How to build your emotional intelligence (8 Crucial Ways)


“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” – Daniel Goleman

Why it works

Top performers consistently rank high in emotional intelligence. The concept goes back to a 1990 research paper by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer. They defined it as the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, discriminate between different emotions, and use this information to guide thinking and behavior.

In 1995, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman (pictured above) brought widespread attention to the concept in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He expanded on Salovey and Mayer’s ideas and provided a broader view of emotional intelligence, emphasizing its importance for personal and professional success.

As a leader, emotional intelligence is one of your strongest assets. It’s a skill you can build to help you and your team achieve sustainable peak performance. And as a bonus, it’ll help you become the leader everyone respects. Here are 8 crucial ways to get you there.

How to do it

1) Self-awareness
Recognize your emotions and impact, know your strengths and weaknesses, and reflect and improve continuously. A powerful method to improve self-awareness is the Johari Window, which helps us understand the differences between how people see us and how we see ourselves. Its goal is to expand our “Open Area”, which includes the attitudes, behavior, motivation and values known to ourselves and others. Learn more about the Johari Window here.

2) Empathy
Listen actively to team members, support and build trust, and value everyone’s input. All of this starts with how you listen to others. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”, as Stephen Covey famously said. Don’t be like most people. Practice active listening instead. To get started, read this Harvard Business Review article.

3) Motivation
Align goals with team objectives, keep a positive attitude, and inspire others with your commitment. Let’s face it: nothing meaningful in life is easy, and nothing easy in life is meaningful. Or, in the words of Stanford Professor Kelly McGonigal: “Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.” In her book The Upside of Stress, she also offers a terrific way to add meaning to your pursuits and struggles: stress goals. Learn more here.

4) Self-regulation
Stay focused under pressure, be patient in challenges, and avoid impulsive decisions. Want to keep your cool when the going gets rough? Activate your parasympathetic nervous system (aka calmness system) in real-time. The most effective way to pull this off is using your visual or breathing systems. If you want to learn three brutally-effective methods for doing this, check out this article.

5) Social skills
Communicate clearly, resolve conflicts quickly, and network within and outside your team. One of the best methods for effective communication and conflict resolution is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It was designed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg and involves four components: observation, feeling, need, and request. It’s a total game-changer. If you want to get started with NVC, read this.

6) Teamwork
Promote cooperation and respect, delegate based on strengths, and celebrate team achievements. Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson has proposed a powerful concept she calls Teaming. It’s essentially about actively building and developing teams – even during projects – and includes developing both affective (feeling) and cognitive (thinking) skills. Learn more about Teaming in this article.

7) Stress management
Practice mindfulness or meditation, encourage work-life balance, and implement stress-reduction strategies. If meditation isn’t for you, take 10 minutes and get some deep rest. You think you’re too busy for that? Think again. Even Google’s CEO does a non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) session most days to manage his energy and stress levels better. Learn more about three science-based forms of deep rest here.

8) Time management
Plan your day by energy levels, prioritize tasks, and take breaks to recharge. The best approach for pulling this off is called Timeboxing. It’s how the most successful and busy entrepreneurs of our time – including Bill Gates and Elon Musk – win their days. If you want to learn more about prioritizing and timeboxing tasks (and breaks), read this article.

Do you want to improve in every area of your life?

Do you want to inspire others and achieve more?

Build strong, respectful connections.