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Do These 5 Things to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

What’s been shown by research to be more important for job success than IQ?

What’s a major factor in life satisfaction?

What contributes to lasting marriages and happy children?

What can leap tall buildings in a single bound? (Well, maybe not that.)

It’s Emotional Intelligence! Also known as EQ.

Emotional Intelligence has been defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships and conflicts with empathy and skill.

Research tells us that people with high EQ enjoy many advantages and benefits in life. But some people have a lot more of it than others.

Many people feel rather mystified by the concept of EQ. It’s natural to wonder how people get EQ. Are we born with our EQ already set? And why do some people have high EQ and some people don’t? And, probably the most important question of all: Can we increase our EQ?

Are We Born With EQ?

The answer is, “Maybe somewhat.” Few things are purely genetic, and EQ is no exception. Sure, some babies are undoubtedly born with a more natural tendency toward emotional awareness and capability for abstract thought, both of which would make it easier to learn about and understand emotions.

But in the nature/nurture question, I have clearly seen that nurture is enormously important. 

The Role of Parenting in EQ

Childhood is a training ground for emotional intelligence. When your parents see what you feel and respond to your feelings by helping you name and manage them, you learn what different emotions feel like, and how to put them into words. You learn how to identify what you’re feeling, and why you may be feeling it. You learn how to understand why you do what you do and deduce the reasons for others’ actions as well.

Emotionally aware and skilled parents do all of the above, naturally. So they tend to raise high-EQ kids. But, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When your parents are not emotionally aware or skilled, you do not get what you need to learn the EQ skills.

When your emotions are not noticed, validated, or addressed enough in childhood (I call this Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), your emotions automatically become blocked off in adulthood. So throughout the most formative decades of your life, you are missing the opportunity to learn how emotions work.

You are left with a lack of crucial knowledge. Which emotion is which? What do you do with your feelings when you have them? How are your emotions affecting your decisions? How do other people’s emotions affect their behavior?

The effects of this lack of knowledge on every single area of the emotionally neglected person’s adult life are far more severe than most people realize.

Lacking a solid EQ makes it hard to handle situations when you are having feelings or when the other person is. So you are more likely to ignore issues, sweep problems under the rug, hurt other people’s feelings, or make decisions that you will later regret.

So, although less clearly visible, the effects of low EQ are so significant that I have often compared them to those of having a physical disability, such as a missing limb.

The Bright Side

Fortunately, for all of us, that is not the end of the story. There is some very good news here. EQ is nothing other than a set of skills. And you, no matter how much Emotional Neglect you were raised with, no matter what genes you were born with, can learn them.

Do These 5 Things to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

  1. The first step is to decisively declare yourself a student of emotions. Then start paying attention to feelings in your everyday life, and make it your plan to learn everything you can about emotions and how they work.
  2. Start trying to be aware of when you are having a feeling. Being aware of your own feelings is the most important building block in all of the EQ skills.
  3. Increase your emotion vocabulary. This involves learning and using more emotion words in your everyday life. You can find a link to a free download of an Emotion Words List below.
  4. Build your capacity for empathy. You may already have plenty of ability to empathize (many who grow up emotionally neglected actually have too much empathy). But if it is rare for you to feel someone else’s feelings, you can learn how to be more empathetic. To do this, start by practicing when you are watching TV or a movie or reading a book.  Try to feel the feelings of the characters. Then move forward to trying to feel the feelings of the people around you.
  5. Practice assertiveness. Assertiveness is saying what you need to say in such a way that the other person can take it in. It requires you to know what you feel and be able to put it in words that will not insult the other person or put them on the defensive. It is speaking your truth but with compassion for the other person.

Of all of the things you can work for in your life, emotional intelligence is one of the most fruitful. As you study and pay attention to the world of feelings, you will find yourself changing in small but remarkable ways. You will find yourself feeling more. You will become more connected and more attuned to the people in your life, and they will feel it too.

Slowly, gradually, but with purpose and intention, you will stop neglecting your own feelings and become better able to handle others’ feelings.

What can change your life?

Emotional intelligence.

To learn much more about how CEN affects different areas of your life sign up to watch my CEN Breakthrough Video Series! It’s free.

To learn much more about how to increase your EQ skills and apply them in relationships see the books Running On Empty and  Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

Childhood Emotional Neglect can be hard to see and remember. To find out if you grew up with it Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
lou - February 6, 2019 Reply

The link for free Feelings List doesn’t appear to be working.

