12 ways to boost your emotional intelligence for better relationships

We’re all increasingly well aware how important emotional intelligence is to build good relationships.

From negotiating with clients and working smoothly with your colleagues, to handling conflict with your partner or being there for your friends, the benefits are endless.

So naturally, if you can boost your emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to boost the quality of all the relationships in your life.

Sounds pretty good, right?

I think so too — and that’s why I’ve put together this guide with 12 solid ways to increase your emotional intelligence.

Let’s get started.

The 12 things that make up emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is actually made up of 12 things, as defined by Harvard researcher and author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman:

  1. Emotional self-awareness
  2. Emotional self-control
  3. Adaptability
  4. Achievement orientation
  5. Positive outlook
  6. Empathy
  7. Organizational awareness
  8. Influence
  9. Coach and mentor
  10. Conflict management
  11. Teamwork
  12. Inspirational leadership

Therefore, to improve your emotional intelligence, you need to improve your abilities in these 12 areas.

Let’s look at some ways how.

1) Practice self-awareness

This is your ability to understand your own emotions. You can tune into what you are feeling, and delve into the reasons why.

You can also tell if following up on those emotions will be helpful or harmful to your goals, and to the people around you.

As a result, you are able to make better decisions, and know when it’s better to rely on someone else rather than trying to do something you’re not truly good at. 

2) Manage your emotions

When you’re good at identifying and understanding your emotions, the next step is being able to manage them well.

It won’t do you much good to know that you’re feeling frustrated and angry, if you burst out with anger at everyone around you. I mean, at least you know what you’re doing and what’s causing your actions, but you’re certainly not helping things!

This illustrates the importance of this second key to emotional intelligence

It’s what lets you choose courses of actions that you won’t later regret, and stay calm under pressure to focus on a particular objective. 

3) Learn to go with the flow

As adaptability is the third component of emotional intelligence, learning to go with the flow is another way to boost your skill in this regard.

This means you can be flexible when unexpected change comes up, and you can find the path of least resistance rather than stubbornly trying to continue on a path that has been blocked.

It also helps you stay at the top, as you’re no longer operating based on outdated beliefs or plans that are no longer relevant. 

Everyone around you will appreciate you for having this ability, as you’re easy to deal with and don’t make problems out of things that nobody can change. 

4) Work towards specific goals

The next aspect of emotional intelligence is “achievement orientation” — though this can sound very academic, it’s nothing more than being goal oriented and working towards accomplishments that you set for yourself.

You strive to meet a particular standard, or even exceed it. You push yourself to do better, even if you are already “good enough”. 

This may sound like it has more to do with productivity than emotional intelligence, but it’s more related than you might think.

Achievement orientation helps you build a growth mindset, meaning you believe you can always improve your abilities and intelligence through effort and dedication.

You are more motivated, focused, and able to manage stress and anxiety. This goes hand in hand with managing your own emotions well, and it can also help you work to improve your relationships with others. 

Here’s how you can become more goal-oriented:

  • Set specific and measurable goals, so you know exactly what you’re working towards.
  • Break your goals down into manageable parts.
  • Create a schedule and stick to it for achieving your goals. 
  • Prioritize consistency over perfection. Someone who works out 3x per week with a medium-effective workout plan will still get much further than someone who spends months first researching the perfect plan!

5) Cultivate a positive outlook

Adopting a positive outlook is another way to boost your emotional intelligence, and improve your relationships too.

The connection here is probably pretty obvious already — when you’re more positive, you become a more pleasant and attractive person, and all your relationships become more positive as well.

Rather than complain about things that go wrong, you point out the bright side and help people look at problems constructively.

You don’t criticize others, but encourage them to capitalize on their strengths while working on their weaknesses. 

This skill will also help you build resilience and open you up to much greater creativity. 

6) Build empathy

As you can probably gather, empathy is an immense part of emotional intelligence, and building healthy relationships with others.

