Are you able to constructively use your emotions to solve problems and complete other cognitive tasks? Can you positively influence others’ feelings relatively easily? If so, you likely have a high level of emotional intelligence. Those with high levels of emotional intelligence, or EQ, are able to recognize and regulate their own emotions along with the emotions of those around them.

It’s not surprising then that EQ is positive thing to have. What may be surprising, though, is that EQ is often thought to be more important than IQ in a person’s overall performance.

Because EQ is intangible and harder to measure than IQ, many people don’t know how much emotional intelligence they possess or how they can improve it. There are assessments available to gauge your level of EQ, but many are often left wondering what it all means and what they can do to improve their EQ. Well, if your EQ doesn’t look so high, don’t worry: here are 12 practical ways everyone can increase their emotional intelligence today.

1. Practice Empathy

It’s easy to feel sorry for others without taking the time to put yourself in their shoes.

Empathy is about imagining how someone else feels. One of the best ways to increase emotional intelligence is to be curious about the people around you. Practice noticing how others feel and envisioning yourself with those feelings to react accordingly.

2. Learn How to Say No

Increasing self-control will improve emotional intelligence. Saying no can be one of the hardest skills to master, and it is twofold. First, learn how to say no to yourself by restraining impulses and delaying the fulfillment of desires. Then, learn to say no to others when they ask you for something you can’t or don’t want to do.

Saying no isn’t about letting people down; it’s about respecting yourself and the obligations you’ve already made. Once you do you’ll be much less stressed and more in control of your emotions.

3.    Be Specific

The labels you give to emotions as you experience them will help you understand how you’re feeling and why. So instead of saying you’re sad, try to be more specific. Would it be more accurate to describe yourself as hurt, disappointed, defeated, depressed or melancholy?

When you understand exactly what it is you’re feeling, you can make better decisions about how to respond to emotions

4.    Evaluate Your Abilities Honestly

Once you’ve improved your ability to recognize your emotions, work on an honest recognition of your strengths and shortcomings.

Knowing the stressors you’re susceptible to versus the environmental factors that help you thrive will increase your EQ. You’ll be able to maximize your skills by using them to your advantage and avoid situations that bring out your weaknesses and hold you back. For example, if you know you won’t want to go back out once you’re home, stop at the gym on your way home from work instead.

5. Open Yourself to New Things

Fear of change inhibits emotional intelligence. Increase your EQ by staying flexible and open to new things. When a different life circumstance looms on the horizon, don’t run from it or try to resist it. Accept it and prepare as much as you can in advance for how you will adapt to the change.

6. Know Yourself Well and Like Who You Are

Figure out who you are and embrace your true self. Emotionally intelligent people are confident, hard to offend, and unlikely to give in to peer pressure because they are able to firmly hold onto their beliefs. To boost your EQ, you’ll have to boost your confidence.

Don’t let anyone make you question your self-worth. When you like who you are, your emotional intelligence will be as strong and unshakable as you are.

7. Reflect on Errors and Missteps

Everyone makes mistakes. What will increase your EQ is how you rebound from a misstep. Don’t go to extremes, either never thinking about it again or obsessing so much that you become paralyzed and can’t move forward. Instead, reflect on what there is to learn from your error and keep that lesson with you as you go on.

8. Forgive

Forgiveness is a radical tool for emotional intelligence. Many people don’t want to forgive because they equate it with condoning what was done to them or letting that person back into their lives. However, forgiveness is really another form of empathy and a way to let go of the negative emotions you’ve been harboring that are holding you back emotionally.

Forgiving means recognizing the suffering that the other person feels after making a bad decision or treating you poorly. You can feel empathy for that suffering and forgive, which frees you to move forward without holding on to negative feelings and stress. So recognize forgiveness as a gift to yourself as well as others and practice it often to increase your EQ.

9. Take Breaks From Technology

Every incoming email, social media alert or text interrupts us and can change our moods for the worse if the subject is bad news. Improve your emotional intelligence by setting boundaries between your work life and personal life. Turn off your phone to enjoy a walk in nature or a meal with your family. You’ll give your mind and body a much-needed respite and room for you to connect with others and allow your emotions to grow.

10. Give up the Idea of Perfection

Instead of motivating people, the pursuit of perfection often does the opposite. No one and nothing is perfect, so constantly striving for what doesn’t exist can make people feel defeated and want to quit. Increase your EQ by letting go of what you didn’t do right and focusing instead on how you’ll grow and improve next time.

11. Conjure Gratitude

Studies show that a daily practice of gratitude has tangible benefits for well-being. Among the positive effects of being thankful for what you have, gratitude alleviates sleep disorders and mental illnesses like depression, correlates with better academic performance in children and improves physical health for people of all ages.

Practicing gratitude is an easy habit to establish. Try sharing something you’re grateful for at the dinner table each night, or writing a short list before bed. You may also find it helpful to create a mantra, such as “I’m surrounded by love” or “My life is filled with blessings,” that you can repeat whenever you need a gratitude boost.

12. Prioritize Sleep

It’s no wonder that sleep – or lack of it – is the most popular topic among new parents. Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your ability to focus, regulate your emotions and curb impulsive behavior. Your brain is just like your computer battery; it needs to be recharged. Be sure to get enough sleep every night to help increase your EQ.

About the Author:

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger with a passion for personal growth and a fascination with personality assessments. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a career development site that helps professionals find happiness and success in their careers. Follow Sarah for more advice @SarahLandrum