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Low Emotional Intelligence Got You Down? Get EQ Skills the Smart Way

If you feel sad more often than you’d like, react with anger too quickly, or have relationship drama upsetting your life continually, you may be emotionally out of shape! Our emotions are there to guide us to action. People who struggle with low emotional intelligence often don’t know how to modulate their emotions. Feelings and pain can be ignored, stuffed, or sometimes, we use productivity to run from them.

But what if developing your emotional intelligence could unlock opportunities and transform your life and relationships? Would it be worth it?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Depressed woman wrapped in blanket sitting on her bed.

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Table of Contents

Emotional Intelligence, the Smart Way!
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
The Significance of Emotional Intelligence in Modern Day
The Impact of EQ
Common Questions About Emotional Intelligence
Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence
What to Do If You Lack Emotional Intelligence
3 Actions to Raise Your Emotional Quotient
Closing Thoughts

Emotional Intelligence, the Smart Way!

Emotional intelligence is not simply a trend or buzzword, it's much more. It's an essential skill set that can fundamentally change how you interact with the world.

You probably know someone who navigates life's challenges with ease and grace. Nothing seems to bother them, they’re resilient, have an easy-going nature, laugh a lot, and they always seem to be winning at life. Those individuals may have mastered "the smart way" of living: utilizing EQ skills.

So, what exactly is "the smart way"?

It's adopting practical strategies to enhance your EQ in everyday situations. It's recognizing emotional triggers and responding rather than reacting. It's cultivating empathy to connect with others more deeply and using self-awareness to navigate emotions effectively.

If it sounds like a mountain too high to climb, be encouraged that small, consistent steps can have a significant impact.

Brain science shows that we can rewire our brains to change our lives. Yes, increasing our emotional intelligence requires effort, focus, and practice but it is doable.

I'll walk you through the basics to build greater emotional fitness. Soon, you'll have new emotional intelligence muscles that will increase your ease and inner peace.

Ready to hit the emotional intelligence gym?


What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Before we dive in, let’s get on the same page.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is an indispensable ingredient that can radically revolutionize how we perceive and experience our lives. It dramatically alters how we understand ourselves and connect with others. It's not just about being "smart" in the traditional sense; it's about being wise in emotions.

For all of us, navigating the ups and downs of daily life, EQ offers tools to manage our feelings, understand others better, and build stronger relationships. Just like a carpenter would not build a house without tools, nor should you build your life without EQ tools. 

EQ is different and independent of IQ (intelligence quotient), which defines intellect. Someone can have a high IQ and a low EQ or vice versa—they’re independent of each other.

At its core, EQ involves these critical skills:

  • Knowing our feelings and why (self-awareness)
  • Managing them (self-management)
  • Recognizing other people's' feelings (social awareness)
  • Connecting with them (empathy)

Can you imagine how your life might be different if you could navigate life's challenges with greater emotional intelligence?

Improving your EQ has made a massive difference in my client’s lives, and it can make a difference in yours, too. Still not convinced?

Check out the latest post from Psychology Today, The Truth About Emotional Intelligence.

The Significance of Emotional Intelligence in Modern Life

Have you considered how your emotional reactions might be affecting your relationships (personal and professional)?

How’s your overall well-being?

Is your stress or anxiety taking a toll on your quality of life?

Navigating emotions and understanding others is crucial. Emotionally intelligent people gain far more than being emotionally savvy. Emotional intelligence (EQ) equips us with skills to face life's challenges with resilience, empathize with those we love, and develop effective communication in our personal and professional lives.

The Impact of EQ:

  • Personal Life:  Imagine spotting emotional cues early and averting a blow-up with your partner or handling a heated argument calmly and intuitively because you understand the root of a loved one's distress. You'll be able to accurately identify your own emotions and those of others.

    A high EQ quotient creates profound understanding, self-control, enhanced relationships, and dramatic personal growth.

  • Professional Life: In the workplace, EQ means better teamwork, leadership, and adaptability. You'll effectively collaborate with your peers, make informed decisions and be and active ingredient in building a positive work environment. 

    Developing emotional intelligence gives you invaluable traits for any career.

You may have questions about emotional intelligence. Let me see if I can answer some of the common ones that I hear.

Common Questions About Emotional Intelligence

Is there scientific evidence to support the significance of EQ?

