There’s a phrase or simply two words that keep popping up and gaining momentum over the years. More and more you will hear leaders in any organization talk about how important it is to have emotional intelligence or EQ. Some argue it’s being able to truly listen while others claim that emotional intelligence is being completely self-aware and in control of your emotions.

Emotions are the fuel that drives your decisions. What do I mean? The emotional state you are in right now can still go one of two ways. You can choose to let that emotion dictate your behavior all while later apologizing for how you acted or you can take a second and ask, how do I want to react to this? Should I ask a follow-up question to determine if there is another possible way of reacting to this situation? In the latter, you were able to recognize you had an emotion to a situation but you chose not to immediately react.

There are different levels of being emotionally intelligent. Let’s focus on some of the first steps and how to approach them. 

Are you the type of person that is generally aware of how you acted after you have already acted out? You might have gotten emotional and blurted out the first thing or jump to the keyboard to write that scathing review. This behavior is can either lead to more issues or remorse after the fact. Usually this type of person’s belief model and points of view of their life and that of the world are governed by their emotions. They tend to react to things on the surface, ignoring the very root cause of their emotional outbursts.

The emotionally intelligent person has an underlying understanding that their emotion is a personal issue governed by their own experiences in life. Their belief systems tends to fall on rational driven by their emotions. In other words, this persona pushes the levels of comfort where as the EQ inept reacts when their safe space and comfort level is violated. 

So how do I improve my self-awareness? One of the first things a person must do is be completely honest and ok with the answer, the outcome and the welcome what we are about to uncover. People tend to dig for other conclusions because they might not like the honest answer for multiple sets of reasons that are personal to them. 

Another way to begin your growth in gaining emotional intelligence is to ask yourself better questions and be honest with the answer. You will have to dig beyond asking yourself 5 times as to why digging deeper and deeper each time. If you were to come to me and say, Jus I asked myself but it didn’t work. Two things then, you didn’t go deep enough to the root of why you’re really reacting the way you are or you might have a problem facing the truth. I didn’t say this was going to be easy. But communicating with yourself is one of the if not the most important aspect when it comes to your growth. 

Mr. Toyota of Toyota Automotive would ask why 5 times digging deeper into any issues he had because he understood there might be a reasoning behind any circumstances. One day there was a problem on the factory floor and Mr. Toyota asked the factory floor worker what the issue was and it led him to his manager. Mr. Toyota repeated this and found out in the end, the decision came from the board of directors in order to save costs. Can you think of a situation where you were just following orders yet you got the brunt of the tongue lashing?

Hen you know and understand you have past emotional trauma and know you have some work to do you can begin to learn more about why you react to situations the way you do. Those that deal with rejection by the love of your life 10 years prior could lead to issues today of self validation. I have personally worked with people that had a problem with judging themselves because they were too busy comparing their lives to others. They were resentful towards people with money but only because of their own unhappiness with their own lives. A hot phrase today is the word “triggered” because it indeed hits a nerve sending a person into an emotional state causing them to react to a situation. This trigger then channels the past emotions of the past event that caused them pain in the first place. The current event has nothing to do with the past event but the feelings are similar and this person hasn’t disconnected the past with current reality.

So how do you move forward? You have several options as there is not just one way to solve the lack of emotional intelligence. You have to find what works best for you through either therapy, coaching or simply starting by letting go of the past. A large part of that comes down to forgiving yourself and anyone else tied to your previous emotion, the root of why you react to situations today.

You must be able to truly listen to someone else without making the next thing out of your mouth being all about you. When you listen, you’re able to gain perspective on how others see themselves also. Have you ever heard the phrase “listen to listen instead of listening to respond”? Think of the last time you were arguing with someone. Where you just ready to belt out the words you’ve been storing when it’s your turn to speak? Did you even hear the emotional state of the person you’re arguing with? This is the moment that you ask questions. Take a minute to understand the other person and by asking them guided questions, you in turn will learn better questions to ask yourself.

How do you listen better? I have found the best way to listen to someone is to find out what their emotional state is causing them to say the words they are using. Rarely is it the words someone is putting together at the top of the lungs but the voice inside that doesn’t know how to actually speak out loud. One of the best tools you can have in your pocket is the art of communication. Communicating is 80% reading the other person through their body language, tone, word choice, and emotional state. 15% is responding, insuring that person feels you understand their situation and how they feel about something. The remaining 5% is their shift in an emotional state. 

When you’re aligned, then you’re at peace with the past and the future doesn’t freak you out. Living in the moment shows you know that the past or accessing the future puts in an emotional state that most times makes you feel a bit unsettled. When we access the past, we tend to dig up old feelings of remorse, resentment, sadness, and melancholy. When we look into the future we more times than most access emotions of fear, anxiety, and worry. Even for my hopeful and positive dreamers out there, you too can get caught up in the future by thinking about how things will be taking you out of the most important moment and stage of your success. When we do this, we rob ourselves of precious actionable energy that needs to be used in the present moment. These actions or lack of action from dreaming too much keeps us from executing and shows us that we aren’t being grateful for what we have right now. 

How do I get a handle on the past, present, and future? You thank the past for all the lessons it has given you and set your goals for the future. Gratitude is the one major key when it comes to living in the present moment where happiness and fulfillment already exist. When we are grateful for the past, we are able to appreciate how far we have come. The past is intangible. Let me repeat that. The past literally doesn’t exist. Even the present moment records of the past exist in the present moment. When we are grateful for the present moment we find the true underlying purpose of our future. You uncover your purpose as opposed to seeking it. 

When we ask better questions, listen more, understand our emotions and where they come from, we are to become better critical thinkers and waking up with purpose and intent. So you want that new car in the next 1 or 2? Why do you want it? Is it for your image or are you trying to prove something? Imagine you already have it, now what? Are you seeking an emotion from reaching this goal?

The future is one of the biggest traps when it comes to productivity. We work hard thinking about the goal we have in the future will deliver a specific emotion. The key is to access that emotion before we even reach that goal. If we already have the emotion then the goal becomes less about proving a point and more about purpose. 

These are just some of the ways we can improve our emotional state and increase our emotional intelligence. 

For now, take 15 mins and express gratitude for yourself and how far you’ve come. You’ve survived everything you’ve ever been through. The past is the past, it won’t hurt you anymore unless you keep accessing the emotions of it. The next time something upsets you, take a deep breath and just start with asking why. You’ll be amazed what happens when you keep asking it going 7 layers deep.