Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, interpret and process emotions in yourself and others. While genetics, upbringing and environment all play a role, there are steps you can take to develop your emotional intelligence over time.

  1. Get to know yourself. Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware. They have a realistic appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses, and how they come across to others. Peer feedback is one way of improving your self-awareness and may uncover a few emotional blind spots.
  2. Learn your triggers. Linked to the notion of self-awareness is knowing how you are likely to respond in particular situations. Think about how you felt last time you were under pressure. Did these feelings help or hinder you? Recognizing emotions, and the source of these emotions, can shift your emotional state.
  3. Empathize. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective will help you understand their values and beliefs. This is important when it comes to motivating and engaging others. Make a conscious effort to get to know your colleagues. Ask open questions and actively listen to what they have to say rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak. Be on the lookout for body language and other nonverbal signs as these may tell you more than someone is willing to express out loud.
  4. Own your emotions. Part of being emotionally intelligent is about taking responsibility for the way you act around others. If someone upsets you, pause and reflect on why their actions led you to feel this way instead of reacting impulsively. Recognize that a conversation is a two-way interaction and it takes two people to make you angry, sad or frustrated.
  5. Go with your gut. Finally, listen to your body. If your stomach starts doing backflips every time you speak to a senior manager, or your muscles tense up before you go into a meeting, what does this tell you? Counterintuitive as it might seem, emotions can be a valuable source of information when making rational decisions at work. Remember, emotional intelligence isn’t about suppressing emotions, it’s about learning how to recognize, process and channel them in a way that benefits you and your team.

Enhancing your emotional intelligence requires effort but it can be achieved with sustained practice.