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Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Key Skills for Raising Emotional Intelligence

When it comes to happiness and success in life, emotional intelligence (EQ)


matters just as much as intellectual ability (IQ). Emotional intelligence helps
you build stronger relationships, succeed at work, and achieve your career
and personal goals. Learn more about why emotional intelligence is so
important and how you can boost your own EQ by mastering a few key skills.

What is emotional intelligence?


Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and
manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively,
empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Emotional
intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the
way you behave and the way you interact with others.
If you have high emotional intelligence you are able to recognize your own
emotional state and the emotional states of others, and engage with people
in a way that draws them to you. You can use this understanding of emotions
to relate better to other people, form healthier relationships, achieve greater
success at work, and lead a more fulfilling life.
Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:

You recognize your own emotions and how they affect


your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and
have self-confidence.
Self-awareness

Self-management

Social awareness

Relationship management

Youre able to control impulsive feelings and


behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative,
follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
You can understand the emotions, needs, and
concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable
socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
You know how to develop and maintain good
relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work
well in a team, and manage conflict.

Why is emotional intelligence (EQ) so important?

As we know, its not the smartest people that are the most successful or the
most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant
and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal
relationships. Intellectual intelligence (IQ) isnt enough on its own to be
successful in life. Yes, your IQ can help you get into college, but its your EQ
that will help you manage the stress and emotions when facing your final
exams.
Emotional intelligence affects:

Your performance at work.

Your physical health.

Your mental health.

Your relationships.

Emotional intelligence can help you navigate


the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and
excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging job candidates,
many companies now view emotional intelligence as being as
important as technical ability and require EQ testing before hiring.
If youre unable to manage your stress levels, it can
lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood
pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart
attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging
process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn
how to relieve stress.
Uncontrolled stress can also impact your mental
health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are
unable to understand and manage your emotions, youll also be open
to mood swings, while an inability to form strong relationships can
leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
By understanding your emotions and how to control
them, youre better able to express how you feel and understand how

others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively


and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

How to raise your emotional intelligence


All information to the brain comes through our senses, and when this
information is overwhelmingly stressful or emotional, instinct will take over
and our ability to act will be limited to the flight, fight, or freeze response.
Therefore, to have access to the wide range of choices and the ability to
make good decisions, we need to be able to bring our emotions into balance
at will.
Memory is also strongly linked to emotion. By learning to stay connected to
the emotional part of your brain as well as the rational, youll not only
expand your range of choices when it comes to responding to a new event,
but youll also factor emotional memory into your decision-making process.
This will help prevent you from continually repeating earlier mistakes.
To improve your emotional intelligenceand your decision-making abilities
you need to understand and manage your emotions. This is accomplished by
developing key skills for controlling and managing overwhelming stress and
becoming an effective communicator.
Developing emotional intelligence through a few key skills:

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is built by reducing stress, remaining focused,


and staying connected to yourself and others. You can do this by learning key
skills. The first two skills are essential for controlling and managing
overwhelming stress and the last three skills greatly improve
communication. Each skill builds on the lessons learned in practicing the
earlier skills and include:

The ability to quickly reduce stress in the moment in a variety of


settings

The ability to recognize your emotions and keep them from


overwhelming you

The ability to connect emotionally with others by using nonverbal


communication

The ability to use humor and play to stay connected in challenging


situations

The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence

How to learn the key skills that build emotional intelligence

The key skills of emotional intelligence can be learned by anyone, at any


time. There is a difference, however, between learning about emotional
intelligence and applying that knowledge to your life. Just because you know
you should do something doesnt mean you willespecially when you become
overwhelmed by stress, which can hijack your best intentions.
In order to permanently change behavior in ways that stand up under
pressure, you need to learn how to overcome stress in the moment and
stress in your relationships by remaining emotionally aware. This means that
you cant simply read about emotional intelligence in order to master it. You
have to experience and practice the skills in your everyday life.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 1: Rapidly reduce stress in the


moment

High levels of stress can overwhelm the mind and body, getting in the way of
your ability to accurately read a situation, hear what someone else is
saying, be aware of your own feelings and needs, and communicate clearly.
Being able to quickly calm yourself down and relieve stress helps you stay
balanced, focused, and in controlno matter what challenges you face or
how stressful a situation becomes.
Stress busting: functioning well in the heat of the moment

