There's no substitute to living life, when it comes to emotional intelligence.
But before you can live life, you have to learn how to live life, which usually means getting to know yourself, and unlearning potentially decades of programmed behaviour patterns. You see, most people are not living life, they are simply living as they are expected and encouraged to live. Sure there are some choices like what kind of job you'll do, and where, and what colour of car you'll drive, but all in all most people pretty much live like everyone else. Not because that is "their life", but because it is the norm of the environment they were born into.
Now I would go so far as to say that pretty much all of these individuals have desires, goals, ambitions, or just plain urges to do things other than the life they are leading, but almost everyone phases out those random bouts of creativity because they fear the consequences of stepping out of line. While the truth is that there are no consequences... or at least they are not nearly as overwhelming as we are lead to believe. The one thing that is most scary to every person who has power, is fiercely independent individuals... because without dependence, there is no power structure, and without a power structure, there is no power to be exercised over anyone else.
This "fear" of stepping out of line, is a comfort zone, one you have to outgrow in order to live the life you truly want. How? That's the easy part! You just do it!
But maybe I'm jumping the gun here, let's start with something a little easier...
Let's say you want to talk to a stranger, you'll be feeling certain things. Normally you'll never become aware of those feelings, you'll just feel them and based on that you will or wont talk tot he stranger. Maybe you'll feel excited, or anxious, or whatever. These feelings will decide your next step... unless you become aware of them (not as easy as it sounds). You could acknowledge your anxiety, and decide to act contrary to it, thereby stepping outside of your normal routine, or comfort zone. Better yet, you could come to understand that, as a sentient being, your actions could be entirely independent of your feelings. In order to do that you have to understand your own feelings, their nature, how they come to be, and how you can ignore or avoid them... that is emotional intelligence.
Like i said, there's no substitute for living life. I did not know ANYTHING about emotional intelligence when I started learning it, in fact i didn't even know I was learning about emotional intelligence! I know I felt something, I knew it was holding me back, and I knew it was illogical to allow irrational feelings to dictate my actions. So I declared war on my own emotions... afraid of spiders are we? Ok, that's a trip to the zoo and we're going to get COVERED in tarantulas!! No bs, no excuses, if things get too much, I always have the option to faint! Afraid of the water? No problem, it just means we're going to be taking a diving course.
Now maybe my approach wasn't the best, and I'm sure it's not the only approach, but it works for me... plus it's great for kicks, which I also like. The end result for me has been that I've learned to face adversity, and learned to love the excitement of doing something that scares the crap out of you.
Prerequisite is I suppose that you have to be a little crazy... but a lot of crazy people weren't born crazy! Besides, most of the time crazy is synonymous with freedom. Notice how people often comment on someone being "crazy" just because that someone succeeds where they let their apprehension get the better of them.
Understanding your emotions is not about avoiding fear or pain, it's about getting properly acquainted with fear and pain, so that you'll understand that often times it's fear and pain that point the way to your dreams... however unintuitive that may sound. Few great thing have ever been done without great adversity.
I've spent a good deal of my time trying to understand the feeling of "love", and I have finally concluded that what I am really feeling, is a mix of many different feelings such as respect, admiration, compassion, lust, and attachment... and when all these things are felt about a specific person, we simply call it "love". And when people have the blues over lost love, it's always the attachment bit that's causing the hurt. A simple deduction might conclude that avoiding attachment is the wiser choice, and it would be correct! But it's not the most exciting choice, not the most visceral choice, and life is about experiencing, it's a ride, and anything you choose not to experience in life is lost to you forever. So take the risk and take the pain, and as long as you remain true to your values and who you are, no risk or pain can ever hurt you. The only risk any of us ever truly face is the risk of losing ourselves, and the risk of giving up on ourselves. All else is relative, all else is temporary.
Anyway, not sure if this is what you're looking for, it's just a flow of ideas really.