5 Steps to Increase Emotional Intelligence

9 min readFeb 18, 2021


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions effectively in intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships. Intrapersonal is the relationship you have with yourself, while interpersonal is the relationship you have with other people.

Have you ever had trouble controlling your emotions? When you’re working towards a goal, do you ever get overwhelmed by frustration and end up quitting? As humans, emotions are important in building relationships and expressing yourself with others. However, emotions can have the ability to overpower and control us.

This is where Emotional Intelligence comes into play.

By having Emotional Intelligence, you can be more effective in controlling how you conduct yourself through life. When strengthened, it can help you accomplish goals, form meaningful relationships, lead a team to success, or improve your personal health and wellness. Emotional Intelligence also helps you in understanding and managing your own emotions. Through the understanding of your own emotions, you can become more empathetic when it comes to other people’s emotions. Thus, leading to more effective social skills. A mature emotional intelligence can lead you to a more enriching life.

Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, was first coined by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990 and then expanded upon by Daniel Goleman in his published book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. There are multiple theories for explaining Emotional Intelligence, but today we are going to take our focus to specifically Daniel Goleman’s framework that he uses.

Goleman breaks down Emotional Intelligence into 5 different skills. Just like any skill in life, it will take your time, effort, failure, and perseverance to improve. The five skills are as follows:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills
  6. Self-Awareness

This is the skill that allows you to understand more about ourselves. Self-awareness allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, interests, beliefs, fears, motivations, and goals. You can use self-awareness to recognize your emotional reactions.

For when you’re feeling sad, emotional intelligence will allow you to recognize your emotion and understand why it’s happening.

The introspective process of self-awareness is important in being able to understand, accept, forgive and change yourself. You can’t make necessary changes, if you don’t even realize what you’re changing from. Self awareness is the key that unlocks insight about yourself.

You can increase Self-Awareness by:

  • Perform daily self-reflection
  • Ask questions about yourself
  • Journal how your day went
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness
  • Take personality tests
  • Find objective truth about yourself
  • Ask trusted friends to describe you

2. Self-regulation

Self-regulation is a skill that enables you to manage your emotions. After you use self awareness to recognize why you’re feeling the way that you are, you use self-regulation to help you stay in control of your emotions.

If you are skilled at using self regulation, then you will be able manage an extraordinary amount of pain and suffering and not let it dictate your behavior. It will allow you to know how to outlet your emotions in ways that empower you, instead of tear you or others down. Take, for instance, someone who effectively manages their emotion of anxiety with deep breathing. This is someone who uses a technique to cope with their daily stress that brings no harm to them self or others.

Self-regulation is used to effectively manage impulses and reactions you have throughout the day. It can prevent you from making decisions that harm you in the long term. An example of this would be someone who effectively stops their impulse from hitting another person. They may have the emotion of rage that makes them feel discomfort, but they stay in control of their emotions and not let it dictate their behavior.

The better you are at self-regulation, the more stress you can take without letting it control your behavior.

Some ways that you can increase self-regulation is:

  • Practice healthy coping techniques
  • Deep breathing
  • View emotional stress as a challenge
  • See the positive in the negative
  • Staying flexible by adapting to change
  • Stay focused on deeply held values
  • Look at the bigger picture by seeing beyond the discomfort
  • Focus on a future goal to complete

3. Motivation

Motivation is a skill that can be created within you and used to your advantage. Motivation is the reason that you have for behaving a certain way. If you have a good enough reason to do something, then you’ll do it.

To break it down, motivation can simply be created by using either a reward or punishment. When you set a goal, it has to be rewarding enough to give you the drive to want to achieve it. The way you can make it more rewarding is by honing in on what you value or find importance in. If something is important enough for you to do, then you will have the motivation to complete the goal.

On the other side, you can find motivation to do something if you have a big enough punishment that will occur by not doing it. In this instance, you can be forced to act in a certain behavior simply out of fear or discomfort. An example of this would be someone disliking their job and wanting to change paths but not doing so out of the fear of change. In this sense, The fear of change might be larger than the dislike they have for their current job. In this case, the fear of change is a punishment that is motivating them to keep their current job.

In emotional intelligence, it recommends that you increase motivation through positive rewards. You can shift your mindset into thinking this way by deeply understanding what you intrinsically value. Once you know this, then you can align your behavior in ways that receive what you value. This will provide you with the anticipation and optimism for the future that will keep you pushing forward. If you’re lacking in motivation, it might be that you don’t have a big enough positive reward.

You can increase motivation by:

  • Aligning your goals with what you value
  • Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time oriented goal (SMART goals)
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Stay healthy and active
  • Celebrate results
  • Look at the positives
  • Know when to take a break
  • Create long term goals that will have an impact for humanity
  • Find large worldly problems to solve.
  • Make a life’s mission.

4. Empathy

Next is Empathy. Empathy is having the ability to identify and understand the emotions that someone else is feeling.