Scientific research supports the significance of EQ in improved mental health, quality of life, friendships and relationships, job performance, and leadership.

Let's take a quick look at a few of these studies:

  • Advances in neuroscience show that emotions come from brain chemistry and play a vital role in shaping our perceptions and decision-making.
  • A study from the National Library of Medicine connects emotional intelligence to increased job satisfaction and success, especially in healthcare professionals like pharmacists.
  • High emotional intelligence correlates with better mental health, offering increased resilience with conditions like anxiety and depression.
  • Emotional intelligence enhances interpersonal relations, conflict resolution, team motivation, and creativity.
  • Critics argue that defining and measuring emotional intelligence remains challenging, but psychological models suggest that emotional competencies meet standards for "abilities" distinct from traditional intelligence.

Substantial evidence strongly indicates that emotional intelligence significantly impacts various aspects of life, from career success to mental health.

Can EQ be developed later in life, or is it only shaped during childhood?

Childhood is a significant time to integrate emotional literacy. However, people of all ages can develop greater emotional intelligence. Your brain has the ability to form new neural connections, known as neuroplasticity. This capacity allows us to learn EQ skills with practice and intention and raise our emotional intelligence.

How long will it take to develop my emotional intelligence?

Developing and enhancing EQ varies for each person based on factors like temperament, early childhood experience, baseline emotional skills, and dedication. Mastering EQ skills is an ongoing process that evolves with continuous effort and self-reflection.

What are common challenges in learning emotional intelligence?

I'll admit developing EQ has its hurdles. The process of growth takes focus and commitment.

As someone is learning EQ skills, they initially revert to old habits until the skill are practiced and integrated. However, they catch themselves more and more often until they are able to consistently respond thoughtfully.

Initially, it can be tricky recognizing and naming emotions accurately, especially if you’ve spent your life using feeling stuffers. Feeling and expressing emotions constructively requires more attentiveness and control.

Yes, overcoming learning obstacles requires patience and persistence. But it's TOTALLY worth it! I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t even know it was possible for life and relationships to be SO sweet.

Emotionally intelligent people gain far more than being emotionally savvy; they learn to have self-compassion and love themselves. The goal to be emotionally fit takes work, but the positive results are incredibly rewarding.

Hopefully, some of your EQ questions have been answered. If you’re ready to dig in with more depth and invest in raising your EQ quotient, check out this amazing emotional intelligence course. Having a thorough guide is critical.

Master Your Emotionally Intelligence!

The bottom line is that integrating EQ into your daily routine isn't just about managing the lows or enhancing interactions—it's a comprehensive approach to living more intentionally and fulfilling our potential.

As we integrate emotional intelligence into our lives, we unlock the ability to live in harmony with ourselves and others, making every step toward EQ a stride toward a more connected life.
A happy young couple cuddling while watching a movie on their laptop.

Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence

Now that you know more about emotional intelligence, let’s assess what low EQ looks like.

Relax. EQ is just like any other skill: math, language, playing an instrument. If you haven’t been given the basics, there’s no way you could have developed those skills.

If you think your EQ is low, don’t fret. A little bit goes a L O N G way. Just remember to have self-compassion and keep yourself encouraged as you learn.

Here are common signs of low emotional intelligence in the following areas:

Low Self-Awareness and Reflection

  1. Unaware of your emotions and thoughts.
  2. Lack self-understanding with a limited capacity for reflection.
  3. Highly stressed; unable to recognize stressful situations.
  4. Fixed mindset and unable to receive constructive feedback.
  5. Overemphasis on personal views and opinions.
  6. Denial of responsibility; blames others for failures or shortcomings.

Poor Emotional Literacy and Management:

  1. Limited emotional vocabulary.
  2. Out of touch with your emotions.
  3. Unable to express emotions appropriately.
  4. Frequent emotional outbursts or volatile temperament.
  5. React impulsively (knee-jerk reactions without considering the consequences).
  6. Struggle with emotional situations.
  7. Poor coping skills; react defensively under pressure.
  8. Bottle up emotions until they explode later ("emotional leakage").