This is your ability to read and interpret other people’s emotions, through both their words and also non-verbal indicators. 

We can all empathize with at least a few people in our lives — usually, our loved ones.

But to boost your emotional intelligence, you have to be able to relate to many different types of people, with different viewpoints.

7) Get to know the workings of your organization

Our lives involve dealing with a lot of people — sometimes alone, and at other times in groups or organizations.

Understanding the currents and dynamics of these organizations, and how different members of it may think or react, plays a big role in emotional intelligence. 

The best place to start is to build awareness of how organizations you yourself are a part of work. 

How are decisions made? Who has influence? What are the values that drive those leaders?

Once you understand the way a couple organizations work, it becomes easier to understand others even when you’re not a part of them.

You’ll pick up on things much faster, and you’ll learn how to approach situations strategically.

signs youre a deep thinker 12 ways to boost your emotional intelligence for better relationships

8) Build positive influence

We can’t all be leaders, but we all have influence in some way. If you’re a parent, you have significant influence over your children. 

You always have some influence over other family members, as well as your friends. 

And you can have influence on how things function at work, or what kind of relationships are formed within the team. 

When you aim to use this for growth and development, you can build a positive environment around you that attracts people to you

In a professional environment, you can also ensure that your team is efficient, engaged, and happy. 

9) Give and seek out feedback and support

Another part of emotional intelligence is being able to be a coach and mentor to those who need it. 

This doesn’t have to be a formal role, and most of the time, it isn’t. We have all been a sort of coach or mentor for someone in our lives at some point.

Perhaps it was when a friend asked you for advice to make a difficult decision. Or maybe it was when you saw someone struggling and proactively offered support based on your experience.

There is, of course, a limit to this. Many people don’t like to receive unsolicited advice, and there are definitely situations when you should stay out of somebody’s business.

When you have great emotional intelligence, you’re able to notice when a person needs and is open to advice, and present it in a way that comes across as kind and supportive so it is considered.

10) Work on handling conflict well

If you want to improve your relationships, one thing you may be hoping for is less conflict. 

Here’s the sad truth: there will always be conflict in our lives. It’s an inevitable part of life.

What you can do, however, is become better at managing it. This is another key to boosting your emotional intelligence.

To do this, you need to become comfortable with disagreements, and people feeling upset. It will never feel “good,” of course, but remember that you cannot take responsibility for everyone to be happy all the time. 

It’s also about keeping a cool head in heated situations. When there are high stakes, raising your voice or acting out of rash emotions certainly doesn’t help things along.

When you master this skill, you’re able to find win-win situations in conflict, making the lives of everyone around you better. 

11) Be a team player

Even if you work solo, there are for sure situations when you have to be part of a team. Heck, even living in any community or society already means being part of a team.

How you can interact with the other people in it is another defining feature of your emotional intelligence. 

Being a team player means working together with them towards a common goal. You participate actively and do your share of the work without letting anyone carry too much of the burden.

You share in both the responsibility and the rewards, and you care about how the other members feel in order to create an atmosphere of harmony. 

This may sound like a lot, but you’re not alone — all the other members of the team must work together to make the team function well.

Having said that though, it can take just one positive influence to completely turn a negative environment around.

12) Inspire others and aim to be a positive force

Lastly, but certainly not least, come inspirational leadership: the final component of boosting emotional intelligence.

This is basically the way you inspire and guide others towards a particular vision.

To succeed at this, you need to first of all know what the vision is, and check if everyone is on the same page.

You also need to be organized in order to divide tasks up into smaller ones and get whatever you need to do done. 

Related to points 5 and 6, you keep a positive mindset and check in with others, bringing out their best qualities. 

Final thoughts

Emotional intelligence is such an important part of healthy relationships, so I’m so glad you’ve invested the time in reading this article today.

If you consistently follow the practical tips above, I’m sure you’ll see a big boost in your emotional intelligence, as well as the quality of your relationships, before you know it.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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