Be honest: How many times have you blurted out something in anger that you wished you could take back? Or spilled someone’s secret that you promised to keep confidential?
Understanding and managing your emotions and behavior is one aspect of what’s called your emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ). When your EQ is well-developed, you’re able to communicate with people in positive ways, with empathy, compassion, and self-awareness. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at work, and achieve personal goals.
When it comes to social interactions, your EQ skills might need a little polishing, especially given our limited contact due to the pandemic. This exercise will help you improve your emotional intelligence and communicate better. Before saying anything, pause and ask yourself these simple questions:
- Does this need to be said?
- Does this need to be said now?
- Is it kind?
With practice, you’ll find these mental checkpoints become second nature.
1. Does this need to be said?
You see a parking spot close to the supermarket entrance. As you start to pull into the space, you notice the adjacent car is parked over the dividing line and your car won’t fit. So you drive off in a bit of a huff and park farther away. Walking toward the store, you spot the offending driver getting into their car.
Do you walk over and give them a piece of your mind, let them know that lines exist for a reason? Nah, what for? What would you ultimately gain? Do your shopping and save your energy for more important things.
Pro tip: Practice taking a deep breath and not reacting to every impulsive feeling. You’ll get better at learning to manage your emotions.
2. Does this need to be said now?
Have you ever felt compelled to say something, and then realized you probably should have chosen a different time to say it?
Maybe you’ve noticed that your partner has been experiencing a lot of stress lately and is wound up. So you’ve suggested―more than once―that walking or doing some other type of physical activity at the end of the day might help them destress. But they don’t give it a try. Then they come home from a doctor’s appointment in a bad mood, because the doctor said their blood pressure is too high.
Your impulse may be to say “I told you so,” but use your EQ instead: Your partner is already feeling down and most likely won’t be open to criticism or advice. Bring up the exercise idea at another time.
Pro tip: Learn to empathize with the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people. Developing good listening skills and being fully present in conversations will help you learn to read other people’s verbal and physical cues.
3. Is it kind?
Communicating with kindness doesn’t mean that your feelings don’t count or your needs don’t matter. Simply put, communicating with kindness means that even if you become upset or angry with someone, you still speak respectfully with them. Before saying something, consider your choice of words and tone of voice to avoid saying something you might later regret.
Pro tip: Emotionally intelligent people are aware when they’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry, and why they’re feeling that way. This makes them better able to manage their emotions without lashing out, and helps them communicate without judgement or defensiveness.