As emotional creatures, the way we feel plays a large role in the decisions we make.
That's why learning more about how emotions work is so valuable. Emotional intelligence (also known as EI or EQ), describes a person's ability to recognize emotions, to understand their powerful effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior.
Sharpening your own EQ begins by learning to ask the right questions. Doing so will give you valuable insight into the role emotions play in everyday life.
So which questions help you get in touch with your emotions, and the emotions of the people you interact with most on a daily basis?
The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, which will serve as a practical guide to developing emotional intelligence. (You can find details about the launch here.)
To be clear, this isn't a checklist one needs to tick through periodically. Rather, these questions will help you develop understanding of emotions (both yours and others'), as well as their powerful effect.
Get familiar with them, and you'll find that you naturally become more thoughtful--and start to be more proactive, and less reactive.
1. In terms of my emotional behavior, how would I describe myself?
2. Why do I answer that way?
3. Would others agree with that assessment?
4. Who is someone I trust, who could provide valuable perspective into how others see me?
5. How might my general disposition affect my communication style and decision-making?
6. What type of mood am I in right now?
7. What are the reasons for my current mood?
8. How might my current mood affect my decision-making and communication style?
Specific thoughts, feelings and actions
9. How would I rate my own self-esteem and self-confidence?
10. How does my self-esteem and self-confidence affect my decision-making?
11. What can I do to raise my self-esteem or self-confidence? (Or, how can I keep it in check?)
12. What are my biggest challenges or weaknesses?
13. Why do I find managing these so difficult?
14. How can I mitigate my weaknesses?
15. Do I need to apologize more?
16. Do I apologize too often?
17. Do I say "no" too often?
18. Do I need to say "no" more often?
19. Do I get easily jealous? Why?
20. Do I find it difficult to forgive? Why?
21. What do I spend most of my time thinking about?
22. What should I spend more time thinking about?
23. How do I spend most of my spare time? Why?
24. On what do I wish I spent more time?
25. Am I open to other perspectives?
26. Can I be more open, while maintaining my own core values?
27. Or am I too easily swayed by others?
28. Should I be more skeptical? Or less?
29. What traits in others do I find most annoying? Why?
30. Is my communication aggressive?
31. How have my beliefs changed over the years? Why did they change?
Dealing with emotionally-charged situations
32. In what situations do I respond differently than I would like?
33. In these situations, how can I be more proactive, instead of reactive?
34. How do I want to face this challenge the next time it arises?
35. When struggling with a situation (dead-end job or unpleasant relationship), what don't I like?
36. Why don't I like it, specifically?
37. What can I do about it?
38. Despite the negatives, what positive aspects can I identify?
39. When I feel strongly about a situation--whether positively or negatively--how might my emotions cloud my judgment?
40. What are the established facts, versus what I feel (or what someone has convinced me) is true?
41. What may I have misunderstood or could I be getting wrong?
42. How important is this to me? (How will I feel about it tomorrow? In a week? In five years?)
43. How does this relate to my general priorities and values?
44. How does this fit into the big picture?
45. How will my decision affect others I care about?
46. If I say or do this, what happens next?
47. Who is someone I trust, who could provide valuable perspective into how others see this situation?
When receiving criticism
48. Putting my personal feelings aside, what can I learn from this alternate perspective?
49. Is the criticism rooted in truth?
50. Is the person delivering the criticism trying to damage me or my self-confidence?
51. Instead of focusing on the delivery, how can I use this feedback to help me or my team improve?
52. What do I generally share in common with my communication partner?
53. How did I feel when I went through a similar situation as this person?
54. If I haven't been through it, how would I feel?
55. Why might this person feel differently than me?
56. How might his or her background affect their feelings?
57. What additional, extenuating circumstances could play a role in how they feel?
58. If I can't relate to their feelings in this situation, what is another set of circumstances when I felt (or would feel) similarly?
59. How would I want someone to treat me in those circumstances?
60. What can I do to make the situation better?
General dealings with others
61. Do I tend to focus on the positive or negative traits of others?
62. Do I generally give others the benefit of the doubt? Why or why not?
63. Do I separate judging actions from judging individuals?
64. Do I tend to "freeze people in time?" That is, do I associate them with a specific action in the past (either positive or negative)?
65. Regarding individuals with whom I interact regularly, what do I like about each of them?
66. What potential do I see?
67. When was the last time I paid this person a sincere (and specific) compliment, on a one-to-one basis?
68. If I strongly dislike a behavior, how should I communicate it?
69. If I can't voice my dislike (or voicing it has proven ineffective), how else can I deal with the situation?
Understanding others' emotions
70. In terms of emotional behavior, how would I describe my communication partner? Why?
71. How might this person's general disposition affect his or her communication style and decision-making (and their reaction to my own)?
72. What type of mood is this person in right now? Why might he (or she) feel this way?
73. How might this person's mood affect his or her decision-making and communication style (and their reaction to my own)?
74. How can I work more with my partner, as opposed to against them?
Preparing for an emotionally charged discussion
75. When would be the most ideal time to speak about this?
76. Where is the best location to have this conversation?
77. How can I frame the discussion in a way that that relays my true intentions?
78. In addition to concentrating on my message, how can I phrase things so that I am properly understood?
79. What context does my partner need to know to better understand my position?
80. How can I express my displeasure at an action, instead of at the person?
81. What failures can I admit, in order to demonstrate sincerity and humility?
(Hungry for more? Here are three short questions that will immediately increase your emotional intelligence.)
Putting it into practice
None of us can perfectly understand, much less control, every emotional reaction.
But getting familiar with these questions will cause you to naturally think about the role emotions play in your everyday life--and help you to manage them more effectively.