IQ gets all the fame and glory when it comes to how we are perceived by our peers — we blame Albert Einstein, the poster child of the smarty-pants contingent out there. But your EQ, or emotional intelligence, is equally as important in your personal success — plus, it’s key in the development of leadership skills. Not only does it directly reflect your ability to lead, but studies have found that it can also pad your wallet with some serious money, as every point increase in EI increases annual salary by $1,300 on average. Boom!

If you’re looking to ramp up your leadership skills and earning potential at work, scroll on. Casey Mulqueen, Ph.D., Director of Research + Product Development for The TRACOM Group, one of the nation’s top leadership development companies, gives us the 411 on how to score big when it comes to your EQ.


How to boost your EQ in 7 Steps

1. Figure out what your emotional triggers are. These are the things that result in you losing behavioral control. This is invaluable for understanding the situations and emotions that you experience just prior to losing control of your behavior. Knowing what pushes your buttons will help you be able to recognize and tame those situations.

2. Mentally rehearse common situations that set off your emotional triggers. Research shows that when you mentally rehearse scenarios, you’re activating the same neural circuitry that is engaged when you’re actually in the scenario. Instead of responding the way you typically have in the past, imagine yourself acting in a more productive way. Develop a mental “movie” of yourself and clearly imagine yourself behaving in the ways you want. This will help prepare you for when these situations actually occur. You’ll have a script to follow.

3. Force your brain into action by solving a problem. Actively distracting yourself is an effective way to maintain self-control. If you’re suddenly in a situation where you’re feeling anger or frustration, for instance, shift your focus from the other person or situation to a mental problem. Make the problem challenging. For example, work out the solution to 15 x 18. This will force your brain to focus on the math problem and away from the stressful situation. The old adage that you should count to ten is not effective because it’s too easy, and therefore doesn’t actively engage the brain. Distracting yourself with a difficult problem is an effective strategy for avoiding an emotional reaction. It’s not important to solve the problem correctly.

The point is to engage the brain region that solves problems, thereby preventing the emotional center of your brain from flooding the bloodstream with adrenalin and other stress hormones that cause strong emotional reactions.

4. Engage in healthy escapism. If it’s too hard to find a mental problem to solve, another form of distraction is to actively let your attention shift to a pleasant memory. You can sing a song in your mind, think of your favorite place or activity, a funny TV show, whatever works best for you. Similar to solving a problem, this will engage your mind and prevent the amygdala from taking control and causing a strong emotional reaction.

5. When it comes to email, the “send” button is not your friend. Ask a friend or trusted colleague to review questionable or emotional emails before you send them. Research shows that as many as one half of all emails are misinterpreted by the recipient. If you think something sounds neutral, it might be interpreted as offensive or rude. Carefully consider your message and the recipients. What type of people are they? What are their behavioral styles? How are they likely to interpret your email? In what ways could your message be misinterpreted? Just as important, if you’re feeling angry or frustrated when writing the email, this is a red flag. It’s too easy to hit the “send” button, so develop a habit to always wait at least 30 minutes before sending an email when you’re feeling emotional.

6. Walk away from tense situations. If you’re in an emotionally heated conversation or situation, say, “I need time to think about this before I respond,” or some other appropriate response that allows you to leave the situation. Not everything has to be dealt with immediately, especially if tempers are high. Separate yourself from the situation. Allow adequate time to pass so you, and the other person, can calm down. When feeling more controlled, you can then respond to the person. Remember that in these situations, the amygdala is in control of your mind. It takes time to calm down and for your prefrontal cortex to resume control of your thoughts and actions. Leaving the situation is not escapism; it is a healthy and productive action that will result in a better outcome.

7. Make a conscious decision to speak clearly and with decorum whenever you are in an emotionally charged situation. This is an effective strategy for avoiding the urge to blow up and lose control. Think of the language you will use; make sure it’s respectful and calmly delivered. Like all habits, practice will enhance your effectiveness, and it will become more natural over time. If you know that you’ll be in an emotional discussion, rehearse ahead of time. Determine exactly what you will say and the language you will use.

What strategies do you employ to take your EQ to the next level? Tweet us @britandco!

This post was previously published on Levo League by Meredith Lepore.

(Photo via Getty)