Develop your stress-busting skills by working through the following three


steps:

The first step to reducing stress is


recognizing what stress feels like. How does your body feel when
youre stressed? Are your muscles or stomach tight or sore? Are your
hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Being aware of your physical
response to stress will help regulate tension when it occurs.
Realize when youre stressed

Identify your stress response

Discover the stress-busting techniques that work for you

Everyone reacts differently to stress. If you


tend to become angry or agitated under stress, you will respond best
to stress-relieving activities that quiet you down. If you tend to become
depressed or withdrawn, you will respond best to stress-relieving
activities that are stimulating. If you tend to freezespeeding up in
some ways while slowing down in othersyou need stress-relieving
activities that provide both comfort and stimulation.
The best way to
reduce stress quickly is by engaging one or more of your senses: sight,
sound, smell, taste, and touch. Each person responds differently to
sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing and/or
energizing to you. For example, if youre a visual person you can
relieve stress by surrounding yourself with uplifting images. If you
respond more to sound, you may find a wind chime, a favorite piece of
music, or the sound of a water fountain helps to quickly reduce your
stress levels.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 2: Beat relationship stress with


emotional awareness
Being able to connect to your emotionshaving a moment-to-moment
awareness of your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and
actionsis the key to understanding yourself and remaining calm and
focused in tense situations with others.
Many people are disconnected from their emotionsespecially strong core
emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy. This may be the result of
negative childhood experiences that taught you to try to shut off your
feelings. But although we can distort, deny, or numb our feelings, we cant
eliminate them. Theyre still there, whether were aware of them or not.
Unfortunately, without emotional awareness, we are unable to fully
understand our own motivations and needs, or to communicate effectively
with others. We are also at far greater risk for becoming overwhelmed in
situations that appear threatening.
What kind of a relationship do you have with your emotions?

Do you experience feelings that flow,

Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience

encountering one emotion after


another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
places like your stomach or chest?

in

Do you experience discrete feelings and emotions,

Can you experience intense feelings

Do you pay attention to your emotions?

such as anger, sadness,


fear, joy, each of which is evident in subtle facial expressions?
that are strong enough to capture both
your attention and that of others?
Do they factor into your decision

making?

If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be turned


down or turned off. In order to be emotionally healthy and emotionally
intelligent, you must reconnect to your core emotions, accept them, and
become comfortable with them.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 3: Nonverbal communication


Being a good communicator requires more than just verbal skills and the
ability to manage stress. Often, what you say is less important than how you
say it, or the other nonverbal signals you send outthe gestures you make,
the way you sit, how fast or how loud you talk, how close you stand, or how
much eye contact you make. In order to hold the attention of others and
build
connection and trust, you need to be aware of, and in control of, this body
language. You also
need to be able to accurately read and respond to the nonverbal cues that
other people send you.
These messages dont stop when someone stops speaking. Even when
youre silent, youre still communicating nonverbally. Think about what you
are transmitting as well, and if what you say matches what you feel. If you
insist, Im fine," while clenching your teeth and looking away, your body is
clearly signaling the opposite. Your nonverbal messages can produce a sense
of interest, trust, excitement, and desire for connectionor they can
generate fear, confusion, distrust, and disinterest.
Tips for improving nonverbal communication

Successful nonverbal communication depends on your ability to manage


stress, recognize your own emotions, and understand the signals youre
sending and receiving. When communicating:

If you are planning what youre going to say


next, daydreaming, or thinking about something else, you are almost
Focus on the other person.

certain to miss nonverbal cues and other subtleties in the


conversation.

Make eye contact.

Pay attention to nonverbal cues

Eye contact can communicate interest, maintain the


flow of a conversation, and help gauge the other persons response.
youre sending and receiving, such as facial
expression, tone of voice, posture and gestures, touch, and the timing
and pace of the conversation.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 4: Use humor and play to deal with
challenges

Humor, laughter, and play are natural antidotes to lifes


difficulties; they lighten your burdens and help you keep things in
perspective. A good hearty laugh reduces stress, elevates mood, and brings
your nervous system back into balance.
Playful communication broadens your emotional intelligence and helps you:

Take hardships in stride.

