8 Tools for Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence requires emotional control. Emotions are a compelling part of everyone’s experiences, in which the ability to control difficult emotions is a highly important skill. Fortunately, there are many tools to help gain control over emotions and transform the outlook of emotional situations. Emotional control begins with acknowledgement, and continues with the formation of strategies to reach desired outcomes. Controlling emotional reactions will help to respond to situations in a positive, flexible, and socially tolerable way.



Respond, Don’t React

A powerful skill that emotionally intelligent people have is the ability to respond, rather than react. This involves adjusting emotions to meet the surrounding environment. When challenges or disputes occur, it is common to react with emotional outbursts. However, reacting will often lead to bigger problems. Anger can make us say things that we do not truly mean, and may later regret. An emotionally intelligent response is to remain calm, take the time to think the situation through, and process our emotions in a healthy way. This allows us to become more in control and take ownership over the problem, as well as maintain healthy connections. Responding will bring us further towards achieving the goal of resolution.



Journaling is a great way to express and reflect on thoughts, and to make sense of emotions. Emotionally intelligent individuals will use journaling as a healthy way to be introspective to decisions and behaviors. With journaling, they are better able to identify specific patterns about their behaviors, as well as the behaviors of those around them. Expressing both positive and negative thoughts in a journal will increase self-awareness by studying personal experiences or interactions with others. It is especially helpful when we are feeling overwhelmed by our emotions.

Coping with emotions through journaling allows for clarity and tracking personal growth. Through self-reflection, specific questions may arise, such as, “Where did I excel?”, “How are those around me feeling?”, “Was there a certain situation that has caused me frustration? Why?”.


Active Listening

In order to be an effective communicator and better connect with others, it’s vital to be a great listener. This is a skill that is seldom mastered, but essential to every industry. Active listening is more than just hearing the words that someone is using, but rather developing meaning behind what is being said by the speaker. It conveys to the speaker that the listener is correctly receiving the message. Not only will giving the speaker our undivided attention allow us to gain perspective and knowledge, but it will also show respect and understanding to them. This information will be shared through spoken words and other cues that they exhibit.

Active listening shows a willingness to overcome challenges and be a team player, as well as a strong interest in the successes of an organization. Distractions, whether they are through technology, noise or even our own thoughts, can make it difficult to actively listen. It can be painfully obvious when a person is not wholeheartedly interested in what someone else has to say. Not only does this make the listener look uncaring, but it may also influence the speaker to go elsewhere when they need to speak about matters.

Active listening can be improved through many practices, including:

  • Put aside distracting thoughts and remove distractions
  • Show that you are truly listening by nodding occasionally, smiling, and paying attention to your posture
  • Encourage the speaker to continue through small comments, such as “mmm”, “I see”
  • Do not interrupt the speaker, even if you do not agree with their stance
  • Paraphrase the speaker’s message
  • When the speaker is done, provide feedback and ask questions


Setting Boundaries

The ability to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and others is a crucial life skill. These boundaries build our emotional intelligence and are important in any personal or professional relationship. Emotional boundaries are the limits that we set in order to protect our values, time, and energy. Without boundaries, we can feel as though we are lacking control. It can be easy to be pressured into additional tasks or responsibilities, disrespected, or feel powerless. By establishing healthy boundaries, we can eliminate these negative situations and gain control. The workplace will become a more positive and productive environment, with stronger relationships.

To set limits with others and establish healthy emotional boundaries, consider the following strategies:

  • Notice when you are feeling uncomfortable
  • Learn how to say no
  • Be assertive, but not aggressive
  • Recognize what you are able to tolerate
  • Be firm and speak up for yourself


Be Open to Perspectives

When it comes to dealing with disagreements and disputes, we must keep in mind that our own viewpoint is not the only one. Every individual has unique strengths and their own perspective, which has been influenced by several factors throughout their lives. Perspective-taking allows us to be open-minded and see the world through different point of views. Emotional intelligence involves empathizing and considering the perspective of others. By doing this, we can gain a better understanding as to why they behave in certain ways, as well as their motivations. With this information, we can find ways to provide support, rather than neglecting their feelings and desires. Although we may not always agree, it’s important to allow others to express their arguments or beliefs.

Another way of being open to perspective is to adjust our negative interactions into positive ones. For example, instead of looking at confrontation as a negative argument, we can adjust the perception of this interaction to be viewed as a learning experience from the other person’s assignment or position. With this shift in perception, the conflict can now be a great way to effectively collaborate with the individual to work towards a shared goal. There is great value in being able to shift our perspectives with ourselves, other people, and the world.


Identifying Emotional Triggers

A valuable tool for gaining control over emotions is to identify emotional triggers. An emotional trigger is anything that makes us uncomfortable, or evokes a negative emotional response. Emotional triggers are different for everyone. Common triggers that can occur in a workplace may include lack of recognition, the need of autonomy or control, or the need to be included. They may come from experiences, events, or even memories. When we become aware of our triggers, we can better anticipate these situations.

Identifying triggers is a key step in improving emotional health. Consider the following steps:

  1. Identify the common trigger.
  2. Visualize a situation when this trigger occurred, and reflect on what emotions were felt during this time. Determine why these emotions were felt.
  3. Choose alternative responses to this trigger. What is your ideal response? Determine what you want from the situation.


Setting Business Goals

To be successful at work, it’s necessary to set goals. Goals are what give us drive and direction. In order to create the most effective personal and team goals, they have to engage us emotionally. Emotional intelligence encourages people to be more committed to success, and motivated to see their goals through. Self-awareness allows us to see ourselves more clearly; recognizing what we want or need, as well as identifying what actions are necessary to reach these wants and needs. Creating emotionally intelligent goals will also support us in our decision-making processes, through careful consideration of the choices that shape our future. 

Emotionally intelligent team goals should incorporate collaboration, empathy, and adaptation. When setting these goals, it’s important that everyone is heard and supported. With the help of great communication skills, the team can move past conflict and distractions that could interfere with achieving business goals. Goals will help to create a sense of purpose, and guide every team member forward within the organization.


Body Language

Body language is a significant form of communication that uses mannerisms to send strong messages. This may include gestures, expressions, eye movements and touch. Through emotional intelligence, we can learn to use body language, and read other’s physical behaviors. The ability to recognize body language amongst our peers will substantially improve communication. The use of body language can have positive and negative effects. If we are not conscious of our own body language while we are talking, the wrong message could be conveyed.

There are two main categories of body language: 

  • Closed: Arms/legs crossed, body pointed towards exit, rounded upper body, head tilted down.
  • Open: Body is receptive to communication, pointed straight to action; head is upright, arms uncrossed.

It is well known that open body language is perceived as more positive, more persuasive, and more approachable. Closed body language is perceived as more negative and less cooperative.



Are you ready to set your trainees up for success with these skills? Download our newly updated Developing Emotional Intelligence Workshop today!

Posted by Zachary Myers on

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