Lack of Empathy and Interpersonal Connections

  1. Lack of sensitivity towards others' feelings.
  2. Making hurtful comments or jokes at inappropriate times.
  3. Avoidant communication style.
  4. Lacks emotional support for self or others.
  5. Reluctance to engage in meaningful discussions.
  6. Unhealthy interpersonal relationships. 
  7. Failure to validate others' emotions; regular use of feeling stoppers.

Inadequate Social Competence

  1. Unaware of others’ perspectives, emotions, and behaviors.
  2. Social anxiety; use of language that alienates others.
  3. Lack of healthy boundaries in relationships.
  4. Minimize others' challenges and hardships.
  5. Dominate conversations; lack the ability to listen.
  6. Deficiency of tact and diplomacy; struggle with social interactions.
  7. Focus on self-interest or preservation in group settings rather than group benefits.

These traits can strain professional and personal relationships, make mental health issues more likely, and hinder conflict resolution and effective teamwork.

Recognizing these some of your tendencies and symptoms is the first step toward developing emotional intelligence.

What to Do If You Lack Emotional Intelligence

Can you imagine a world where people embrace emotional intelligence as a fundamental skill, leading to more empathy, understanding, and peaceful coexistence?

Sounds great, right?

If you struggle with managing your emotions, there are practical steps and life-changing tools you can learn to improve your emotional intelligence.

Here are three EQ skills to start with and set the foundation for an amazing life!

3 Actions to Raise Your Emotional Quotient

Nurture Your Self-AwarenessNurture Your Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is recognizing and understanding your thoughts, emotions,  and behaviors. It's about objectively observing ourselves and noticing our reactions. This skill is foundational because it affects stress management, decision-making, and interactions.

Consciously observing yourself helps to resolve conflicts more easily. For instance, in a heated argument, noticing physical cues such as your stomach tightening, or your chest pounding is imperative for knowing how to take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries

Also, knowing the signs of your survival brain igniting fear is a huge lifesaver.

Discovering the “why” of an emotional reaction will assist in getting your needs met more effectively.

For instance, you might be feeling misunderstood or unheard or even unsafe if someone is raising their voice. Your awareness and ability to take a self-calming break from a heated argument can help de-escalate the conflict and help you to restore balance.

Tips to Develop Emotional Awareness

Create a Mindful Space: Dedicate time daily to sit quietly and tune into your thoughts and feelings. Reflect on your day, reactions to events, and triggers so you become more aware of your emotional patterns.

Keeping a daily journal helps you become more aware of your inner landscape. Write about your day, focusing on moments with strong emotions and why. Over time, you'll see patterns in your emotional responses and identify triggers.

Feedback Loop: Ask close friends or family how they perceive your reactions. Outside perspectives shed light on blind spots. Use the feedback as a learning tool to better understand yourself.

Identify Emotional Triggers: Pay attention to people, situations, words, or actions that evoke a strong emotional response from you. Recognizing these triggers allows you to prepare and choose your response instead of reacting without thinking.

Reflect and Learn:
After strong emotions, take time to reflect.
Ask yourself:
  • What happened that upset me?
  • What emotions was I feeling?
  • What are these emotions telling me?

Reflection can help you understand your emotional responses and learn from them. Then, think of three different ways you can take better care of your emotions. 

Related reading: How to Find Inner Peace by Resolving Conflicted Emotions.”

Incorporating these practices into your routine will gradually enhance your emotional intelligence. EQ skill sets are developed through consistent and mindful efforts. As you become more self-aware, you'll notice an improvement in managing emotions, interacting with others, and navigating life's complexities.

A bearded man ornamenting wall to emotionally regulate himself.

Practice emotional regulationPractice Greater Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is processing and managing emotions in a healthy way.

This EQ skill keeps us navigating life’s challenges with more ease. When we regulate  emotions effectively, we can stay calm in challenging situations, recover from setbacks quicker, and stress doesn’t build up. By mastering it, we ensure we gain the wisdom of our emotions to guide to appropriate actions in varying situations.

Imagine receiving harsh criticism on a project you've worked very hard on at your job. Your boss doesn't like it and tells you it could be better. Instead of reacting defensively or angrily, you take a deep breath, acknowledge your feelings, and respond constructively. Use words like, "I feel…"

This ability to pause and choose your response is emotional regulation in action and will save you from saying something you regret to your boss, peers, partner or friends and family.