Smooth over differences.

Simultaneously relax and energize yourself.

Become more creative.

By allowing you to view your frustrations and


disappointments from new perspectives, laughter and play enable you
to survive annoyances, hard times, and setbacks.
Using gentle humor often helps you say things
that might be otherwise difficult to express without creating a flap.
Playful communication relieves
fatigue and relaxes your body, which allows you to recharge and
accomplish more.
When you loosen up, you free yourself of rigid
ways of thinking and being, allowing you to get creative and see things
in new ways.

How to develop playful communication:

Its never too late to develop and embrace your playful, humorous side.

Try setting aside regular, quality playtime. The more you joke, play,
and laughthe easier it becomes.

Find enjoyable activities that loosen you up and help you embrace your
playful nature.

Practice by playing with animals, babies, young children, and outgoing


people who appreciate playful banter.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 5: Resolve conflict positively


Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in relationships. Two people cant
possibly have the same needs, opinions, and expectations at all times.
However, that neednt be a bad thing. Resolving conflict in healthy,
constructive ways can strengthen trust between people. When conflict isnt
perceived as threatening or punishing, it fosters freedom, creativity, and
safety in relationships.
The ability to manage conflicts in a positive, trust-building way is supported
by the previous four skills. Once you know how to manage stress, stay
emotionally present and aware, communicate nonverbally, and use humor
and play, youll be better equipped to handle emotionally charged situations
and catch and defuse many issues before they escalate.
Tips for resolving conflict in a trust-building way:

Stay focused in the present.

When you are not holding on to old hurts and

resentments, you can

recognize the reality of a current situation and view it as a new


opportunity for resolving old feelings about conflicts.

Choose your arguments.

Forgive.

End conflicts that can't be resolved.

Arguments take time and energy, especially if you


want to resolve them in a positive way. Consider what is worth arguing
about and what is not.
Other peoples hurtful behavior is in the past. To resolve
conflict, you need to give up the urge to punish or seek revenge.
It takes two people to keep an argument
going. You can choose to disengage from a conflict, even if you still
disagree.

Improving Emotional Health

Strategies and Tips for Good Mental Health

People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their
behavior. They are able to handle lifes challenges, build strong relationships,
and recover from setbacks. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain
physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. Improving your
emotional health can be a rewarding experience, benefiting all aspects of
your life, including boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to
your overall enjoyment of life.

What is mental health or emotional health?


Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It
includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships,
and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
Good mental health isn't just the absence of mental health problems. Being
mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression,
anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental
illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive
characteristics. Similarly, not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good.
While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do
things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional
health.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

A sense of contentment.

A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.

The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.

A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their


relationships.

The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.

A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.

The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.

Self-confidence and high self-esteem.

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to


participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive,
meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics
also help you cope when faced with life's challenges and stresses.

The role of resilience in mental and emotional health


Being emotionally and mentally healthy doesnt mean never going through
bad times or experiencing emotional problems. We all go through
disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life,
they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.
The difference is that people with good emotional health have an ability to
bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience.
People who are emotionally and mentally healthy have the tools for coping
with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain
focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good.
One of the key factors in resilience is the ability to balance stress and your
emotions. The capacity to recognize your emotions and express them
appropriately helps you avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other
negative mood states. Another key factor is having a strong support network.
Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will
boost your resilience in tough times.

Physical health is connected to mental and emotional health

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step


towards mental and emotional health. The mind and the body are linked.
When you improve your physical health, youll automatically experience
greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only
strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful
chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.
The activities you engage in and the daily choices you make affect the way
you feel physically and emotionally.

Get enough rest.

Learn about good nutrition and practice it.

Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood.

Get a dose of sunlight every day.

Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs.

To have good mental and emotional health, its


important to take care of your body. That includes getting enough
sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in
order to function optimally.
The subject of nutrition is
complicated and not always easy to put into practice. But the more you
learn about what you eat and how it affects your energy and mood, the
better you can feel.
Exercise is a powerful antidote
to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity
to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a
short walk. To get the most mental health benefits, aim for 30 minutes
or more of exercise per day.
Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at
least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day. This can be done while
exercising, gardening, or socializing.
These are stimulants that
may unnaturally make you feel good in the short term, but have longterm negative consequences for mood and emotional health.

