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CTDO Magazine

How Emotionally Smart Are You?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Use these tips to hone your emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ), asserts that people with a high emotional quotient exhibit five key qualities: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. In other words, they understand and can manage their own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of the people around them.


Here are seven hacks to help boost your EQ and be a better leader.

Practice observing how you feel

Whenever we have an emotional reaction to something, we’re receiving information about a particular situation, person, or event. But in the process of rushing from one commitment to the next, meeting deadlines, and responding to external demands, many of us lose touch with our emotions.

When we do that, we’re far more likely to act unconsciously, and we miss out on the valuable information that our emotions contain. When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become more adept at managing them.

If you’re feeling out of practice, try this exercise: Set a timer at various points of the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths, and take notice of how you’re feeling emotionally.

Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what that sensation feels like. The more you can practice that, the more it will become second nature.

Source: Hannah Braime, founder of Becoming Who You Are and author of The Power of Self-Kindness: How to Transform Your Relationship With Your Inner Critic

Surface your thinking

EQ is an important aspect of effective leadership and interpersonal relationship building. To become more emotionally intelligent, learn to recognize and control your emotional reactions.

A thought precedes every emotion. Because emotional intensity can be overwhelming in the moment, you may struggle to identify your thoughts.

To surface your thinking, complete this sentence, “I’m angry because ….” Do so as many times as you can. That will enable you to discover the thinking that is floating around in your subconscious and that often goes unidentified.

I like to write down my thinking so that I can examine and reflect upon the accuracy of my thoughts. The more time you take to identify your thinking, the more fully complete picture you will gain of what is driving your feelings.

Source: John R. Stoker, president of DialogueWORKS and author of Overcoming Fake Talk

Talk less, listen more

We’ve all been in a situation where someone goes on talking to us about something that is solely of interest to them. They seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that we may not be interested and are likely trying to get away from them as soon as possible.

When talking to someone, ask yourself if the topic you’re excited to discuss would be of any interest to them. Better yet, take time to ask the individual about their life.

Often when people listen, they are thinking of a response, which keeps them from really hearing the other person. In a couples’ workshop that my partner and I took, we learned a great technique for developing listening skills.

One of us would speak for a couple of minutes. The other person was not allowed to talk during that time. At the end, the other person would repeat back to the speaker what they said or what they thought they heard.

Good leaders are aware of the importance of listening. They recognize that everyone has a strong desire to be heard. By developing good listening skills, you not only receive more crucial information but are able to connect with others by picking up meaning and messages behind their spoken words.

Source: Harvey Deutschendorf, EQ expert and author of The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Empowerment and Success

Stop giving excuses and looking for blame

Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. That means they’re willing to take responsibility for their actions rather than make excuses.

Late for a meeting? Didn’t get a report done? Don’t blame traffic, say your kid got sick, or that you couldn’t sleep. All of that may be true, but how does it help? You just didn’t get it done.

Poor leaders make excuses; good leaders make progress. If you stop making excuses and get honest with yourself, you will change your standing in your colleagues’ eyes. The added benefit? Leaders who own their mistakes eventually make fewer mistakes.

Similarly, what do you do when something beyond your control halts progress on a project? That’s another opportunity to assume responsibility.

You’re the senior leader, and you need to get your team together to figure out how to push past the problem. Finding blame isn’t an option.

This approach can be freeing. It rallies your team and may make the person responsible feel safe enough to come forward and assume accountability.

Source: Carey Nierwhof, leadership podcaster and author of At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor

Beef up your emotional vocabulary

Simply having a deeper vocabulary to describe your emotions can improve your EQ. For example, frustration and disappointment are variations of anger. An important element of EQ is knowing the nuances.


You may understand basic emotions, such as happiness, anger, and sadness. What separates those with high EQ scores from those who struggle to empathize is the ability to identify secondary and tertiary emotions such as sentimentality, fascination, and skepticism. After all, how can you truly feel an emotion if you don’t have the words to describe it?

Being able to pinpoint precise emotional reactions in yourself helps you clarify your own feelings; it also enables you to recognize them in others. If you aren’t able to acknowledge situations that make you feel hurt, then you’re more likely to say hurtful things to others and not understand the consequences of those actions.

Source: Krister Ungerböck, leadership language expert and author of 22 Talk SHIFTs: Tools to Transform Leadership in Business, in Partnership, and in Life

Quash negative self-talk

A big step in developing EQ involves stopping negative self-talk. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them.

Most negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When it feels like something always or never happens, that is your brain’s natural tendency to perceive threats (inflating the frequency or severity of an event). Emotionally intelligent people separate their thoughts from the facts to escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive, new outlook.

Stop your negative, pessimistic inner voice by writing down the statements. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clearheaded in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words such as never, worst, and ever. If your statements still look like facts once you’ve put them on paper, take them to a friend and see if that individual agrees with you. That will help you discern the truth.

Source: Travis Bradberry, cofounder of TalentSmart and author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Pause more

Pauses are a powerful way to recognize your inward (think: what you're feeling) and outward (think: what others are feeling) EQ.

Say the CEO angrily confronted you for making a critical mistake that jeopardized a client relationship, but you were just following orders. Your first reaction may be anger, and if you start speaking the first chance you get, that anger will likely fuel your response.

Instead, take a few seconds to pause and breathe before you speak. Those few seconds will help you recognize your anger as a separate emotion, and you’ll then be able to speak more calmly and eloquently.

Similarly, if an employee is coming to you with a concern or request, take a few moments before responding. That extra pause in conversation may reveal a facial cue or body language tell that helps you determine what they’re feeling, or it may prompt them to say more than they did initially.

Source: Larry Alton, independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship, currently working as a content manager at Studyclerk

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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