Keeping emotions in check can often seem impossible. A conversation makes us angry, a topic makes us sad, an event has us grieving, sunshine makes us joyful—the ebb and flow of our emotions is what makes us human. But the mistake that many people make is that they let these emotions control them, influencing how they treat themselves and others. This frenetic state of our emotions can leave us feeling drained and empty, which is why it’s important to figure out how to feel our emotions and move forward. We cannot let our emotions control us; we must feel them, process them, and continue to live. Below you’ll find some essential tips for improving your emotional intelligence.
Ask Others for a Perspective Check
Sometimes it’s hard to see how our emotions are making us act. Turn to people you trust to give you an occasional perspective check. This means that they can’t just take your side in every conversation with your boss or every time your significant other does something you don’t like. The perspective check is a moment where you ask for and receive honesty. They’ll help you recognize when you let your pride get the best of you in a conversation, or if your reaction to a situation was reasonable.
Delve into Tough Emotions
As much as you’ll want to rely on your friends to give you a perspective check every time difficult emotions arise, you can’t. You need to be able to figure out your own emotions—it’s the key part of developing better emotional intelligence. This involves delving into tough emotions when they come about and not just letting them slide. For example, anger is an emotion that tends to rise in response to other, deeper, more intense emotions, like grief or fear. Part of delving into anger is understanding the core emotion; find the healthy ways to communicate anger (or whatever difficult emotion it may be), and you’ll be on the way to an enhanced emotional intelligence.
Keep an Emotion/Reaction Journal
As we mentioned, some emotions arise in response to more difficult feelings. One way to become more intelligent about your emotions and how they affect you is by keeping an emotion/reaction journal. Throughout the day, take note of emotions you may feel and then note how you react to those emotions. It should help you recognize that what you thought was anger was really hurt pride or a defense mechanism to sadness. When you write these feelings down, you’ll become more aware of how your emotions manifest to yourself and others.
Find Constructive Modes of Emotional Expression
Once you’ve recognized a pattern to your emotions, you’ll be more aware of any destructive ways you express your emotions. Maybe you get angry at your coworkers when a talk with your boss doesn’t go well. Maybe you turn to alcohol when you’ve had a day that’s made you sad. Take these reactions and flip them to constructive modes of expression. When you’re angry, go for a walk before you talk to coworkers. When you’re sad, make a tasty meal and eat it with friends instead of pulling the cork. Make lists of constructive ways to express yourself, and then turn to those when you notice emotions taking control of you negatively.
Emotional intelligence is an ever-evolving process. Take time to sort through your feelings, and continue to mold them and express them smartly. Don’t give up on yourself.