Improve mental and emotional health by taking care of yourself

In order to maintain and strengthen your mental and emotional health, its
important to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Dont let stress
and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your
daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself,
youll be better prepared to deal with challenges if and when they arise.
Taking care of yourself includes pursuing activities that naturally release
endorphins and contribute to feeling good. In addition to physical exercise,
endorphins are also naturally released when we:

Do things that positively impact others.

Practice self-discipline.

Learn or discover new things.

Enjoy the beauty of nature or art.

Manage your stress levels.

Limit unhealthy mental habits like worrying.

Being useful to others and being


valued for what you do can help build self-esteem.
Self-control naturally leads to a sense of
hopefulness and can help you overcome despair, helplessness, and
other negative thoughts.
Think of it as intellectual candy. Try taking
an adult education class, join a book club, visit a museum, learn a new
language, or simply travel somewhere new.
Studies show that simply walking through
a garden can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. The same goes
for strolling through a park or an art gallery, hiking, admiring
architecture, or sitting on a beach.
Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and
emotional health, so its important to keep it under control. While not
all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help
you bring things back into balance.
Try to avoid becoming absorbed
by repetitive mental habitsnegative thoughts about yourself and the
world that suck up time, drain your energy, and trigger feelings of
anxiety, fear, and depression.

More tips and strategies for taking care of yourself:

Appeal to your senses.

Engage in meaningful, creative work.

Stay calm and energized by appealing to the five


senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Listen to music that lifts
your mood, place flowers where you will see and smell them, massage
your hands and feet, or sip a warm drink.
Do things that challenge your
creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid

for itthings like gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or


building something in your workshop.

Get a pet.

Make leisure time a priority.

Make time for contemplation and appreciation.

Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you
feel needed and loved. There is no love quite as unconditional as the
love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for
exercise and expose you to new people and places.
Do things for no other reason than that it feels
good to do them. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen
to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just
because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental
health necessity.
Think about the things youre
grateful for. Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment
to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go
about your day.

Everyone is different; not all things will be equally beneficial to all people.
Some people feel better relaxing and slowing down while others need more
activity and more excitement or stimulation to feel better. The important
thing is to find activities that you enjoy and that give you a boost.

Supportive relationships: The foundation of emotional health


No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and
emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and be
your best. Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for
relationships and positive connections to others. Were not meant to survive,
let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionshipeven
when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.
Social interactionspecifically talking to someone else about your problems
can also help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship
with someone who is a good listenersomeone you can talk to regularly,
preferably face-to-face, who will listen to you without a pre-existing agenda
for how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings
behind your words, and wont interrupt or judge or criticize you. The best
way to find a good listener? Be a good listener yourself. Develop a friendship
with someone you can talk to regularly, and then listen and support each
other.
Tips and strategies for connecting to others:

Get out from behind your TV or computer screen.

Spend time daily, face-to-face, with people you like.

Volunteer.

Be a joiner.

Screens have their place but


they will never have the same effect as an expression of interest or a
reassuring touch. Communication is a largely nonverbal experience
that requires you to be in direct contact with other people, so dont
neglect your real-world relationships in favor of virtual interaction.
Make spending time with
people you enjoy a priority. Choose friends, neighbors, colleagues, and
family members who are upbeat, positive, and interested in you. Take
time to inquire about people you meet during the day that you like.
Doing something that helps others has a beneficial effect on
how you feel about yourself. The meaning and purpose you find in
helping others will enrich and expand your life. There is no limit to the
individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore. Schools,
churches, nonprofits, and charitable organization of all sorts depend on
volunteers for their survival.
Join networking, social action, conservation, and special
interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer
wonderful opportunities for finding people with common interests
people you like being with who are potential friends.

Risk factors for mental and emotional problems


Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped
by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant.
Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be
changed by experience.
Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:

Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life.

Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life.

Learned helplessness.

Illness,

Feeling
lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young
child.
Death of a parent or other
traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
Negative experiences that lead to a belief that
youre helpless and that you have little control over the situations in
your life.
especially when its chronic, disabling, or isolates you from
others.

