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How to Build Emotional Intelligence

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence (EQ) at Work Jenn DeWall Millennial  Confidence and Leadership Coach & Keynote Speaker & Trainer

3 Ways to Build Your Emotional Intelligence


It’s no secret that the last two years have been challenging. Personal and work lives have been disrupted on many levels. As exciting as it is to reunite with co-workers, colleagues and friends, it can be stressful, too! Many people may feel a little out of place or rough around the edges. Whether you are returning to the office, transitioning to a hybrid workplace, or just navigating more in-person events, it might be time to refresh your emotional intelligence skills to cope with the changes and challenges ahead! 

3 Building Blocks of EI/EQ 

Emotional intelligence— or EI or EQ for short— is the ability to be aware of, control and express your emotions and understand the emotions of other people. I like to focus on three building blocks of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy. Here are some tips for building your emotional intelligence in each of these areas.

1. Increase Your Self-Awareness 

Think of self-awareness as the foundation of emotional intelligence. Being aware of our habits, feelings, and actions is the best way to improve how we manage ourselves and interact with others. Have you developed any bad habits while working from home? Maybe you got used to multitasking during Zoom meetings, and now you have some difficulty ignoring distractions during in-person meetings. Or maybe when you get home from work, you notice your shoulders are tense and feel anxious or irritable. 

Take time to check in with yourself throughout the day. It doesn’t have to take long! On your next walk to the water cooler, take a deep breath and check-in with yourself. How do you feel? Are you hungry? Tired? Restless? Are you excited? Energetic? Raising your awareness about these feelings can help you know when you need a little self-care in order to show up as your best self. 

2. Improve Your Self-Regulation Skills

Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is only helpful if you also learn to manage your reactions to them. Managing yourself through stressful or overwhelming times is essential to success, and it’s not always easy! How do you behave when you feel stressed, angry, or irritated? We’ve all had our moments when we didn’t handle it well. Maybe you have yelled at someone or stormed angrily out of a room. Or maybe you tend to shut down emotionally and stop contributing in a meeting. Part of building emotional intelligence is learning strategies to deal with our feelings before we lose our cool! 

Self-regulation can look like different things for different people, and it can take some experimentation to find out what works best for you. It could be making sure you take a walk outside every day to reduce your stress. Or, if you are feeling anxious about work, try writing down a list of your worries and think about how you would handle them if they were to become a reality, so you feel more prepared. If you feel frustration rising as a co-worker chomps their gum loudly in the next cubicle, you can close your eyes, take deep breaths, and then get some noise-canceling headphones!

3. Practice Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of emotional intelligence. It is not enough to recognize your own emotions; you have to pay attention to other people’s feelings too! If you feel stressed about changes at work, coming back to in-person events, or just dealing with the many challenges facing businesses today—you are not alone! When we remember that everyone has their own challenges, stress and emotions, it is easier to have compassion when things go wrong. 

A simple way to boost your empathy is to become more curious about others. When you interact with others, ask questions to get to know them better. Be sure to listen to their answers, and when appropriate, share your own experiences. Another fun way to become more empathetic is to read more fiction! Recent research has shown that reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind and critical thinking! So don’t feel guilty about picking up the latest romance novel or mystery thriller! By reading, you are strengthening your emotional intelligence!

Build Your Emotional Intelligence by Embracing Imperfection

These tips are just a few ways to start building your emotional intelligence. It’s important to embrace that we are all adjusting to a rapidly changing world, and we are all perfectly imperfect while we do it! You are not a failure if you’ve made mistakes, turn them into learning opportunities.


Jenn DeWall is a leadership and confidence coach, motivational speaker, facilitator, leadership trainer and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership expert based in Denver, CO. If you are looking for a great speaker for a conference, team building event, lunch and learn, or association event, Jenn would love to have a conversation with you!

Book Jenn for your next event.

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