You can download the Feelings List free HERE.

    Jonice - February 6, 2019 Reply

    Dear Lou, I just checked it and it is working. You might try clearing your cache, rebooting your computer and then try again.

Terrie - February 4, 2019 Reply

I think key is letting others know how you are feeling so they get the benefit of understanding how you are interpreting what is going on. We assume too much and need to be willing to risk that we are not seeing the situation like others may see it and vice versa. My spouse will not disagree or say how he is feeling, if I don’t speak up, nothing gets discussed. I’m exhausted by this and ready to leave.

    Jonice - February 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Terrie, the one positive thing about your situation is that these skills can be learned. The real question is whether your husband is willing to try to learn them. See if he will go to a couples therapist who specializes in CEN. You can find a list on emotionalneglect.com. Sending you my best wishes.

Dara - February 4, 2019 Reply

I’m 66. I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was about 13. It’s been about 30 years since my last therapist.
Last summer my older brother got between me and my 38 year old son. When I told him he was out of line to interfere, he sent me a text starting with “LOL” and then went off on me.
In the last 10 year’s, I’ve distanced myself from my family. I’ve pulled back a few times for a year or so. Once both my parents died, there wasn’t any reason to maintain contact with my sister or 2 brothers. There was no trust.
I thought I was doing good….I quit drinking when I was 35 and was able to get to the point that I knew my parents were pretty damaged and incapable of love. It wasn’t anyone’s fault….it just was.

This last thing with my brother put me right back to my childhood. I started googling “feelings ignored” and found your CEN work. I’ve had so many memories come back. Other memories had the blanks filled in. My perceptions don’t have my safety filter anymore. Things that I felt were rude or teasing were abuse.
That’s a lot of found feelings. I told all 3 of my kids that I needed some quiet time to sort stuff out.
My oldest daughter told me “You can’t really believe Ron (my brother) did that to hurt you.” She has a MSW and I asked her if she’d say that to a battered woman. The last time I heard from her was Sept. She left me a message saying ” We don’t always have to agree on everything”. I feel she negated my existence.
My younger daughter just wants me to “move on”.
I’m not allowing this anymore. I’m not going to spend the remaining years of my life reliving my childhood with every interaction.
I can remember at least eight times from the age of 5 to 15 that I thought I was going to die. No one protected me. I was the only one that I could trust.
I was the youngest of 5 kids and it all fell down on me.
Thanks for having a place to vent a little. I have your first CEN book and I’m filling a notebook of thoughts and feelings. I never allowed myself to be angry but over the last 6 month’s I’m beginning to work through a lot. Writing is the biggest relief.

    Jonice - February 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Dara, it sounds like you have been through a lot with your family. I hope you will try to keep your children separate in your mind from your siblings. CEN gets passed down through generations, so it makes sense your kids would have problems validating your feelings. If you can, it would be a great idea for you to find a therapist on the Find A CEN Therapist List on my website. All my best wishes to you.

Scott - February 3, 2019 Reply

When I was a teen ( early 90’s), I can remember hearing the words “latch-key kids” for the first time. It was given to children who came home from school to an empty house because both parents were working.

The kids had a key to the house so they could get in, so that’s how the term “latch-key kids” came about.

I imagine, at a young age, they learned that their parent’s jobs were more important than they were, and missed out on some crucial parenting.

I wonder how much that played in, what looks like, a rise in therapy clients with CEN, attachment/ababandonment issues?

I make the assumption that there’s a rise by reading so many stories about what seems to be chronic problems with termination, and the inability of the client to let go of the therapist in a healthy way.

Any thoughts?

    Jonice - February 3, 2019 Reply

    Hi Scott, I actually don’t necessarily think there is a rise in CEN. I think it’s always been there, but it was hard to see because it’s so unobservable, it hides underneath all the abuse and trauma that are observable and memorable. We are finally now seeing it and talking about it.

Nancy - February 3, 2019 Reply

I always feel that when I an trying to be assertive that I am in actuality acting mean. Do you think I may be caring too much about what others think? Or am I just getting the assertive part wrong?

    Jonice - February 3, 2019 Reply

    Hi Nancy, that’s a good question, and unfortunately, I can’t answer it without observing you in action. But I think the best answer lies in the other person’s reaction. If they act hurt or defensive, then perhaps you were too aggressive. If they don’t take you seriously, then you may have been too mild with your point. But if they seem to take it in (even if it hurts them), that’s assertiveness!

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