Increase your emotional intelligence.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of

Emotional intelligence is more important than you may think.

Most people are very familiar with the idea of IQ, the kind of intelligence that written tests can measure.  What gets overlooked often is the concept of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling and to react to them in a helpful appropriate way.

If you’ve ever wished that you were better at understanding other people, what they were thinking and feeling, then you may need to work on improving your emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is not something people are automatically born with.  We learn to be more emotionally intelligent by watching others around us, observing how they react emotionally and by practicing certain basic emotional intelligence skills.

If you would like to try to improve your emotional intelligence here a few simple ways that you may be able to expand and grow that essential skill.

Practice Self-Awareness, recognize you are feeling something.

Emotions, feelings anyway, has gotten a very bad reputation.  Increasingly we are discovering that feelings are not our enemies but are helpful to provide us with the information we need.  The Victorian era view that feelings were bad and to be suppressed, has been replaced by a modern vision that feelings can provide you with useful information.

That first step in making feelings your friends and becoming more emotionally intelligent is simply to recognize when you are feeling something.  Many people have spent so much time trying to avoid feeling anything that it comes as a shock that they need to pay more attention to what they’re feeling and why they are feeling that way.

Becoming emotionally literate.

It’s hard to talk about things if you don’t have words to describe them.  We humans use words and symbols to express and manipulate our thoughts.  Work on developing a larger feelings vocabulary.  If the only two feelings you recognize are good and bad, you have very few ways of feeling.  The more feeling words you recognize the more feelings you can identify.

Spend time and effort learning more feelings words for the times when you or others experience them.  Practice watching others then try to describe the feeling that they might be having at this precise moment.  One exercise we did back in graduate school was to turn the sound off on the TV and watch the people in the show while trying to identify what feelings they were having.

Use this practice of watching people and mentally identifying feelings in as many situations as possible.  With more feelings words and the ability to identify feelings when you see them you will increase your emotional intelligence.

Don’t let your emotions control you, distress tolerance and cravings.

People who are high in emotional intelligence, learn to control their emotions rather than being controlled by those emotions.  The ability to tolerate negative emotions without reacting to them is sometimes referred to as distress tolerance.

It is important to learn that just because you feel feelings you do not have to give in to those feelings.  It is possible to feel badly and have nothing bad happened.  Cravings for many things come and go, the emotionally intelligent person learns that because they feel cravings they do not have to give in to them.

Learn to control and manage your emotions.

You should develop the ability to recognize that you are feeling something and have learned a vocabulary to identify what that feeling is, then you are in a position to manage your emotions.  Emotionally intelligent people think to themselves, what is this feeling I am feeling, and then they decide what they want to do with that feeling.

Make your feelings a source of motivation.

Feelings can either be your boss or your employees.  Rather than letting your feelings control you and determine what you are going to do, work on using your feelings as a source of motivation to help you do the things you want to do.

Anger can be a feeling that provokes people to do things that they later regret.  Emotionally intelligent people can use anger as energy to spur them to take action and change the situation.

Learn empathy, what are they feeling?

Empathy is a very useful emotional skill.  One way to develop more empathy is to focus on what other people are feeling.  The more you’re able to recognize what they’re feeling and perhaps why they are feeling it, the more you will know how to approach them in a useful and helpful manner.

Practice Social Skills.

Social skills required a great deal of practice.  Learning those kinds of skills have somehow fallen out of fashion in this millennium.  Practicing social skills requires putting some effort into meeting and interacting with other people.

The increasing use of technology and the trend towards homeschooling have both been forces which encourage people to relate to others indirectly rather than developing their social skills.  No matter where you find yourself or who you are with, use these interactions as opportunities to observe other people with good social skills and to practice your own.

Follow these steps and you too may become someone with a high level of emotional intelligence.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at