Side effects of medications,

Substance abuse.

especially in older people who may be taking a

variety of medications.
Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health
problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.

Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and


emotional health, its never too late to make changes that will improve your
psychological well-being. Risk factors can be counteracted with protective
factors, like strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for
managing stress and negative emotions.

When to seek professional help for emotional problems


If youve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional
health and you still dont feel goodthen its time to seek professional help.
Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring
professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able
to do on our own.

Effective Communication
Improving Communication Skills in Business and Relationships

Effective communication helps us


better understand a person or situation and enables us to resolve
differences, build trust and respect, and create environments where creative
ideas, problem solving, affection, and caring can flourish. As simple as
communication seems, much of what we try to communicate to othersand
what others try to communicate to usgets misunderstood, which can cause
conflict and frustration in personal and professional relationships. By learning
these effective communication skills, you can better connect with your
spouse, kids, friends, and coworkers.

What is effective communication?


In the information age, we have to send, receive, and process huge numbers
of messages every day. But effective communication is about more than just
exchanging information; it's also about understanding the emotion behind
the information. Effective communication can improve relationships at home,
work, and in social situations by deepening your connections to others and
improving teamwork, decision-making, and problem solving. It enables you
to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict
or destroying trust. Effective communication combines a set of skills
including nonverbal communication, attentive listening, the ability to
manage stress in the moment, and the capacity to recognize and understand
your own emotions and those of the person youre communicating with.
While effective communication is a learned skill, it is more effective when its
spontaneous rather than formulaic. A speech that is read, for example, rarely
has the same impact as a speech thats delivered (or appears to be
delivered) spontaneously. Of course, it takes time and effort to develop these
skills and become an effective communicator. The more effort and practice
you put in, the more instinctive and spontaneous your communication skills
will become.

Effective communication skills #1: Listening


Listening is one of the most important aspects of effective communication.
Successful listening means not just understanding the words or the
information being communicated, but also understanding how the speaker
feels about what theyre communicating.
Effective listening can:

Make the speaker feel heard and understood,

Create an environment where everyone feels safe

Save time

Relieve negative emotions.

which can help build a stronger,

deeper connection between you.


to express ideas, opinions,
and feelings, or plan and problem solve in creative ways.
by helping clarify information, avoid conflicts and
misunderstandings.
When emotions are running high, if the speaker
feels that he or she has been truly heard, it can help to calm them
down, relieve negative feelings, and allow for real understanding or
problem solving to begin.

Tips for effective listening


If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening effectively will often
come naturally. If it doesnt, you can remember the following tips. The more you practice them, the
more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.

Focus fully on the speaker, his or her body language, and other nonverbal cues. If youre
daydreaming, checking text messages, or doodling, youre almost certain to miss nonverbal
cues in the conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating
their words over in your headitll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns, by saying


something like, If you think thats bad, let me tell you what happened to me. Listening is not
the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You cant concentrate on what someones saying if
youre forming what youre going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial
expressions and know that your minds elsewhere.

Avoid seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you dont
have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set
aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person.
The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely
and profound connection with someone.

Show your interest in whats being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make
sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal
comments like yes or uh huh.

Effective communication skills #2: Nonverbal communication


When we communicate things that we care about, we do so mainly using
nonverbal signals. Wordless communication, or body language, includes
facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the
tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. The way
you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about
how youre feeling than words alone ever can.
Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can
help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate
challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.

You can enhance effective communication by using open body


languagearms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on
the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person
youre talking to.

You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal
messagepatting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his
success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your
message.

Tips for improving how you read nonverbal communication

Practice observing people

Be aware of individual differences.

Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group.

in public places, such as a shopping mall, bus,


train, caf, restaurant, or even on a television talk show with the sound
muted. Observing how others use body language can teach you how to
better receive and use nonverbal signals when conversing with others.
Notice how people act and react to each other. Try to guess what their
relationship is, what theyre talking about, and how each feels about
what is being said.
People from different countries and
cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so
its important to take age, culture, religion, gender, and emotional
state into account when reading body language signals. An American
teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are
likely to use nonverbal signals differently.
Dont read too much into
a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals
you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language.
Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact slip, for example,
or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as
a whole to get a better read on a person.

