Developing your emotional intelligence – part 1

As I have discussed in other posts, well-developed EI contributes to your success by enabling you to do the following:

  • Recognise your emotions and those of others.
  • Use emotions strategically.
  • Understand emotions – how they change, escalate and how they blend together.
  • Manage your emotions and influence those of people around you.

Read my previous blogs on EI at

One of the reasons that Emotional Intelligence is so important to our success is that unlike IQ, personality and values (which are fairly well embedded by the time you reach adulthood), EI is more developable.

Let’s look first at RECOGNISING – the ability to accurately recognise emotions in self, others and the environment.

Do you know how you feel? Pretty basic question, but it underpins the Recognising aspect of EI because if you can recognise your own emotions you will be better at recognising those of others.

If you are one of the many people who blocks out or doesn’t reflect on emotions, keeping a mood diary is a really good way of developing your ability in this area. Several times a day jot down how you are feeling and the events immediately prior to your diary entry. The mood diary can help you track patterns in your emotional life. You might want to track each emotion on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being Definitely Not Feeling and 10 being Definitely Feeling. (Activity from “The Emotionally Intelligent Manager” by Caruso and Salovey)

Some emotions to track for your diary might be:

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Anxious
  • Surprised
  • Jealous
  • Content
  • Down
  • Energised
  • Connected
  • Add your own to the list as required

Think also about how you express your emotions. Do you allow them to show on your face, in your tone, in your body language? Ask people around you what they thought when they first met you. Was it a positive or negative first impression? Why? You may be coming across as unfriendly simply because you don’t make eye contact. Many people (including myself) look into the distance when processing or recalling events. This can make people feel you are not connecting with them and give an unintended negative impression. But bear in mind that too much eye contact (staring at people) can feel threatening. Seek feedback on your emotional style and practice, practice, practice.

Next, turn you attention to other’s emotions. Recognising emotions in others is critical to effectiveness – it is fundamental to negotiating, conflict management and is a core leadership skill. Paul Ekman’s website is a goldmine of information and activities to help develop this skill.

At a more basic level developing this skill is a matter of paying attention. Start noticing the subtlety of people’s expressions, tone of voice and body language. Look for incongruence – a smile with a frown, or the micro expressions that flit across people’s faces when you tell them some news. What do they REALLY think of your idea? Are they making eye contact? Have they crossed their arms, or are their hands facing you, palms up? What is this telling you?

A great way to practice this is to hire a movie you haven’t seen. When you get to the parts where characters are in discussion, mute the sound and watch carefully. Write down what you think was going on – the emotions, using just the clues in body language and facial expressions. Then rewind and watch with the sound on. Were you correct in your read? Then build a list of emotions you find easy to read and those you find more difficult. (activity from “The Emotionally Intelligent Manager” by Caruso and Salovey)

With practice you can improve your ability to recognise emotions. Once you can do this well, you are ready to move on to USING emotional data – in my next blog post.

You can measure your Emotional Intelligence using the MSCEIT (Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test).  If you are interested in taking the test please contact Ros at

Contact Ros for leadership development, coaching and facilitation, or if you have questions about the topics – or visit Shaping Change at

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