Tips to Develop Emotional Regulation

Breathe and Pause: When emotions run high, take a moment to deeply breathe and pause. This action helps reduce the intensity of your feelings, giving you space to think before you act or speak.

Name It to Tame It: Try to identify your emotions as you experience them. By acknowledging, "I feel frustrated" or "I feel hurt," your intense emotion will dissipate. Then you’ll be able to better understand why you're experiencing the feeling.

Explore the Why: Once you've named your emotion, dig deeper. Ask yourself, "Why am I feeling this way?" When you understand the root of your feelings, you can address the real issue rather than just the reaction.

Find Healthy Outlets: Discover activities to manage stress and negative emotions. You could go jogging, do yoga, paint, or talk to a friend. These outlets help process and release emotions constructively.

Reframe Your Thoughts: Challenge and change negative thoughts that accompany strong emotions. Instead of thinking, "Everything is ruined," try "This is a setback, but I can work through it." Changing thought patterns can change emotions and reactions.

Practice Resilience: Building emotional resilience is vital to emotional regulation. You must develop a mindset that helps you bounce back from difficulties. Remind yourself of past challenges and the strengths you've developed through those experiences.

Emotional regulation is not about suppressing feelings but understanding and handling them wisely. It's crucial for enhancing emotional fitness and navigating life with empathy and clarity. Relationships, decision-making, and well-being will benefit as you improve. It's a journey, not a race. Be patient as you develop this invaluable EQ skill.

Practice Self-Calming.Practice Self-Calming

Self-calming techniques can be used to bring us back down when we experience stress, anxiety, or overwhelming emotions. These techniques are essential for emotional intelligence, helping us regain balance and clarity and navigate life better.

Imagine being stuck in traffic, late for an appointment. Your stress levels rise. We've all been there.

Instead of getting frustrated, take deep, slow breaths. Focus on the air filling your lungs and exhaling slowly. You'll feel a shift in your body from a stress response to a calm state, helping you make better decisions and decrease stress.

A senior Black woman intentionally deep breathing to calm herself.

Tips to Self-Calm and Soothe Your Emotions
Intentional Breathing: This is how to quickly calm your nervous system. Try the 4-7-8 technique: inhale deeply for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and exhale slowly for 8 seconds, and repeat until relaxed. Or consciously take deep breaths while inhaling peace and exhaling stress.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and relax each muscle group from your feet to your head. Do this exercise slowly and intentionally to be more effective. You'll release physical tension and promote a sense of calm.

Mindfulness and Meditation:
Practice being in the present moment without judgment through meditation or by paying close attention to your surroundings and sensations. It can help interrupt the worry and stress cycle.

Imagine a place where you feel at ease, focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells that relax you. This mental escape can offer a quick break from stress. Visualization is a skill worth practicing.

Engage Your Senses:
Find a soothing activity that engages one or more senses. Try sipping a warm cup of tea, listening to calming music, smelling a favorite scent, or wrapping yourself in a soft blanket. Engaging your senses can provide immediate comfort and distraction from stress.

Move Your Body:
Physical activity is a powerful stress reliever. Whether it's a brisk walk, stretching, or dancing to your favorite song, moving your body releases tension and produces endorphins, natural mood lifters.

Something to remember is that self-calming techniques are not one-size-fits-all. Experiment with different methods to see which ones fit best for you.

The goal is not to avoid or suppress emotions but to manage them so they support your well-being and emotional fitness.

Closing Thoughts

We all have emotions and emotional experiences whether or not we acknowledge them.

Emotions are human.

Mastering our emotions is extraordinary.

True transformation occurs when we practice and integrate skills into our daily experiences. Enhancing your EQ requires commitment, practice, and willingness to grow.

Though growth is sometimes challenging, the rewards of a deeper emotional connection with yourself, improved relationships, and greater emotional resilience are worth the effort!

And the ideas I've discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a wealth of knowledge designed to improve your relationships, career, and life if you'd like to take the next step in your journey.

Are you ready to turn your understanding of emotions into actionable change?

Heartmanity's Online Emotional Intelligence course is inexpensive for great value. It is designed to be the next step to help you better harness the power of your emotions. Our course offers practical tools, strategies, and insights to deepen emotional intelligence.

Yes, teach me emotional intelligence!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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