By Barb Ward

“Nothing worth having comes easy.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

What if I told you that you could positively improve your life and increase your level of success – both personally and professionally – simply by increasing your emotional intelligence (EI)? Would you want to know more? If so, keep reading!


Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, manage them, and understand how those emotions impact your performance and interactions with others. It also involves your ability to show empathy towards others. EI is built on an adaptable set of skills that can be learned and developed with practice.

This is important because the stronger your skills in emotional intelligence, the greater your ability to choose the response you want to have instead of acting on impulse. Both personally and professionally, it helps you build stronger relationships, communicate more effectively, handle conflict appropriately, reduce stress, and prevail over work and life challenges. 


While not the first to unveil the concept, in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, explained the elements of EI in a way that made it relatable to a broad audience. In the years since, hundreds of articles by researchers have been published linking emotional intelligence with leadership effectiveness, engagement, productivity, healthy organizational cultures, and likelihood for promotion, to name just a few. 

Studies have shown that leaders with higher levels of EI are more productive and in turn, increase the organization’s bottom-line. What’s more, it is the single strongest predictor of performance and the foundation for other critical skills, such as time management, communication and decision-making skills. As a result, more organizations are looking at EI when hiring, promoting, and developing their employees. 


It may seem simple, but it is not always easy. With daily mindful awareness you can improve your emotional intelligence. First, it’s important to understand the building blocks of EI:

  • Self-awareness. Being aware of and understanding different aspects of yourself, such as, personality, values, emotions, and emotional triggers. By becoming self-aware, you improve your ability to maintain emotional composure, and recognize your own emotions.


  • Self-management. Your ability to control your feelings and manage your emotions. This allows you to check your impulses and respond to circumstances at the right time, in the right way, even under stressful conditions.


  • Social awareness. Understanding the emotional needs and concerns of other people, noticing non-verbal cues, feeling comfortable in social situations, and recognizing the dynamics of different groups of people and situations. This gives you the ability to listen and observe actively, allowing you to interact with others in a meaningful way.


  • Relationship management. Your ability to manage your own emotions during interactions with others. This allows you to build and maintain positive and constructive relationships while effectively managing daily interactions, both positive and adverse. 


So, what can you do to increase EI? Following are ten tips to help you get started:

1.  Communicate clearly. Use the right words and the right tone. Articulating your positions clearly on things that are important to you can build rapport among colleagues. 


2.  Respond rather than react. The goal in a challenging situation is resolution. By staying calm and focusing on the way to resolve the issue instead of acting on impulse, you keep others calm around you. 


3.  Listen for clarity. When you are fully present, you pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues and can “read the room”. This allows you fully understand what is happening around you, so you can interact appropriately with diverse groups in many different circumstances.


4.  Be resilient. Resilience is not the absence of fear, it’s moving forward in spite of it. It’s turning adversity into opportunity, and everyone has that capability if they consciously shift their thinking.


5.  Be mindful of your attitude and your actions. Model the behavior you want your employees, and your organization, to embrace.


6.  Know your triggers. A trigger is your response to a person, situation, event, or other stimuli that provokes a strong emotional reaction. The reaction could be any emotion: joy, fear, sadness, or anger. Being aware of your emotional triggers enables you to control how you react to them.


7.  Seek feedback. Honest feedback from people you trust in your organization helps you identify opportunities to strengthen your leadership skills. Additionally, organizations often invest in a Leadership Assessment or 360-Assessment to gain confidential, valuable insight from peers and colleagues, enabling their leaders become more effective. 


8.  Practice empathy. Every day your interactions with others provide opportunities to deepen your relationships and connections through empathy, compassion, vulnerability and caring. 


9.  Take initiative. Assessing a situation and addressing it appropriately demonstrates valuable skills to colleagues and superiors and builds their confidence in you as a problem-solver and leader. It shows you are a team player, illustrating the difference between a boss, and a leader. 


10.  Be approachable. Be mindful of your body language, smile, include others in your conversation and promote positivity. Being approachable creates and environment of trust. It is the first step in building successful relationships and creating a strong team environment. 


Whether you were born with the gift of EI, or you must work to attain it, the truth is, knowledge is power, and the power of EI is your mastery of self. Wherever your journey takes you, you can rest assured that your effort to improve your EI will have a positive impact on all aspects of your life.