Six Simple Secrets to Skyrocket your EQ

Last week I dropped this bomb: Even if you had high IQ, or in our world, advanced technical skills, you still are not guaranteed success in your career. Why? Because, in today’s world, technical skill is no longer where the money is. Sure it’s going to be a good foundation so that will get you opportunity. But if you’re looking for  sick gains over the course of your career, technical skill ain’t where it’s at. The money, as I mentioned last week is in EQ. Here are six simple secrets to skyrocket your EQ.

 

Think of the most cliché IT department and you picture a bunch of mushrooms on bodies. They’re brilliant coders. They can make databases dance (if that is even a thing). But put them in front of an audience and they fold like a pack of cards. I know you all know what I’m talking about. If you’re reading this, I know you know in your gut that you’re better than that.

 

 

Simple Ways to Develop EQ

For the love of all things good in the world, the first step to any twelve step program is to have some introspection. Really, you’d be surprised at how many people make you want to face-palm. But, this is not a twelve step program. Nevertheless…

 

IT is a male dominated industry. Women are still outnumbered. It’s getting better, but we still have a ways to go before we equalize the ratio. As a result, there’s a lot of testosterone floating around. All you have to do is step into a development meeting and you smell it. (ew… ) And while you may wonder if it is relative to showering frequency, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not. Hygiene aside, I’m still talking to you. If you think this doesn’t apply to you… if you think that you’re beyond this, you’re the probably the one who needs this the most.

 

1. Open Your Senses to Others

One of the first skills we need to harness… no, master even, is to pay attention. I know what you’re thinking. It’s too simple. You’re probably thinking, I know how to pay attention. Chances are, though, unless it’s just a natural part of who you are, you’re not going to just rise up the occasion. You might selectively. But again, people are all around you. To hone emotional intelligence, you need to be always on your game. Practice it such that it becomes second nature to you… to the point where you’re just a sponge absorbing what people are feeling around you.

 

 

As I’m writing this post, my son is at his Chinese lion dancing lesson. There’s a group practicing. The drummer walks into the room, shoulders slouched, belly sticking out. His square glasses sliding down his nose. His hair overdue for a cut, and slightly unkempt. As he steps to the drum, thick wooden drumsticks in hand, he starts playing. But you can hear clearly that the sound is reflective of how he feels about himself. He reeks of in-confidence. He could be the kindest soul with the most incredible technical skills in the world, but the character that he portrays to the world is one where he invites people to slap him across the face.

 

Enter the lion dance master (or sifu). Head shaved, save a little lock of hair tied up at the top of his head. He’s not very tall. But he looks bad ass. He’s dressed in traditional black, lion dance pants, with a black T-shirt bearing the athletic club logo. He’s fit. His posture is perfect, almost militant. He takes the drumsticks and approaches the drum. As he starts playing, the drum takes on the personality of the player. His sound is commanding. He’s a clear leader.

 

Look, none of this stuff is rocket science. I’m not giving you any secrets you probably can’t think of yourself. The difference in someone who has a high EQ versus someone otherwise is that the first is naturally pays attention to everyone. The second mostly cares about himself.

 

So the first lesson is, venture out of the world in which you are the only one. Start paying attention to the people around you.

 

2 Introspection

I meditate every morning. It’s a habit that I formed years ago. Now, I need to start every morning with a good meditation. Otherwise, quite frankly, I’m a crabby, petulant little brat. In my meditations, the first thing I do is to close my eyes and count my breaths in a quiet place, where I feel safe, free from distractions. Then, I cue myself to relax each and every little body part, starting from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. Often I will feel so relaxed, I’ll even sneeze because even my sinuses are open. Then I take a mental inventory of what my body is feeling.

 

Do I have any physical pain?
Soreness in my back?
Do I feel like my feet are falling asleep from sitting cross-legged so long?

 

In the last few years, I’ve extended this practice to my mental state as well.

 

How do I feel today, at this moment?
Am I at peace?
Do I have anxiety?
Am I feeling sad, or nervous about something about to happen today?

 

These are simple things to register about yourself. But you can only do that in a place of calmness and peace. You can’t do that while turning left at green arrow, or scouting for a parking spot. You can’t do that rushing to Meeting Room B on the other side of the building. Once you have spent a little bit of time with your mind day in, day out for a period of time, you start to notice when you’re feeling elevated, excited, happy with anticipation of something good to come into your life. You also start to notice when you feel anxious, nervous, or scared.

 

 

The Muse illustrated on Forbes.com that when we are stressed, we have little idea that we are until it starts to manifest in our bodies as sickness. But if you practice taking a mental inventory of how you feel in a brief moment of peace and solitude, you grow to familiarize yourself with each different mental state. You learn to identify what it feels like when you’re anxious, as opposed to being scared. You know what it feels like to be disgusted, as opposed to being frustrated. What’s more is that you start to be aware of the circumstances that result in you feeling anger, versus feeling oppressed.

