15 ways to be more emotionally intelligent

Emotional Intelligence. EQ (Emotional Quotient). It’s been a while; getting close to 30 years since psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer came up with the concept, concerned that IQ focused attention on too narrow a field of performance. It wasn’t long before journalist and psychologist Daniel Goleman struck gold with his world-wide blockbuster book, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’

The key elements of EQ are:

Social skill

Need a quick refresher? Try this short HBR Explainer video.

EQ matters. If you want to step up to managing others, no amount of IQ or tech skills will compensate for a lack of emotional intelligence. How can you boost your EQ? Here are 15 steps you can take:



1. Keep a journal. Reflect on the day’s events – what went well? What didn’t go so well? What have you learned? Re-read your journal over time to spot common themes and patterns. For more on keeping a journal, see this post.

2. Get feedback. Yes, especially if like me, you’re British and you cringe at the very idea. Why wait for your next appraisal? Ask your manager, team members and peers, what they’d like to see you doing more/less of so that you can improve how you work with them. If the thought still pains you – you need The Feedback Book.

3. Exercise: broaden your emotion vocabulary. When I ask groups in Zoomly workshops to shout out some emotion words, there’s an initial rush of ‘Angry!’ ‘Happy’ ‘Sad’ ‘Worried’… and then it can soon stall. Notice how you’re feeling at different points in the day and write the words in your journal.



4. Explore alternatives. When we develop self-regulation we’re acting on our self-awareness to master our emotions, rather than letting them master us (which is called ‘emotional hijack’ in EQ-speak). So for some of us self-regulation may mean overcoming self-doubt and speaking up in meetings. For others it may be noticing we don’t agree with a speaker’s point, but nevertheless hearing them out.

5. Dial up and down. As you become more self-aware, you’ll identify the emotions you want to bring to particular situations, such as enthusiasm, compassion, or humility. You’ll also notice the emotions that need to be dialled down for a successful outcome.

6. Exercise: breathe. Take some slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes when it’s safe to do so. If you want to ensure you head off a hijack and stay in the here and now, you might try grounding exercises, for example focusing all your attention on what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell, right here, right now. More grounding tips via Living Well.



7. Stay true to your values. We need to have our sat-nav installed and updated for success that aligns with what really matters to us. See this post to get started.

8. Identify your strengths. There are heaps of ways you can do this, so if you’re unsure of your top 5-7 strengths, get going and do an assessment. See ‘Why should you bother identifying your strengths – and how?’ for more.

9. Exercise: passions. List all the things in your life that you are passionate about. Which ones are you out of touch with? How will you reconnect and revive your passions?



10. Walk in their shoes. Taking another’s perspective can be revelatory (and sometimes uncomfortable, when we look back at how we’ve behaved towards them). Look at the situation from their point of view and notice their feelings.

11. Study. Next time you’re in a meeting with someone who you think is empathetic, watch and listen to how they behave and what they say. More empathy tips here from Huffington Post.

12. Exercise: observe. Notice people’s body language; what emotions do you think they may be feeling? Practise by recording a chat show or news interview and watching it without sound, try to identify speakers’ emotions. Then replay with sound to check your assessment.

Social skills


13. Quality matters more than quantity. Strengthen a few social bonds at a time rather than aiming to triple to your social media following. A good litmus test is to consider if you would feel able to ask someone for help – and if you’d help them if they asked you.

14. Mind your manners. Say ‘Good morning’ to colleagues, smile and say ‘hello’ to colleagues in passing. Be sure to say ‘Thank you’. BBC Capital offers tips on courtesy and more for ‘Surviving a British workplace’.

15. Exercise: offer to help. Rather than waiting to be asked, offer to help someone out. You can point them at solutions and short-cuts for something they’re struggling with, or show them how it’s done. Share information or lessons learned. If they say ‘no’, accept gracefully.

Image credits
ThankYouCalligraphy – @akomov/Depositphotos


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.


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