Tips for improving how to deliver nonverbal communication

Use nonverbal signals that match up with your words.

Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context.

Use body language to convey positive feelings

Nonverbal
communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If
you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your
listener will likely feel youre being dishonest. For example, you cant
say yes while shaking your head no.
The tone of your voice,
for example, should be different when youre addressing a child than
when youre addressing a group of adults. Similarly, take into account
the emotional state and cultural background of the person youre
interacting with.
even when you're not actually
experiencing them. If youre nervous about a situationa job
interview, important presentation, or first date, for exampleyou can
use positive body language to signal confidence, even though youre
not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head
down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your
shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a

firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to
put the other person at ease.

Effective communication skills #3: Managing stress


In small doses, stress can help you perform under pressure. However, when
stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can hamper effective
communication by disrupting your capacity to think clearly and creatively,
and act appropriately. When youre stressed, youre more likely to misread
other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into
unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior.
How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your
spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something
you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm
state, youll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases youll also help to
calm the other person as well. Its only when youre in a calm, relaxed state
that you'll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or
whether the other persons signals indicate it would be better to remain
silent.
Quick stress relief for effective communication

When stress strikes, you cant always temper it by taking time out to
meditate or go for a run, especially if youre in the middle of a meeting with
your boss or an argument with your spouse, for example. By learning to
quickly reduce stress in the moment, though, you can safely face any strong
emotions youre experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave
appropriately. When you know how to maintain a relaxed, energized state of
awarenesseven when something upsetting happensyou can remain
emotionally available and engaged.
To deal with stress during communication:

Recognize when youre becoming stressed.

Take a moment to calm down

Your body will let you know if


youre stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or your
stomach tight and/or sore? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath
shallow? Are you "forgetting" to breathe?
before deciding to continue a conversation or

postpone it.

and quickly manage stress by taking a few deep


breaths, clenching and relaxing muscles, or recalling a soothing,
sensory-rich image, for example. The best way to rapidly and reliably
Bring your senses to the rescue

relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and
smell. But each person responds differently to sensory input, so you
need to find things that are soothing to you.

Look for humor in the situation.

Be willing to compromise.

Agree to disagree,

When used appropriately, humor is a great


way to relieve stress when communicating. When you or those around
you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by
sharing a joke or amusing story.
Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, youll
be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for
everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much
more about something than you do, compromise may be easier for you
and a good investment in the future of the relationship.
if necessary, and take time away from the situation so
everyone can calm down. Take a quick break and move away from the
situation. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes
meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your
balance can quickly reduce stress.

Effective communication skills #4: Emotional awareness


Emotions play an important role in the way we communicate at home and
work. Its the way you feel, more than the way you think, that motivates you
to communicate or to make decisions. The way you react to emotionally
driven, nonverbal cues affects both how you understand other people and
how they understand you. If you are out of touch with your feelings, and
dont understand how you feel or why you feel that way, youll have a hard
time communicating your feelings and needs to others. This can result in
frustration, misunderstandings, and conflict. When you dont address whats
really bothering you, you often become embroiled in petty squabbles instead
arguing with your spouse about how the towels should be hung, for
example, or with a coworker about whose turn it is to restock the copier.
Emotional awareness provides you the tools needed for understanding both
yourself and other people, and the real messages they are communicating to
you. Although knowing your own feelings may seem simple, many people
ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. But
your ability to communicate depends on being connected to these feelings. If
youre afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on communicating only on a
rational level, it will impair your ability to fully understand others, creatively
problem solve, resolve conflicts, or build an affectionate connection with
someone.

How emotional awareness can improve effective communication

Emotional awarenessthe consciousness of your moment-to-moment emotional


experienceand the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately is
the basis for effective communication.
Emotional awareness helps you:

Understand and empathize with what is really troubling other people

Understand yourself, including whats really troubling you and what


you really want

Stay motivated to understand and empathize with the person youre


interacting with, even if you dont like them or their message

Communicate clearly and effectively, even when delivering negative


messages

Build strong, trusting, and rewarding relationships, think creatively,


solve problems, and resolve conflicts