Emotional intelligence has become a topic at the forefront of human resources workshops, leadership groups, and corporate training sessions--and with good reason.

Evidence shows that emotional intelligence plays a big role in workplace performance. Individuals with high emotional intelligence perform better and usually experience better psychological and physical well being. 

Emotional Intelligence Components

The concept of emotional intelligence was made popular by an author named Daniel Goleman. His 1996 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, introduced it to the public. The idea was originally proposed by John Mayer and Peter Salovey in 1990.

The model of emotional intelligence proposed by Salovey and Mayer contains four parts:

  1. Perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately;

  2. use emotions to facilitate thinking;

  3. understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotion; and

  4. manage emotions to attain specific goals.

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence can be learned. It has become a billion-dollar industry, as training programs have proved very effective in helping people raise their emotional intelligence and perform at their best.

But you don't need a formal training program to boost your own emotional intelligence.

Here are seven simple ways to boost your emotional intelligence.

1. Label your emotions.

People rarely like to talk about their feelings, despite the fact that our emotions affect every decision we make. Many people are much more comfortable saying things like "I had butterflies in my stomach" or a "lump in my throat" than what they are really feeling, which is sadness or anxiety.

Practice labeling your emotions with real feeling words--frustrated, anxious, disappointed, etc. Check on yourself a few times a day and pay attention to how you are feeling, even if you don't announce it out loud.

2. Consider how your emotions affect your judgment.

Now that you know how you're feeling, take time to consider how these emotions are affecting your thoughts and behaviors. If you're sad, it may cause you to be afraid of rejection, and you may underestimate your chances of success.

On the other hand, if you're overly excited about an opportunity, you may overestimate your chances. This could lead to taking risks without examining the potential consequences or drawbacks.

To make better decisions, you need to recognize how your emotions are affecting your judgment. In doing so, you will balance your outlook of your own logic and emotion, and thus be better equipped to make decisions.

3. Decide whether your feelings are a friend or an enemy.

Every emotion we experience has the power to be helpful or unhelpful at times. The same emotion can affect us in either a positive or negative way, depending on how we use it.

Once you determine what you are feeling at any moment, next consider whether that emotion is being a friend to you or an enemy at the time. Anger could be a friend when it helps you stand up for injustice. It could be an enemy, however, when you're entering a discussion with your boss.

Sadness can be helpful when it reminds you to honor a person you no longer have. But it could be an enemy when it gets in the way of your motivation in life.

If you realize that sadness is being an enemy, you must do what you can to regulate your emotions. Try to experiment with different coping strategies to help you do this. Maybe meditation for a few minutes can help you calm down. Afterward, even a simple activity like walking around the block might help you cheer up.

4. Be responsible for your own emotions.

Saying that your co-worker makes you feel bad about yourself, or blaming your boss for putting you in a bad mood, implies that you are letting other people control your emotions. Your ability to respond to your emotions involves your accepting full responsibility for them.

Only you can choose how you decide to respond to your circumstances and to other people. Remember this any time you are tempted to think someone else is dragging you down emotionally. So rather than think, "He's making me mad," try something like, "I don't like what he's doing right now, and I'm getting mad."

5. Notice other people's feelings.

Your understanding of how other people are feeling is one of the key components to raising your emotional intelligence. Focusing on this will prevent you from interrupting someone you disagree with or jumping into an argument.

Pay close attention to other people's emotional states. If you can recognize how someone is feeling, then you will better understand how that emotion is likely to influence that individual's perception and behavior.

6. Limit your screen time.

Spending too much time on your digital devices will impair your relationships. In romantic relationships, studies have found that having a smartphone present while you're spending time with someone else can inhibit closeness and erode trust.

Too much screen time can also interfere with an individual's ability to read or understand emotions. And as you read earlier, this is one of the four critical components of emotional intelligence.

A 2014 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that preteens who spent five days at an outdoor camp without access to their digital devices greatly improved their ability to read other people's emotions. This improvement of understanding nonverbal emotions happened in just five days without their electronics.

So setting healthy limits on your technology would probably be a good idea. Don't have your phone out when you are talking face to face with people. Set aside time periods during the day when you won't use your phone--maybe the first hour after you wake up, lunch time, or before bed. 

Doing a digital detox every now and then can really do you some good. A few days without your electronics will better equip you in your ability to read other people's emotions.

7. Reflect on your progress.

At the end of every day, reflect on your progress. Did you interact well with a frustrated co-worker? Acknowledge this of yourself.

But then also notice the areas in which you need to improve. Did you get defensive about some tough feedback, or did anxiety prevent you from talking to your boss? Be careful to learn from those mistakes, and do better in the future.

There is always room to sharpen your skills when it comes to emotional intelligence. Enrolling in a training program can help you if you're feeling stuck. And you can always read a book or hire a coach to help you boost your emotional intelligence even more.

Published on: Oct 24, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.