Emotional Intelligence refers to how well you recognize and deal with your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. If you’re emotionally intelligent, you can manifest and process your feelings in healthy ways. It’s also key to your own emotional healing.

Emotional intelligence can help you succeed at work and in your personal life. Wherever you feel your emotional intelligence is right now, there are several simple ways to improve it.

Practice Empathy

Empathy is one of the keys to emotional intelligence. It’s about understanding why someone feels or a certain way and how those feelings might affect their behavior. If you’re empathetic, you’re able to communicate to them that you understand where they’re coming from. While some people may be naturally more empathetic than others, you can improve your empathy with practice.

Begin with yourself. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way or acting this way?” You might not know the answer at first. But if you keep paying attention to your feelings and behavior — stopping to acknowledge them and reflect — you’ll get better at empathizing with yourself and then with others.

Observe Your Own Feelings and Emotions

In the busy grind of daily life, it’s easy to lose track or lose touch with our emotions. This may make us more likely to act without thinking, missing out on the insights we’d gain if we took more time to stay in touch with ourselves. By paying more attention to your feelings, you can learn to trust your emotions, manage them, and learn from them.

To practice this, take time to purposely evaluate your emotions. Check in with yourself by setting an alarm a few times a day if you need to. When it’s time, breathe deeply and think about how you’re doing emotionally. Are your feelings manifesting themselves in a physical way? What does it feel like? Practice this regularly, and eventually you’ll do it without having to remind yourself to check in.

Practice Emotional Healing

While you work on your emotional intelligence, realize that emotional healing is part of the equation. The less emotional baggage you carry, the easier developing your emotional intelligence is likely to be. With tools like The Emotion Code®, you can release emotional energies that could be bringing you down or affecting your emotional healing. With those energies removed, you can focus on becoming a more emotionally intelligent person.

Take Responsibility For Your Emotions

Many of us tend to place blame on other people or circumstances for the way we feel. But in reality, your feelings and behavior come from within you — not any external source. Since your feelings and behavior belong to you, you’re ultimately responsible for them.

You’ve probably seen people react harshly to something someone says. Maybe you’ve done this yourself. It’s often hard to control anger, frustration or hurt feelings when insulted. But while we can’t control what other people do, we can control how we respond.

When you feel hurt, consider this responsibility and take stock of your emotions before you react. Those feelings can provide valuable insight about your experience with the other person, the relationship dynamics, as well as your own needs. But in the end, your feelings and how you manage them aren’t anyone’s responsibility but your own.

Once you truly accept responsibility for how you feel and behave, your emotional intelligence will improve.

Focus on Responding, Not Reacting

As you take responsibility for your feelings and behavior, you might find yourself better able to respond to people and situations rather than simply react. There is a subtle but important difference between the two.

Reacting is like a reflex; an unconscious effect. When your emotions are triggered by something, you may feel like reacting in a way that expresses emotion. For example, you might snap at your kids when they interrupt your work. Or you might get defensive when your boss offers what he or she thinks is constructive criticism. Wanting to react is natural, but it’s much better to respond instead.

Responding involves a conscious process. It requires you to take note of how you feel and then cognitively decide how to behave. Maybe instead of getting defensive with your boss, you realize you’re feeling that way and decide to take the criticism as a learning experience. Or when your son interrupts you, rather than lashing out you take a minute to explain why now is not a good time for an interruption. Rather than uncontrolled reactions, these are emotionally intelligent ways to respond. It takes practice, so be patient with yourself as you work on responding over reacting.

Embrace the Process Of Emotional Growth

Emotional intelligence isn’t an achievement — it’s a lifetime pursuit. It’s always possible to get better at it as you go through your own emotional healing process. You may get to a point where you feel like you’ve mastered it, but don’t neglect your emotional intelligence. If properly cared for and maintained, it can serve you well for your entire life.