How To Improve Emotional Intelligence in 9 Steps

Updated February 27, 2023

An illustration of one person talking to another person.

Emotional intelligence is a necessary skill for navigating important relationships in your life. When you develop the ability to be aware of your emotions and express them in a healthy way, you may have a greater chance of success, both professionally and personally. Learning more about emotional intelligence can help you develop the skills to succeed in any role that requires interaction with other people.

In this article, we explain what emotional intelligence is, explain why it's important and show how to improve your emotional intelligence in nine steps.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI), sometimes referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), is the ability to identify and manage your emotions and express them in ways that are respectful and helpful to those around you. This process also involves the ability to understand the emotions of people around you and respond with supportive and encouraging feedback. Understanding your emotions and those of others can help you better relate to others in a personal or professional setting. 

Why is emotional intelligence important?

Emotional intelligence is important because it can allow you to develop and maintain important and productive relationships with coworkers, supervisors or collaborators. It can also help you navigate complex social situations that require an understanding of multiple peoples' perspectives and feelings. In addition to relating to others, emotional intelligence can help you manage your own emotions, limiting any negative effects by recognizing emotional patterns and developing strategies to combat unhelpful feelings. 

Related: 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership (And How To Improve Yours)

Components of emotional intelligence

Here are a few key components of emotional intelligence to help you evaluate your own abilities:

  • Self-awareness: People who are self-aware can both identify and acknowledge their emotions and how they affect their behavior, increasing their personal understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Ability to manage your own emotional responses: Being able to self-manage includes strong communication and time management skills, problem-solving ability and stress resistance.

  • Empathy for others: Understanding not just your emotional needs but the needs of those around you may help you notice important cues during social interactions.

  • Ability to maintain healthy relationships: Clear communication and healthy influence through action and words can help make more productive and functional relationships.

Read more: FAQ: What Are the Key Components of Emotional Intelligence?

How to improve emotional intelligence in 9 steps

Use the following steps to improve your emotional intelligence both at and outside of work:

1. Be more self-aware

Being aware of your emotions and emotional responses to those around you can greatly improve your emotional intelligence. Knowing when you're feeling anxious or angry can help you process and communicate those feelings in a way that promotes healthy results. To improve your awareness, consider tracking any time you feel a strong emotion and taking notes about what caused your feeling. 

Read more: What Is Self-Awareness? (And How To Increase Yours)

2. Recognize how others feel

Emotional intelligence may start with self-reflection, but it's also important to gauge how others perceive your behavior and communication. Knowing how to adjust your own message based on how you're received is an important part of being emotionally intelligent. If you're unsure, you can always ask others how they feel to show that you prioritize their reactions.

3. Practice active listening

People communicate via both verbal and nonverbal communication, so it's important to listen and watch for potentially positive and negative reactions. Taking the time to listen to others also indicates a level of respect that can form the foundation for healthy relationships. To show that you're actively listening, try asking questions, nodding along or repeating back important points to show that you've understood them.

Read more: 11 Active Listening Skills To Practice (With Examples)

4. Communicate clearly

Strong communication skills are essential for emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or write and when to deliver information is crucial for building strong relationships. For example, as a manager in a work environment, communicating expectations and goals is necessary to keep everyone on the same page. Try to be as communicative as possible and create multiple channels for others to communicate their feelings with you.

Related: 10 Benefits of Effective Communication in the Workplace

5. Stay positive

Emotionally intelligent people understand the power of a positive word, an encouraging email and a kind gesture. When you're able to also stay positive in a stressful situation, you can help others around you remain calm. This attitude can also encourage further problem-solving and teamwork. While negative emotions can be normal, consider developing strategies to minimize their effects and look for solutions.

Read more: How to Stay Positive at Work

6. Empathize

Considering how others might be feeling is an important quality of emotional intelligence. It means you can empathize with feelings that you may not be feeling yourself and respond in a way that's respectful and comforting to others. Try to imagine yourself in others' positions so that you can consider how you might feel if in their situation. 

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

7. Be open-minded

Emotionally intelligent people are often easy to approach because they're good listeners and able to consider and understand other perspectives. They're also open to learning new things and embracing new ideas. Even if you're unsure of a new idea or concept, try to consider what it may look like to implement it into daily work.

Related: 10 Steps To Become More Open-Minded

8. Listen to feedback

It's important to be the kind of person who can hear feedback, whether it's positive feedback on a recent presentation or more critical recommendations on how you should delegate tasks more efficiently. Being open to feedback means you can take responsibility for your actions and are willing to improve how you communicate with others. While some feedback may be challenging to receive, you can try to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow professionally.

Related: 4 Ways Feedback Improves Performance in The Workplace

9. Stay calm under pressure

It's important to be able to approach stressful situations with a calm and positive attitude. Tensions can easily escalate, especially when people are working under deadlines, so keeping steady and focusing on finding a solution can help everyone meet their goals. Try to develop strategies like taking a deep breath or asking for help when in a stressful situation to help you stay calm and thoughtful.

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