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In today's increasingly global business landscape, where relationships are key, emotional intelligence (EQ) is one of the most important factors influencing an emerging leader's success. In fact, researchers believe that EQ may be even more important than IQ in determining the success of an entire organization. The good news is that unlike IQ, which is determined largely by genetics, EQ can be developed over time with practice. Here are three concrete steps you can take to boost your emotional intelligence – and in turn, strengthen your communication skills.

1. Increase Your Emotional Awareness

Healthy, emotionally intelligent individuals are able to connect to their emotions and communicate them effectively with others. It is this awareness of their own emotions that helps such individuals to remain calm and focused in stressful situations. Fortunately, emotional awareness is a skill that can be develops at any time in your life Below are a few tips for practicing emotional awareness.

  • Name your emotions. Giving each emotion a name – such as anger, fear, joy, or sadness – has been shown to lessen the intensity of emotions so they can be effectively communicated to others.
  • Connect with your emotions. Instead of suppressing or disconnecting from uncomfortable emotions, give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel in any given moment.
  • Practice mindfulness. Try practicing mindful meditation, which has been shown to increase self-awareness and enhance self-management skills.

2. Improve Your Non-Verbal Communication

Good communicators build trust not only through spoken words, but also through powerful non-verbal cues. In order to build effective relationships with others, you need to be aware of the body language signals you send out – from how long you maintain eye contact to the way you sit, stand, and walk. Equally important to being aware of your own gestures, posture, and tone of voice is the ability to read the non-verbal cues others are giving you. Here are a few simple tips for improving your nonverbal communication:

  • Maintain eye contact. Communication experts recommend maintaining eye contact for intervals of four to five seconds. 
  • Pay close attention to body language cues. Be aware of the non-verbal signals you're sending and receiving through tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, and the pace and timing of the conversation.
  • Send positive non-verbal cues. Sending the right body language cues through your posture and gestures will ensure that others will see you as being confident and capable. An easy way to give an impression of self-assuredness is to stand tall with your shoulders back and your weight distributed evenly on both feet.

3. Resolve Conflicts Positively

Conflicts and disagreements are a given in any kind of relationship. While you won't always share the same expectations, needs, and opinions as others, you can learn to resolve conflicts in constructive ways by developing the skills in previous steps. A leader who is aware of his or her emotions and able to communicate them non-verbally will be well equipped to handle tense situations with team members, suppliers and strategic business partners.

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