Do you keep your cool in tough situations? Are you able to manage conflicts without getting out of control? High emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage emotions – is critical to handling awkward social situations, resolving disagreements and successfully dealing with family members or coworkers.

According to psychologist Daniel Goleman there are 5 critical factors to having emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

Being able to recognize your own emotions and the effect that your actions and moods have on others is crucial.

To create better self-awareness, be open to identifying your emotions and then your resulting behavior. How have your feelings impacted the people around you?

2. Self-Regulation

The next step is being able to manage your emotions. It’s not enough to recognize feelings, now you need to figure out how to handle yourself. Know when and how to express the various sentiments you are going through. Anger, sadness, grief, disappointment, worry – don’t deny your feelings but know how and when to best voice yourself effectively.

3. Social Skills

Moving beyond understanding and managing emotions brings you to the next level. Take the emotions you’ve identified and build bridges with those in your life. You use body language and words, both verbal and nonverbal communication, to create a rapport at home and at work/social settings.

4. Empathy

Compassion, reading other people’s emotions are crucial to emotional intelligence. After simply recognizing emotions comes the skill of how you respond in various situations. When confronted with a child who is downcast, or a heavyhearted spouse, now what?

Do you simply ignore? Do you know what to do to lighten a load? Can you feel, at least, some sense of what the other person is going through? How do you react to people and situations? Do you know when to be more sensitive? Can you interpret dynamics based on insecurities?

5. Motivation

Being motivated takes you outside the externals of life, past money and fame as a reward. Instead you are passionate about your life mission, your vision and goals. Self-fulfillment comes from within.

Emotional Intelligence allows you to go through life with a desire to do better, be better, and live better.

Signs of Low Emotional Intelligence

How do we know if we are on the low side of emotional intelligence? Is there a way to recognize if we, or people in our lives, need transformation?

Here are some signs of low emotional intelligence:

Arguments. Being argumentative and getting into constant conflicts or bickering is usually the result of the struggle that comes with low emotional intelligence.

Misunderstanding feelings. Not realizing that someone is upset or angry, misreading irritation and being oblivious to others emotions.

Blaming others. When there is a problem, people with low emotional intelligence cast the blame on others. It’s always someone else’s fault or no one ever understands them.

Avoidance of emotional fallout. When the temperature gets too high, instead of dealing with the situation he will walk away or bury his emotions so that resolution is hard to find.

Lack of emotional connection. Empathy, compassion, sympathy, warmth, appreciation all build a strong rapport between people.

What can we do?

The fact is that most of us will both hurt and be hurt in life. Strengthening our Emotional Intelligence we improve our lives and help us avoid some messes we may find ourselves in.

Recognize others emotions and show empathy

It’s easy to think that a wife is too sensitive or a husband too quiet at the end of a day. Who remembers what it’s like to be a child who gets constantly put down by siblings or classmates? What about the office worker who is overworked and asked to stay late again and again?

Judaism teaches us never to judge another unless we are standing in their place. Make it a habit to think for a moment before reacting. Ask yourself: what is this person feeling? What are they going through? Whether dealing with a child or adult, we have a responsibility to stand in their shoes. What is it like to go through a long day of school and feel excluded? How does it feel to put in hours at work and yet, not feel successful? What emotions come out when home life is filled with overwhelming challenges?

The best place to begin is by honing our emotional skills. People around us reflect our behavior. When we give empathy and understanding, we create healthier relationships.

Empathy does not mean that we always agree. It does mean that we acknowledge the feelings of others. We show that we value the person and recognize their emotions and needs.

Respond to feelings appropriately

Our sages teach us that “Words of the wise are heard with gentleness.” Be aware of how you act and react. It’s important to pay attention to tone and body language. Are you giving a positive message? Do you relieve your stress by screaming at another person or shutting them out?

Think about the way you greet your spouse/children after a hard day. Do you slam the door? Are you difficult to talk to? Do you seem distracted and uninterested in family or co-workers thoughts? When faced with a heavy situation at work, do you take it out on others?

The people in our lives respond to our emotional cues. Your folded arms, hard eyes, and sharp word create a barrier. Understand that you are affecting others with your behavior. Better to say “I am having a hard day and need some time” than to take your stress out on others who are bewildered by your behavior. Honestly ask yourself: Am I too angry? Oversensitive? Over-reactive?

Remove distractions

We often use our phones or work to run away from our feelings. We check emails, text or get lost on social media rather than deal with whatever it is we are going through. We live life on autopilot. The minute we get into the car we get on the phone. While waiting for a meeting to begin, we check our emails. We use technology to avoid discomfort. We have lost the art of eye contact, sharing, and real conversation. Our homes and work spaces are all affected.

Help yourself by becoming more self-aware. Get off your phone and confront yourself. What are you feeling now? It’s ok to say ‘I am scared’, ‘I am anxious’, ‘I am worried’. It’s better to recognize your feelings even if they are uncomfortable than bury yourself in your device. You cannot control your feelings if you have no idea what you are genuinely feeling.

The moment we begin paying attention to our Emotional Intelligence, we begin to transform our lives. We create better dialogue, gain greater understanding, and emit empathy. Our self-esteem and confidence grow. We process both our own emotions and those around us.