Emotional intelligence (also known as EI or EQ) is one of those nebulous concepts with several mutually exclusive definitions, but each sketches a similar image. To state it simply, emotional intelligence is one’s fluency in analyzing and acting upon your own and others’ feelings. The ability to operate with them plays an enormous part in your social interactions as you respond to cues and communicate effectively.

It is not the sole province of the mawkish, but a skill any adult would do well to develop. An utilitarian sort might focus exclusively on its uses in gaining an upper hand and influencing people. Don’t do that. Its correlation with mental and relationship health is a better reason to train yours.

Emotional intelligence can be seen as IQ’s counterpart, a necessary half if you want to be a balanced and effective human being. To succeed you need to be both intelligent (IQ) and emotionally intelligent (EQ)

The University of Macedon found that every component they assigned to happiness can be predicted by a dimension of EI. Use it to empathize, diffuse conflict, build trusts, alleviate stresses, forge bonds, attract the opposite sex – it influences every important aspect of human life.

Building your personal quotient

Begin with a test subject capable of conveying exactly how they feel to you. Somebody like, say, you. Observe how you feel yourself reacting to the world. Whenever there’s a swell, or reaction, identify it and tag it. Where did that come from? What was happening or being said when it popped up? What is it like to experience this emotion? How has it affected your behavior? If you can pin down the details, you can draw relationships between them, building an understanding of an emotion as well as its sources and consequences.

You could call this being self-aware. The next trick is using this knowledge to perform some personal triage and control the things you’ve identified. It’ll help you work on keeping anger in check, eliminating impulsivity, and making mindful decisions about your happiness, for example. Practice evaluating your thoughts and their interconnections and taking control.

Taking it outside

As it happens, this perception helps with other people too. Empathy is essentially being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their emotions. People tend to have similar reactions to insults and hugs, and yours should map nicely onto others. How would you react if their situation were yours? What must they be feeling now? Read body language or directly ask about how someone’s feeling to fill in the gaps of the picture you’re constructing. Being able to ready people will be a huge asset to your success. Are they embarrassed or uncomfortable? Happy or faking it? Being able to successfully recognize these will allow you to influence them.

Again, the information gleaned can be used to make prudent choices about our behavior. We can learn to stop assuming the worst about somebody’s intentions or evaluation of us if we can imagine what they’re dealing with. We can gracefully uplift somebody’s self-esteem and reap the social rewards, and so on and so forth.

You just need to keep forming habits out of the myriad ways EI manifests itself. Spend time making an effort with people and run behaviors and responses through your head. Keep flexing the emotional intelligence. Eventually it’ll get stuck that way.