Emotional Intelligence: What It Means And How To Improve Yours

About two years ago, my dad attended a leadership workshop with his company. Everyone at the workshop took a test to gauge their emotional intelligence. Since then, whenever we sit down to talk about our careers, he will always refer back to this mystical EQ. Now that I’ve taken my first role managing a team, I finally understand why my dad never stopped raving about emotional intelligence. You might be thinking, but what exactly is EQ? How do I know if I have it? 

First, what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence in a nutshell is self-awareness. It refers to your ability to be aware of your emotions and control them, while also managing those of people around you.

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You can get an EQ score much like an IQ. But instead of measuring intelligence, it measures emotional problem-solving.

Dr. Daniel Golman, an internationally-renowned psychologist, introduced the term in 1995 based on his research with more than 200 global companies. He discovered that the most effective leaders aren’t the smartest with the highest IQs—they’re the ones who can read a room, a situation, a person, and know how to address it.

So, why is it important?

More research has followed since Golman’s and suggests that emotional intelligence is twice as important as cognitive ability. Employers from all sectors are looking at candidates’ and current employees’ self-control and emotional maturity, especially while working with other people. Interview questions asking how you have dealt with conflict or challenges in the past are testing your current levels of emotional intelligence.

Maybe you’ve already scored the job you want—great! That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In fact, it’s the perfect time to think about your emotional intelligence.

As you continue to grow professionally, employers want to see how you interact with others. How do you mediate disagreements? How do you manage conflict? How well do you listen? Do you bring out the best in others? Those who master these skills can accomplish just about anything.

Where do I even start?

Luckily as women, we already have a head start over our male coworkers in emotional intelligence. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve.

Emotional intelligence is made up of five core concepts, according to Golman. These five traits can serve as your guide to cultivating and improving your own EQ.  


Self-awareness can be built in yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. The harder part is taking those feelings from these beneficial practices and recognizing them in the moment. Take your practice off the mat and into your professional environments. Use it to influence your behavior. This will take time. It took a year of regular yoga practice for me to realize how I absorbed and reacted to situations at work.


Self-regulation helps you stay calm in crisis or irritating situations. It keeps you emotionally balanced. Developing self-regulation can be as simple as remembering to think before you speak or act. Or, if you know emotional restraint is hard for you, seeing a therapist can help. They can help you navigate common situations and give you “what if” scenarios. You can also keep a journal and write down the scenario, how you responded, and how you might do it differently.


Motivation gives you the energy to get work done, but also to inspire others. Some days are harder than others, so it’s important to recognize when you are feeling a little down. When you’re motivated to get your job done, you’re more likely to be open to constructive criticism and self-improvement.  


Empathy allows you to understand the emotions, experiences and points of view of others. You can perceive and anticipate the feelings and needs they have. Listening skills are crucial for developing greater empathy. When you have conversations with a family member or friend, make it a point to not jump in with your thoughts or a comparable situation. Let their words sink in. Ask relevant questions. Give advice only if asked.

Social Skills

Social skills involve your interactions with others, like communication, conflict resolution and networking. Don’t worry, social skills are not skills where only extroverts can excel. These social skills will help you grow into a leader who not only knows how to engage with others as a friend, but also how to mentor them as a team leader. If you have a great boss, pay close attention to what he or she does and how. Their influence will guide you.

Do you have tips for improving emotional intelligence? Share with us in the comments below!