THE BLOG
11/30/2016 09:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Emotional Intelligence: The Key Trait to Reducing Stress and Improving Your Quality of Life

2016-11-22-1479822953-199245-ArashAsli.png

By Arash Asli

Compared to a high IQ, emotional intelligence (EQ) has a higher impact on personal success, leadership abilities and quality of life. IQ is a genetic trait, while EQ is something you can train yourself to gain.

As someone who has always had a very busy life and high-intensity career, I find that working on my EQ is one of the best ways to cope with stress. My goal is to share what I've learned in the hopes that you, too, can improve your quality of life and cope with stress and anxiety, no matter what these feelings are stemming from. 

Training Your EQ


Emotions have the ability to override our objective mind. They can influence how we run our personal lives, manage our business and deal with loved ones, co-workers, customers, employees, etc. Irrational thinking like this is an obstacle that can only hold you back from success and lead to bad relationships, stress, anxiety and even depression. 

But training your EQ helps put you back in charge. For example, as a hobbyist photographer, I carry different lenses best suited for the shot I'm trying to capture. In the same way, having an increased EQ helps you choose the right view for dealing with unexpected obstacles and challenges that life may throw your way. You gain the ability to switch "lenses" based on certain circumstances, so you can look at the world with an appropriate perspective for each situation, avoiding emotional baggage that can prevent you from achieving your goals.

To improve your EQ, you should first understand its two psychological components: self-awareness and social awareness.

Self-Awareness

Gaining self-awareness is the first step to achieving a higher EQ. In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey emphasizes that self-awareness empowers us to choose our own destiny and live based on our goals, not simply by default.

To be self-aware, get to know yourself deeply. Understand your needs, feelings, habits and drives. Figure out the "what" and "why" behind your emotions and identify their root cause. For example, try asking yourself, "What just made me feel good or bad? Why do I feel this way?" Look inside of yourself and train yourself to acknowledge feelings as they occur. Then, take control of your objective mind by learning which "lens" works best to reflect on the situation. The key is to be completely present and recognize why and how you got there. Then, it's about learning to neutralize. 

Social Awareness

The second component of EQ is social awareness. This is similar to self-awareness, but rather than looking inwards, you're looking outwards -- recognizing the feelings and emotions of people you're communicating with.

Consider how successful executives and politicians control outcomes. Typically, it's a high EQ that helps them influence people through their words, motions, expressions and tone of voice.

Look behind the curtains and recognize the emotional cues causing one to behave a certain way. Objectively know what they are experiencing and why. An uncomfortable incident with a friend, partner or stranger can easily occupy your emotions and thoughts, but if you look deeply, you'll find that it's mostly your own self-judgment driving your emotions. In reality, people's behavior is based on self-needs seen from their own perspective, and depending on the nature of your relationship, only a very small part of their thoughts cares about the perspective of another. If you come to terms with this realization, then your expectation from others will change accordingly, as their lens won't reflect your view point. In addition, the scope of your self-judgment is larger.

To be socially aware, switch your lens to objectively look at a situation from another person's perspective and try to understand their behavior. Harnessing and managing their emotions will allow you to better communicate, manage conflicts, inspire and be an influence.

Becoming Present

We set goals to reach ambitions in life, but when life gets in the way of achieving those goals, we get stressed and emotions take over. So is it the goal or life that we are really after?

People who lack the ability to be proactive tend to be more reactive. They consider themselves "victims" of certain situations and lack the ability to change their reaction.

Time is the most sacred, expensive resource by any means. Days, months and years can pass by, but we often won't take the time to be present, as our focus is on the destination or what's ahead of us tomorrow. If we treat life like the journey it actually is, then it's about enjoying the experience and learning from our choices. We must not treat life as an obstacle, but learn to be the captain of our own ship -- in other words, our mind!

Training your EQ helps manage your emotions in healthy ways. It enables you to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your expectations of others, and adapt to changing circumstances to stay on the path towards your goals.

As the saying goes, what's urgent is seldom important, and what's important is seldom urgent. What's urgent is to focus on the important aspects of life and enjoy the journey.

Arash Asli is founder and CEO of Yocale.com, an online booking platform for small businesses.