EQ isn't just a nice-to-have set of abilities that make for more pleasant social interactions. Hard-nosed science shows that those with greater emotional skills actually earn more. When it comes to material success, EQ matters a ton.

The good news about this truth is that, in comparison to simple mental horsepower, which is larger set at birth, it's far easier to "get smarter" about emotions than it is to just "get smarter" generally. You are not stuck with whatever level of EQ you currently have.

Those looking for a lazy solution to improving their EQ can just wait around a few decades -- science shows your EQ tends to rise as you get older and wiser -- but if you have some time to spare, there are also simple but powerful ways to go about raising your EQ, and your chances of success too.

A recent in-depth article on the science of EQ from CNN's Erin Gabriel offers several simple but powerful suggestions.

1. Seek out different perspectives.

As the debates around social media and the last Presidential election have made clear, it's easier than ever to live in a bubble surrounded only by those who agree with you. That is not a recipe for high EQ, author and emotional intelligence expert Sara Canaday tells Gabriel.

Canaday suggests seeking out perspectives from those who may not agree with you. "Be intentional about that. Take active steps to do that. If you constantly surround yourself with people who believe just like you do, then you are hearing the same conversations, and you are not growing, and you are not learning to be open to perspectives," Canaday cautions, so consciously seek out diverse voices and listen deeply to what they have to say.

2. Reflect on your efforts.

Consciously trying to raise your EQ is only the first step, Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, also stresses in the article. Once you've started a new technique for better managing your emotions -- be it meditation, boxing, or striking up conversations with random strangers -- take time to evaluate the impact of your efforts.

It's important to "spend time reflecting on and thinking about your influence and how people respond to your emotions, be more self- and socially aware about your presence," he advises.

3. Pause to imagine your best self.  

Both reflection and making space in your life for diverse viewpoints can expand your emotional skills over time, but what about a technique you can use in the moment to improve how you handle your emotions? Robin Stern, also of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, offers a dead simple idea to instantly boost your EQ -- wait a few minutes and reflect.

"Stern suggests prolonging the time between when you are triggered by something and when you respond. Pause, slow down and take a deep breath. Imagine what your best self looks like. Taking the time to pause and think about what your best self would do in each situation may help you avoid letting your emotions control you," reports Gabriel.

If you're looking for more science-backed ideas on improving your EQ, my Inc.com colleague Justin Bariso has loads. Or check out the complete CNN article for much more on the science of EQ.

Published on: May 1, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.