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7 Tips For Boosting Your EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

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Finding your passion—and turning it into money—is tricky for anyone, but especially for women. The persistent gender wage gap, the lack of top female executives, and the dearth of mentorship present unique challenges. Luckily, our friends at Levo League give young women the tools and resources they need to navigate the workplace and to feel empowered and challenged in their careers. Check out their site for tips, tricks, and generally pretty wonderful advice about how to get the job you deserve.

IQ gets all the fame. It has Albert Einstein as a poster child and it just sounds so, well, smart. But your EQ, your emotional intelligence, is equally as important in your personal success—plus, it’s key in the development of leadership skills. Your Emotional Intelligence accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs! Also studies have found that 90 percent of high performers are also high in Emotional Intelligence and that every point increase in EI increases annual salary by $1,300 on average.

Your EQ addresses how we perceive and understand our own emotions and the emotions of others. Then there your Behavior Emotional Intelligence (BEQ), which is the evolution of that awareness; it is our ability to use EQ to manage personal behavior and relationships.

We talked with Casey Mulqueen, Ph.D., Director of Research & Product Development for The TRACOM Group, one of the nation’s top leadership development companies. They’ve developed a proven BEQ training program used by many Fortune 100 and 500 companies from all around the world. Mulqueen wrote an entire white paper on the subject called, “Behavioral EQ: Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work.” Here are a few of her best tips to boosting your EQ.

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1. Figure out what are your emotional triggers.

These are the things that result in you losing behavioral control. This is invaluable for understanding the situations and emotions that you experience just prior to losing control of your behavior. Knowing what pushes your buttons will help be able to recognize and tame those situations.

2. Mentally rehearse common situations that set off your emotional triggers.

Research shows that when you mentally rehearse scenarios, you are activating the same neural circuitry that is activated when you are actually in the scenario. Instead of responding the way you typically have in the past, imagine yourself acting in a more productive way. Develop a mental “movie” of yourself and clearly imagine yourself behaving in the ways you want. This will help prepare you for when these situations actually occur. You will have a script to follow.

3. Force your brain into action by solving a problem.

Actively distracting yourself is an effective way to maintain self-control. If you are suddenly in a situation where you are feeling anger or frustration, for instance, shift your focus from the other person or situation to a mental problem. Make the problem challenging. For example, work out the solution to 15 x 18. This will force your brain to focus on the math problem and away from the stressful situation. The old adage that you should count to ten is not effective. The reason is that it is too easy and, therefore, does not actively engage the brain. Distracting yourself with a difficult problem is an effective strategy for avoiding an emotional reaction. It is not important to solve the problem correctly.

The point is to engage the brain region that solves problems, thereby preventing the emotional center of your brain from flooding the bloodstream with adrenalin and other stress hormones that cause strong emotional reactions.

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4. Engage in healthy escapism.

If it is too hard to find a mental problem to solve, another form of distraction is to actively let your attention shift to a pleasant memory. You can sing a song in your mind, think of your favorite place or activity, a funny TV show, whatever works best for you. Similar to solving a problem, this will engage your mind and prevent the amygdala from taking control and causing a strong emotional reaction. Think of this as a healthy form of mental escapism.

5. When it comes to email, the “send” button is not your friend.

Ask a friend or trusted colleague to review questionable or emotional emails before you send them. Research shows that as many as one-half of all emails are misinterpreted by the recipient. If you think something sounds neutral, it might be interpreted as offensive or rude. Carefully consider your message and the recipients. What type of people are they? What are their behavioral styles? How are they likely to interpret your email? In what ways could your message be misinterpreted? Just as important, if you are feeling angry or frustrated when writing the email, this is a red flag. It is too easy to hit the “send” button, so develop a habit to always wait at least 30 minutes before sending an email when you’re feeling emotional.

6. Walk away from tense situations.

If you are in an emotionally heated conversation or situation, say, “I need time to think about this before I respond,” or some other appropriate response that allows you to leave the situation. Not everything has to be dealt with immediately, especially if tempers are high. Separate yourself from the situation. Allow adequate time to pass so you, and the other person, can calm down. When feeling more controlled, you can then respond to the person. Remember that in these situations the amygdala is in control of your mind. It takes time to calm down and for your prefrontal cortex to resume control of your thoughts and actions. Leaving the situation is not escapism; it is a healthy and productive action that will result in a better outcome.

7. Make a conscious decision to speak clearly and with decorum whenever you are in an emotionally charged situation.

This is an effective strategy for avoiding the urge to blow up and lose control. Think of the language you will use; make sure it is respectful and calmly delivered. Like all habits, practice will enhance your effectiveness and it will become more natural over time. If you know that you will be in an emotional discussion, rehearse ahead of time. Determine exactly what you will you say and the language you will use.

NEXT: Learn how to be a better leader with Tiffany Dufu. 

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