Do you struggle to understand what people may be thinking?

Do you wonder why you are not as successful as you want to be?

Do you think that sometimes your emotions get the best of you?

If so, you may need to improve your emotional intelligence.

It was two Yale psychologists, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, who originally coined the term emotional intelligence to describe the understanding that we all have different personalities, different wants and needs, and different ways of showing our emotions. To navigate successfully through this emotional realm takes awareness and understanding.

Emotional intelligence allows you to develop and focus the skills that will help you understand people better, attain the type of success you want, and stay on top of your emotions.

When you understand the essentials of emotional intelligence, you can learn more about yourself while you lead and interact with others. Here are four powerful techniques to develop your emotional intelligence:

1. Observe to respect. To observe-yourself or others-is to learn to respect. if you want to improve on your emotional intelligence, observe how you react to people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all the facts? Do you judge or stereotype immediately? Or do you take the time and process before you interact with others-try to put yourself in their place and be open and accepting of their perspectives and needs? When you do, out of your observation will come new perspective and new respect.

2. Listen to learn. One important element of developing emotional intelligence is learning not to jump in, fix and react but to listen effectively to both verbal and nonverbal messages. That means watching body movements, gestures and physical signs of emotion. More important, it means listening with humility. Humility can be a wonderful quality. It doesn't mean you lack confidence or are unable to help, but it allows you listen quietly and confidently. It's about giving other people a chance to speak and be heard, keeping the focus on them rather than seeking attention for yourself, learning from them and acknowledging their feelings even if you disagree.

3. Build self-awareness to grow in understanding. Boosting emotional intelligence is an inside job. It begins with self-awareness. You have to understand yourself before you can communicate effectively and build strong, meaningful relationships. Start by working to understand your own emotions. What are your weaknesses? Can you accept your imperfections while still working to improve? If you have the courage to look at yourself honestly, it can change your life. It may be stressful and difficult, especially early on, but it will help you develop your ability to stay calm and manage difficult situations in the business world and outside it.

4. Build accountability to grow in responsibility. Accountability comes from self-motivation-it's a personal drive to improve and achieve and commit to being responsible for yourself. To improve your emotional intelligence, you have to develop accountability, because your emotions and behavior come from you. That means if you've done something wrong, hurt someone, bullied someone, or messed up, take responsibility. Your sense of accountability may lead to an apology or owning up to your mistakes, but ultimately it's about making yourself vulnerable as a step toward becoming a stronger person.

It's a lifelong process but when you connect with your emotional intelligence by observing, listening, and building your self-awareness and responsibility, you'll find it's both powerful and essential.

Published on: Jun 15, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.