Emotional intelligence: Your secret weapon

We all know the significance of intelligence (IQ) - but what about emotional intelligence (EQ)? 


What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways. It's also about understanding others' emotions and using that knowledge to build strong(er) relationships.

You may choose to think of EQ as your secret weapon for navigating the complexities of life. And here's why it matters:

Fostering better relationships

EQ allows you to empathise with others, communicate effectively, and resolve conflict constructively. This is essential for building and maintaining strong personal and professional relationships. Imagine navigating a disagreement. Instead of letting frustration cloud your judgment, you can use your emotional intelligence to listen to their perspective, identify the root cause of the issue, and find a suitable solution.

Reduced stress

When you can manage your emotions, you're better equipped to handle stressful situations. This can lead to improved mental and physical health. Ever felt overwhelmed? High EQ allows you to recognise the stress, challenge unproductive or unhelpful thought patterns, and develop coping mechanisms to stay calm and focused.

Greater success

Studies show that EQ is just as important, if not more important, than IQ for success in life. People with high EQ are often better leaders, team players, and problem-solvers. In a collaborative work environment, being able to understand the emotional dynamics of a team can help you foster trust, motivate others, and achieve common goals.

The four pillars of emotional intelligence

There are four main components of emotional intelligence, often referred to as the "four pillars":

  1. Self-awareness: This is the ability to identify your own emotions and understand how they affect your thoughts and behaviour. It important to be able to pay attention to your internal monologue. Are you feeling self-critical or empowered? Recognising these emotional states is the first step to managing them effectively.
  2. Self-management: Once you're aware of your emotions, you can learn to manage them effectively. This includes regulating your emotions, delaying gratification, and motivating yourself. Let's say you receive critical feedback. Self-management allows you to acknowledge the frustration, avoid getting defensive, and use the feedback as a constructive tool to improve.
  3. Social awareness: This is the ability to pick up on the emotions of others. Being attuned to non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and body language is key. Social awareness is like a superpower. By reading the emotional climate, you can tailor your communication style, identify potential conflicts, and build stronger rapport with others.
  4. Relationship management: This is all about using your emotional intelligence to build and maintain healthy relationships. This includes good communication skills, conflict resolution, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. Imagine giving a 'presentation' to a sceptical audience (either at work or within the family or an intimate relationship). Your relationship management skills come into play as you address any concerns, connect with them on an emotional level, and deliver a persuasive message.

Can you improve your EQ?

The good news is that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned and improved over time. Here are a few tips:

Practice mindfulness

Learn to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. There are many mindfulness exercises and apps available to help you get started. Mindfulness meditation can help you become more aware of your emotional state without judgement.

Identify your triggers

What situations or people tend to set you off emotionally? Once you know your triggers, you can develop strategies for coping with them in a healthy way. Perhaps you are easily flustered or anxious. Developing relaxation techniques or practising visualisation exercises can manage your anxiety beforehand.


Starting to write down your thoughts and feelings can be a great way to gain self-awareness and identify patterns in your emotional responses. It will allow you to explore your emotional landscape and gain insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Seek feedback

Consider asking trusted friends, family, or colleagues for honest feedback on how you handle your emotions. Sometimes, those closest to us can offer valuable insights into our blind spots.

Practice empathy

Start trying to see things from other people's perspectives. This will help you to understand their emotions and respond in a more compassionate way. Really listening in conversations can be a great way to practice empathy in everyday situations. Pay attention to how people communicate their feelings and try to see things from their point of view.

Expand your emotional vocabulary

Building your emotional vocabulary is like giving yourself a whole new set of tools to navigate your inner world. By moving beyond basic terms like "happy" or "sad," you can gain the ability to pinpoint the exact shades of your emotions. For example, can you differentiate between feeling frustrated, annoyed, or irritated? Recognising these subtle variations allows for more precise communication and self-understanding. Imagine being able to express to your partner that you feel "disappointed" rather than just "sad" – it can make all the difference in effectively conveying your needs and feelings.

By developing your EQ, you can unlock numerous positive changes in your life. Imagine a world where you can navigate disagreements with a cool head, truly listen to and understand loved ones, and motivate yourself through challenges. Your newfound emotional intelligence will allow you to develop healthy coping mechanisms and bounce back from setbacks with greater ease. Stronger relationships, reduced stress, and a newfound confidence are just a few of the rewards that come with mastering your EQ. You might find yourself excelling at work, forming deeper connections with friends and family, and feeling a greater sense of peace and self-control.  

Essentially, nurturing your EQ is like cultivating an inner compass, guiding you towards a more fulfilling and successful life. I do, however, realise this may be a case of easier said than done. So is there anything else you can do?

While you can definitely embark on a journey to improve your emotional intelligence on your own, therapy can be a powerful accelerant. Therapists are trained professionals who can provide a safe and supportive space for you to explore your emotional landscape.

Here's how therapy can specifically aid in developing your EQ:

1. Unravelling emotional tangled webs: Our emotional experiences can be complex and layered. Therapists can help you untangle these webs by guiding you to identify the root causes of your emotions. Through techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you can learn to challenge negative thought patterns that might be fuelling unhelpful emotional responses.

2. Building emotional agility: Therapy can equip you with tools to manage your emotions effectively. Therapists can teach you relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness meditation, which can help you regulate emotions in stressful situations. Additionally, they can help you develop coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult feelings in a healthy way.

3. Empathy boot camp: Therapists can act as empathy coaches, helping you see things from other people's perspectives. By role-playing scenarios or analysing past interactions, you can gain valuable insights into how your emotions and actions might be perceived by others. This newfound empathy can significantly improve your communication skills and strengthen your relationships.

Ultimately, therapy provides a personalised roadmap for developing your emotional intelligence. With a therapist by your side, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself, build your emotional toolbox, and navigate the world with greater self-awareness and compassion.

I hope you've found this article insightful. If anything in it strikes a chord, and you want to start on a journey of self-discovery to improve your life experience (but you're doubting you can do it confidently), please consider booking a free consultation with me by reaching out here, or via my website Freedom with Therapy.

Kirsten Malcolm

Freedom Therapy

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bristol, City of Bristol, BS7
Written by Kirsten Malcolm, MNCPS (Acc.) Counselling, Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy
Bristol, City of Bristol, BS7

Hi, I'm Kirsten. A Mum to three grown-up 'children', a Wife, and a qualified, warm and compassionate Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and Mental Health & Wellbeing Blogger at www.freedomwiththerapy.com/blog

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