Building Emotional Intelligence: 5 Tips to Help You Come out on Top 

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58% of your success is directly related to your emotional intelligence. 90% of top performers rank highly for emotional intelligence, compared to 20% of bottom performers.

Building emotional intelligence is one of the best things you can do to increase the success of your team. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about emotional intelligence, how you can cultivate it in others, and 5 ways to improve your own emotional intelligence.

Ready? Let’s get started.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

People with average IQs outperform people with high IQs 70% of the time. This left scientists and researchers scratching their heads for years until they discovered emotional intelligence- the missing link in the chain.

Put simply, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, manage, and understand your emotions. It’s also the ability to recognize, influence, and understand other people’s emotions.

Many people find that they’re very technically competent but lack the people skills that would make them great leaders. These people skills are related to emotional intelligence.

It seems obvious, right? After all, people who are able to manage their emotions, work with a diverse range of people, and put themselves in other people’s shoes will be able to collaborate, innovate, and drive change.

Emotional intelligence incorporates four skills under two competencies: Social competence and personal competence.

Personal Competence

This is your self-management and self-awareness. It’s all about staying aware of your emotions and managing your tendencies and behavior.

Self-awareness allows you to accurately perceive your emotions and be aware of them as they occur.

Self-management is when you use that awareness to direct your behavior and stay flexible positively.

Social Competence

This is your relationship management and social awareness skills. It’s how well you understand other people’s behavior, moods, and motives.

Relationship management relates to your ability to use your awareness of both others’ emotions and your own emotions to successfully manage your interactions.

Social awareness is based on your ability to pinpoint other peoples’ emotions and understand what’s really going on.

It’s easy to see why the above will help you perform successfully in the workplace. Luckily, you can work on the following skills to develop your emotional intelligence:

  • Stress management: Coping with challenges and managing stress in a healthy way
  • Decision making: Using emotions to guide you toward better decisions
  • Interpersonal: Maintaining and developing workplace and personal relationships
  • Self-expression: Healthily expressing your emotions
  • Self-perception: Gaining an awareness and understanding of your emotions

Read on to learn key tips for developing emotional intelligence.

Building Emotional Intelligence: Where Do You Start?

If you’re not tuned into your emotions or you find it difficult to relate to others, how do you work on these skills? Emotional intelligence can be increased, just like any other skill.

Here are 5 tips to help you build your emotional intelligence:

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Focus on Self-Awareness

When you recognize and understand your own emotions, you can more easily control them. Otherwise, your emotions will rule you.

Before you can work on aspects of yourself, you have to know what you’re working with. When you’re self-aware, you understand yourself. This means recognizing the emotions you’re experiencing and understanding how you behave as a result of those emotions.

Here are a few ways you can increase your self-awareness:


Throughout your day, check in with how you’re feeling. Assess your emotional state. Take the time to ask yourself what you’re feeling and what the source of that feeling is.

Consider how those feelings are “manifesting” in your body- for example, if you’re clenching your teeth, your shoulders feel tense, or you’ve got a pounding headache.

Identify Your Emotions

Once you’ve determined how you’re feeling, it’s time to label those emotions. This can help you identify the trigger or source of any negative feelings. For example, stress, anxiety, fear, or anger are considered negative, but you may not understand why you’re feeling these emotions until you take the time to think about it.

Write down your emotion and consider what may have triggered it. Then you can see what you can do in the future to improve your responses to that trigger.

Stay in the Moment

Most people are so busy that they’re constantly thinking two or three steps ahead throughout the day. Listen to what your feelings and emotions could be saying at any moment throughout the day. This can help you gain insight and guide you when you’re working through a problem or issue.


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Close the Gap

Psychologist Adam Grant coined the term the “perspective gap.” This relates to how challenging it can be to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Compassion and empathy are a key part of emotional intelligence, but often we fail to demonstrate these qualities when they matter the most.

That’s because we often forget just how specific situations feel, even when we’ve experienced the same or similar situations. Closing the gap is about trying our best to see these situations through another person’s eyes, but going further than our own experiences.

We can do this by asking these questions:

  • Why do they feel the way they do?
  • What could they be dealing with that I’m not seeing?
  • Why do I feel differently than they do?

Even if you can’t answer these questions effectively, you can spend time with the person to understand their perspective.


Blocks spelling panic being flipped to calm.

Learn to Manage Stress

Nothing gets in the way of emotional intelligence like stress. As you become more emotionally intelligent, you’ll begin to recognize what situations trigger stress and anxiety for you. You can then be proactive and remove these situations from your life.

For example, if you find checking your work email stressful, stop doing it before bed. In fact, leave it for when you’re actually at the office.

It’s difficult to tune into other people’s feelings when we’re focusing on our own stress. Here are a few ways you can manage your stress:

  • Get some exercise- strength training and cardio are great but even a walk will help
  • Get more sleep- lack of sleep contributes to stress
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditating and mindfulness
  • Talk to a professional if stress is impacting your everyday life
  • Write in a stress diary so you can see which situations cause stress
  • Manage your time well, and prioritize tasks based on importance
  • Learn to say no

Managing stress is one of the components of emotional intelligence. You’ll notice that successful people with high levels of emotional intelligence don’t let stress get in the way.


Practice Gratitude

Leaders who are emotionally intelligent tend to put the needs of their team before their own. They can see how others have helped them succeed and feel grateful for it.

When you practice gratitude, you’re building emotional intelligence since you’re focused on how other people have helped you achieve success.

Keep a gratitude journal and list five things you’re grateful for each morning when you wake up. This will help you stay positive, but will also help you see how other people’s actions have benefited you- so you can cultivate empathy and appreciation.

In 10% Happier, Dan Harris recommends sending people good vibes. This exercises your “compassion muscle.” This involves choosing a person to send those vibes to (start with yourself) and repeating phrases like “May you be healthy, may you be safe, may you be happy,” etc.

Keep expanding your circle to more and more people. Consider why you’re grateful for these people, and try to continue these feelings of appreciation throughout your day.

Build Your Relationships

Emotionally intelligent people have solid relationships with the people around them. They tend to have a wide circle of acquaintances and can relate to people from a variety of backgrounds- something that’s key for building rapport.

Here are some ways you can build your relationships:

Consider Non-Verbal Communication

Recognize your body language and the non-verbal messages you’re sending to others. This is also where tip 4 can come in, as you’re much more likely to be sending positive messages if you’ve been cultivating gratitude about those people.

Use Play and Humor

Laughter and play are natural stress antidotes. They help you keep things in perspective, and make it easier to bond with others. Avoid taking things too seriously and lighten things up whenever you can.

Make Conflict an Opportunity

Disagreements and conflict are inevitable in relationships. Two people won’t always have the same expectations, opinions, and needs all the time.

However, this isn’t a bad thing. When you resolve conflict in constructive, healthy ways, you’ll build trust with those around you.

Wrapping Up

Becoming more emotionally intelligent may seem difficult, but by using the above tips, you’ll be able to focus on building emotional intelligence in a variety of ways.

By increasing your self-awareness, you’ll know which situations to avoid and which emotions to cultivate. Practicing gratitude will help you become more empathetic while managing your stress and working on your relationships will also help you at work and home.

Wondering how to help your team increase their EQ? We can help. Get in touch today to learn about our training.


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