 

Then the magic happens. When you have practiced this enough, that same emotional inventory comes into play when you’re going about your day. If you just came out of a stressful meeting, you can identify what it was that frustrated you. Possibly it’s because you did not have the opportunity to express your opinion. Or you didn’t use accurate words, and your message wasn’t conveyed the way you meant. See what I mean? In the practice of registering what you are feeling to yourself, you ultimately gain the self-control that is such an instrumental part of emotional intelligence, because you have consciously defined your emotions and what triggers them.

 

3. Ability to Manage Negative Emotions

What you do with all this mental inventory is key. As Preston Ni mentioned in Psychology Today, one of the major advantages to having high emotional intelligence is the ability to keep your emotions in check, particularly the ones that make you feel like a miserable cow. The pre-cursor to keeping those emotions in check is to be able to acknowledge when you’re feeling them. The next step is to do something to manage them.

 

 

This is where walking comes in. Walking a mile in her shoes, that is.

 

4. Walk a Mile in Her (or His) Shoes

There’s a group of male students at Penn State Dubois who every year voluntarily wears flashy red stilettos in the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” march to show their support against gender violence, rape, and sexual assault. What I’m trying to say is, very simply, if you raise your EQ, to feel what other people feel, put yourself in their mind. Think as they think. Walk a mile in their shoes.

 

Photo Credit: http://news.psu.edu/photo/326296/2014/09/15/walk-mile Steve Harris

 

5. Let it Go

I once attended T.Harv Ekar’s Millionaire Mind Intensive. True to the name, it was an intensive thirty-odd hour seminar, spread over the course of one entire weekend. One of the exercises was to get over a mental block from our childhood that either was holding us back, or that was the source of the scarcity mindset in which we constantly fought. The exercise was to put ourselves in the very shoes of the person whom we thought was the source of the mental block. For me, it was my dad.

 

 

It was one day when I was eight, he took my friend Thea and me to a local pizza joint called Bullwinkles. Bullwinkles was famous among kids because of their games room, where you can play video games, get tickets and trade them for nifty little prizes. The mental block came when my dad took my tickets and gave them to my friend Thea at the end of the night so that she could get something. I, on the other hand, went home empty-handed. I won’t give away what the exercise was. I’m sure I signed some sort of NDA before I took the course. The long and the short of it was that once I re-lived that very situation once more, but this time from my dad’s perspective, I was able to let it go. It was no longer a mental block.

 

6. Use your Words to Make the World a Better Place

Keeping negative emotions in check is one key portion. But expressing positive emotions toward someone is another. Being able to express intimate emotions to loved ones, or people to whom you’re close, or want to be close is yet another dimension.

 

This is frequently a hurdle for my culture. You obviously have clued in by now that I’m Chinese Canadian. I grew up in Canada but my family and the culture in which we grew up is very much Chinese. To put it bluntly, Chinese people don’t like to tell people mushy things. They don’t like to tell people that they love them. Paying people compliments is akin to sucking up to them, which is frowned upon. “Chat- hai,” which translates to “brushing someone’s shoes,” is the Chinese equivalent to brown-nosing.

 

 

As children growing up in a traditional Chinese household, seldom do you get feedback that you’re doing well, or that your parents are proud of you. Seldom do you hear that the 97% you scored on the math test was excellent. Instead, you’d hear, why wasn’t it 100%? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my childhood. Like most, I had ups and downs in my childhood, mostly ups. In addition, seldom did I ever get the damning 97%. I was lucky to even score over 85%. Nevertheless, the pressure to achieve high standards was beneficial for me in setting the standard of everything else in my life. At the same time, the same philosophy hampered the development of my emotional intelligence.

 

I was taught to constantly focus on closing the gap… to right the wrong, rather than having the permission to celebrate success, even if it was 97%…. or in my case, more like 83%. My mom, who was a highly talented Chinese opera singer proudly regaled that she was never satisfied with her accomplishments. At the time, I felt a mixture of annoyance and sadness. Annoyance because I secretly knew she didn’t really feel that way. I knew she said that to me with the intent that I would be relentless in my pursuit of excellence. Joke’s on her. I never pursued excellence. Instead, I pursued ‘pretty awesome.’…and sadness because if she really meant that, then she’s never been happy, which actually is also annoying.

 

In recent years, I’ve made it a point to be true to what I feel and to pay compliments when warranted. If I see a stranger in the gym, if I admired her muscular arms, or if she was doing an exercise that I felt was inspiring, I’d walk up and tell her that. It might set her day off to a good start. For me, it’s my chance to develop my own emotional intelligence.

 

You guys, emotional intelligence is all within us. It’s within us to strengthen and develop just like creativity, or social skills. Once you are on the journey to muscling up your EQ, the success whatever profession you are in follows with ease.

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