Differently to sympathy, empathy is not about feeling bad for someone else’s misfortune. Feeling sympathy for someone can actually perpetuate the other persons feelings because it creates disconnection and dis-empowerment. It can prevent the sympathizer to not fully understand the other persons feelings, while it prevents the person feeling the emotions from actually fully experiencing the emotion.

Empathy is more objective in that it’s about recognizing that someone is emotional and being able to understand why they might be feeling that way. You don’t necessarily have to feel what they’re feeling to know that someone is emotional. It’s more about having the skill to discern, read between the lines, and take the time to make sense of the emotions with the person experiencing them. The goal of empathy is to find insight into someone’s psyche, learn from their past, and discover the truth about why the person is behaving the way that they are.

An example of this could be if a child is on the playground crying and an adult goes over to the child to recognize their emotion. The adult takes the time to listen to why the child is feeling a certain way. The child feels understood and supported by the adult. By the adult listening, it allowed the child to talk out their emotions, discover insight about their behavior, and why they are acting the way they are. Active listening by the adult is giving the child the opportunity to increase their emotional intelligence. The recognition of the child’s sadness and understanding of why the emotion is being expressed is an act of empathy.

For comparisons sake, an extreme case of sympathy would be if the adult went over to the child and started crying with the child. The adult would be recognizing that the child is crying, but they’re not taking the time to understand why the child is behaving the way they. They are also not engaging in therapeutic conversation with the child.

Some ways to increase empathy are:

  • Give the person expressing their emotions full attention
  • Use body language to show that you are listening (nod occasionally, smile, open posture, eye contact, position your body to face the person)
  • Withhold personal judgment, thoughts, feelings
  • Prevent yourself from interrupting
  • Focus on what their saying
  • Stop trying to think of what you have to say
  • Don’t give advice or personal experience unless asked for
  • Be curious
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Practice identifying emotions in others
  • Identify the emotions you feel
  • Understand their emotion, Don’t feel their emotion
  • Learn active listening skills

If you’re looking for a technique to learn how to be a better active listener, check out our blog on How to be an Active Listener!

This leads to our last and final step of emotional intelligence- harnessing the art of communicating.

5. Social Skills

This is the ability to productively express your emotions, act authentically with others, and manage your relationships through communication.

Social skills allows you to communicate what’s in your mind to other people and have it received accurately and effectively. By having strong social skills, it is allowing you to have congruence in what you want to say to what you actually say. The best communicators will be able to take the ideas they have in their mind and have them received in other people’s minds without having the idea change at all.

Some ways to increase social skills are

  • Practice a form of human communication (verbal, nonverbal, written word, visual)
  • Be more aware of how you say things
  • Understand the intentions of why you’re communicating
  • Know when to be clear and concise
  • Know when to be rational and logical
  • Know when to be emotional and passionate
  • Think before you speak
  • Use storytelling to increase engagement
  • Understand what communication style aligns with your personality
  • Immerse yourself in social settings
  • Understand how to use tone and rhythm for speaking.
  • Share your ideas with others
  • Talk out your ideas out loud

To recap, the skills that don’t involve other people to develop are Self-awareness, Self-Regulation, and Motivation. These are called Personal Competence skills. Someone else might have caused you to be emotional, but in the end it will be you who is using these skills to manage emotions.

The skills that involve actively working with other people to develop are Empathy and Social Skills. These are called Relational Competence. You might be able to work on communication skills by yourself, but ultimately you will need other people to communicate with for these skills to serve a purpose.

Understanding this can make it easier to know when to use which skills. If you’re having trouble working out your own emotions, then that’s when Personal Competence skills come into play. If you’re having trouble effectively communicating with other people, then Relational Competence skills will be needed.

A simple way to remember when to use which Personal Competence Skill is:

  • Self Awareness is used to identify your emotions
  • Self-Regulation is used to manage your emotions
  • Motivation is used to guide your behavior.

A simple way to remember when to use which Relational Competence Skill is:

  • Empathy is used when you are listening.
  • Social Skills are used when you are talking.

So why do you want to understand and use this in your life?

To boil it all down, the goal of Emotional Intelligence is for you to be a highly effective human being that is able to have full and complete control over your mind, body, and spirit so that you can successfully fulfill your Life’s Purpose.

Like anything in life, practice makes perfect! Emotional Intelligence is not a skill that is learned overnight. Nor, is it something that is achieved after following a set guideline that you have forever. It is an ability that is continually practiced and worked on to increase its level of strength. Some days, you might have less emotional intelligence and certain areas of your life might have more emotional intelligence than in others. The development of emotional intelligence takes discipline and commitment. Emotional Intelligence is an ever-increasing ability that one develops throughout their life. The journey to emotional intelligence provides use with personal growth to help us navigate through life.

Also, if anyone needs further elaboration on how to practice these skills, we highly recommend using Google to research different ways to practice these 5 skills to make it more personalized to you. We’re here to give you the blueprint and now it’s up to you to make it your own.

Please check out our 5 Step Guide to Create Your Life’s Purpose if you’re interested in more resources to help enrich your life.