You know how to get smarter -- you read, do puzzles, talk to smart people, etc. -- but how do you become nicer and more empathetic

Experts tell us that it’s actually easier and more impactful to boost EQ than it is to boost IQ. Yet because we spend 12+ years in school learning to maximize our intelligence, and probably zero learning to read and respond to others' emotions, improving your EQ often feels far more mysterious and difficult. 

It doesn’t have to be, professor and author Minter Dial explained on INSEAD Knowledge, the European business school’s newsletter, recently. After outlining the research on the many benefits of empathy at work, Dial insists that this is a skill that can be developed, citing work by Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. 

In fact, increasing your EQ doesn’t even need to be all that difficult. To get started just add a few minutes of key activities into your day, he recommends. Here are three of the most straightforward to get you started. 

1. Listen actively

"Practice active listening by reformulating the message to the person who just said it. You could do this with anyone, perhaps starting off in low-risk situations, such as the cashier at your local market or the restaurant waiter. Observe the nonverbal cues. The key is to focus on the intended meaning and feelings of the person you are interacting with,” Dial suggests. 

2. Read fiction

"Literature exposes you to the intricacies and inner workings of complex characters you don’t get to ‘meet’ otherwise. Research has highlighted a connection between literature and enhanced emotional skills, whether in primary school students or avid readers like former US President Barack Obama. Fiction apparently tricks our minds into thinking we are part of the story, and the empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people," he notes. 

If you’d like to read more on the science of what reading does to our brains, you can check it out here and here

3. Practice mindfulness

"Mindfulness and meditation are all about focusing on the here and now. And one certainly needs to be ‘present’ when listening to someone else in order to empathize with them," says Dial, recommending  Monique Rhodes’s The 10 Minute Mind for those looking to get started. 

As the name of this app suggests, you probably need to put way less time into meditation that you think to see benefits. 

Published on: Aug 16, 2019
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