Improving emotional intelligence is all about seeking ways to heighten emotional wellbeing. For fulfilled relationships and a long-lasting sense of social and inner awareness, emotional intelligence (EI) is going to be an absolute game-changer. It seems simple enough, and yet, so many lack the knowledge and resources to properly cultivate emotional maturity.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (or EI, often referred to as EQ), is described as an individual’s ability to balance and understand emotions with reasoning. The Emotional Intelligence theory, developed in 2004, has led to widespread discovery of how emotional intelligence interacts with social, personal, and inner worlds.

To deepen understandings of EI, 21Ninety spoke with emotional intelligence, mindset and relationship coach Kourtney Dubois.

Here is what you need to know:

21N: Why is emotional intelligence so important?

Kourtney Dubois: EI affects how we perceive ourselves and others, how far we go in our careers and in social settings as well as how successful and fulfilling our relationships with others are. People with high EI are well liked and successful leaders, influencers and motivators.

Emotionally intelligent people are just happier people. They don’t hold on to stress because they effectively process how they feel about any given situation. Your EI determines your outlook on life, that’s why it is so important to have a healthy and high level of EI.

21N: How might poor emotional intelligence affect relationships?

Dubois: Poor EI will ruin a relationship. In relationships, people with low EI often express themselves in what shows up as anger or control but it’s really masked insecurity. An example of this could look like an argument between two partners where one partner is going to hang out with friends and the other partner is being passive aggressive or negative in their communication about the issue. Instead of simply saying “I’m uncomfortable when you go out with your friends”. Or “I feel abandoned when you leave me and I don’t hear from you when you’re with your friends” low EI sounds like “Why do you always have to hang out with them” or “You never spend quality time with me.” It could be any other line of questioning/ behaviors that do not express the partner’s truest desire or pain point. 

An emotionally intelligent person could respond to this scenario by asking their partner: “How can I help you feel more secure in this moment? What do you need from me?” In this moment, they recognize it isn’t really about choosing to hang out with friends, rather something deeper.

21N: What are some tips to better cultivate emotional intelligence?

Dubois: If you want to improve your EI, I suggest you look inward first. Assess yourself on how you emotionally respond to good and bad news. What is your initial reaction to hearing something you don’t like? How does that show up verbally and nonverbally? How have people responded to your expression of emotions in the past? Are you a good listener? After a conversation do your family and friends walk away feeling better about themselves or their relationship with you? Do you find agreeable solutions efficiently during conflict?

Ultimately, the advice is to become a better listener. Are you listening to hear what the underlying message of the speaker is, or are you listening to understand? Sharpen your listening skills by turning toward the speaker. Don’t interrupt, look for nonverbal communication, don’t assume anything or jump to conclusions, ask clarifying questions and have empathy for them and their experience. 

Finally, manage your emotional impulse control in times of conflict by taking a deep breath (or take a beat if needed!). Ask yourself “am I being triggered in this moment?” Respond with your honest feeling about what your needs are for resolution.

This takes practice and is a life long journey of self awareness as we change in and out of seasons. Give yourself grace if you find it difficult at first. Most of us are not given the time or space to learn about ourselves nor explore our emotions until adulthood. This is also usually typical only if you participate in some sort of therapy.