a high level of charisma. They’re good at their job and they have the ability to understand, get along with, and influence people. Others look up to them as leaders, even if they’re not in a leadership position.

Understanding Your Emotions

Emotional intelligence involves understanding your own emotions and managing them successfully. It also involves responding appropriately to the emotions of other people, even, or especially, when they’re behaving poorly. Being emotionally intelligent means, first, you’re aware of your emotions and the emotions of others. Second, it means that you’re intentional about choosing positive behaviors that yield a positive outcome for you and the important people in your life.

Improving emotional intelligence leads to great relationships at work with your customers, your coworkers, and your boss. And it leads to great relationships at home with your family, your neighbors, and your friends. And that makes for a great life!

Our new on-demand Emotional Intelligence course will help you use emotional intelligence techniques to build better relationships with customers, coworkers, your family, and friends. Use this link to check it out.

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