6 essentials for great emotional intelligence

People ask me ‘what’s the silver bullet Philip? One piece of advice – a ‘golden rule’ to growing your emotional intelligence?’

It’s a tough thing to distil down to the simplest terms things of great value and finesse, without losing their value or understanding in the process.

So for me building emotional intelligence is about being curious or being committed about building positive daily habits. And if I were to use one phrase it’s ‘being kind to yourself and to others’; Because to be truly kind we have to know what has value to people (general awareness), what they need (empathy), how to take action (assertion, independence, impulse control), how you can make a difference (self-awareness, self-regard, self-actualisation), how to communicate (self-expression) to navigate people’s needs. This takes a combination of personal attributes or EQ skills (a few noted in brackets).

Here are 6 essentials to building greater emotional intelligence and because we are programmable animals we need to practice daily so I’ve included a mantra or two for each one to hone our curiosity and build a daily practice.

1. Centeredness

The ability to remain balanced, not too focussed on one thing during the ups and downs of daily life so you can think clearly, connect to what most important, evaluate situations rationally and act accordingly. Whether it’s through breathing techniques, meditation or similar, the mind is a place we must take responsibility for by actively taking control of, and caring for, it. Just like exercising a muscle this requires some focus and regular practice, noting our emotions, beliefs and being positive at all times. Without doing this, we are negating responsibility for our true power and potential, can become reactive instead of pro-active, thus limiting ourselves and can behave in ways that don’t serve us. Without being calm it’s very difficult to see the wood for the trees, to move forward with learning or growth.

Mantra: I am calm, (I am safe. I have clarity).

2. Self-awareness

Awareness is at the heart of a person’s ability to grow and succeed. Self-awareness comes from understanding what our emotions are telling us and so learn to trust our feelings to discern those that are worthy to act upon. This is our centre of gravity from which all else comes so we can quickly and easily discern between what serves us and what does not.

Mantra: I know myself. (I know what I like and what works for me)

3. Self-regard

Once we know ourselves it follows that we must believe in ourselves to bring the best of ourselves into the world. This gives us the drive, conviction and commitment to constantly orient ourselves in ways that serve us. This appears as inner strength moving us forward in life. This is the most fundamental trust we have – it’s the trust in who we are and acceptance of ourselves in all ways.

Mantra: I accept and respect myself in all ways.

4. Assertiveness

Following on from understanding and knowing our value is the ability to be able to defend and project this value into the world. It’s feeling comfortable in our ability to say “no” or state or act in ways that are important to us allowing us to negotiate our boundaries with the world and acquire what we need.

Mantra: This is what I need (to do).

5. Emotional expression

Following on from this it helps if we can negotiate with the world in a way that is clear, articulate and reflects your emotional states in an appropriate way. Having an extensive emotional vocabulary of words and phrases, knowing their meaning and their related behaviours allows us to communicate effectively and authentically.

Mantra: This is what I feel (and why).

6. Empathy

We don’t live in a vacuum. The human condition means we need other people to share, collaborate, laugh, cry and talk with. People connect based on perceived value. Whatever assertiveness we have requires balancing with empathy too. Too much assertiveness we lose collaboration and can come off as aggressive or worse bullying. Too much empathy and we lack the skills to make our feelings count or bring positive things to others.

Mantra: I care. I am cared for.

These may seem a complex set of skills, but understanding and practicing them can bring radical and positive change and the mantras are simple. To do this we need to accept that our emotions have value and that having intelligence around emotions is vital in order to create peace and harmony in our lives and for those around us.


Philip Gimmack, CEO of EQworks, Executive Coach, Motivational Speaker and creator of the Advanced Relationship (EQ) Test.