People Management
6 min.

9 Habits to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
February 9, 2021
Jeune gestionnaire faisant preuve d’intelligence émotionnelle qui répond aux questions de ses collègues avec confiance

Whether you’re a manager or an employee doesn’t matter: developing your emotional intelligence will make you an asset to your team.

But more than that, your ability to motivate your colleagues, the ease with which you manage conflicts, and your ability to maintain healthy relationships will make you a source of inspiration.

You might think that emotions have no place outside of our personal lives, but knowing how to manage them brings both efficiency and balance to the workplace.

In a previous article, I went over the concept of emotional intelligence and what it can do for you.

Now, here are 9 habits to help you develop your emotional intelligence.

1. Find Yourself a Workplace Ally

Say you’re upset at a colleague. You tell others about it. They voice their support with the safe and classic “I-hear-ya” or “It’s-ridiculous-you’re-right.”

Plastic interactions like these do little to resolve anything; on the contrary, they might just further irritate you. What’s more, they prevent you from looking at the situation from a different point of view and dull the mood.

The goal here is to defuse your emotions so as to act rationally.

So, have someone become your emotional management ally; someone who can always lend an ear and that won’t hesitate to challenge your perception if need be. You will confide in this person—and no one else—when you feel the need to vent.

2. Prepare Your Conversations Ahead of Time

Emotional intelligence requires control over one’s feelings and the ability to display empathy. To prepare ahead of time for important or difficult conversations can help you cover those bases.

Say you have to let an employee know you’re unsatisfied with their performance, a prospect that makes you uncomfortable. Take the time to jot down the facts: what exactly is it about this employee’s performance that’s unsatisfying? Do they tend to come in late? Do they deal poorly with customers?

If you don’t know how to broach the subject, ask your fellow managers. Further, try to predict what questions the employee might have so you’re not caught off-guard.

Getting prepared like this will help you keep your emotional distance during the conversation, and will leave you free to focus on the employee and empathize with their point of view.

3. Become an Active Listener

Listening is the cornerstone of every conversation.

And so, to develop your emotional intelligence, merely “hearing” just doesn’t cut it: you must become good at listening.

Active listening makes you empathetic towards and available to those you engage with. It lets you better understand what it is that they’re trying to tell you while displaying both interest and sensitivity.

Proper active listening requires you to:

💡 Be available. Don’t play with your phone. In fact, just put it away, under lock and key. No distractions.

💡 Be empathetic. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Don’t think about how you would feel in the same situation; instead, try to truly get what they’re going through.

💡 Reformulate. Let the other person know that you understand by rephrasing what they’re telling you. Keep your interpretations to yourself.

4. Take a Step Back

An employee just told you that they’re not coming in… minutes before the start of their shift. You are rightly irritated, and you can tell it’ll be difficult not to let it show in front of the team. You get angrier still.

Instead of lashing out, isolate yourself immediately just for a while. Emphasis on immediately. Breathe (or whatever generally helps you calm down), and meet your team when you’re relaxed.

To keep your emotions from taking over, don’t hesitate to take a step back as necessary. It’s one of your best tools for autoregulation, an essential component of emotional intelligence.

5. Set Clear Boundaries

Failing to respect the boundaries you set for yourself can lead to frustration. Learning to better respect them gets easier with practice.

💡 If your inner voice says “no,” don’t resist. Just say no yourself.

💡 If you have trouble setting boundaries, start with baby steps. Say for example that a colleague invites you to go out for a walk but you don’t feel like it. Just give it to them straight instead of feigning that you’re unavailable.

💡 People instinctively see being turned down as rejection. Whenever you set a boundary, try and provide a simple reason. People will have an easier time accepting it if they understand.

6. Spot Your Weak Spots

Be it stress, fatigue, or criticism, we all have weaknesses. Discuss what irritates you with your colleagues and employees, and encourage them to do the same. That way, for example, if you barely had any sleep one night and that lack of sleep is your weak spot, your colleagues will understand why you might be keeping superfluous conversations to a minimum the following day.

Part of emotional intelligence is knowing oneself well enough to capitalize on one’s strengths—and minimize one’s weaknesses.

7. Practice Reframing

An old boss of mine made training “optional” for new hires. Ironically, the slew of questions he received as a consequence would irritate him, and he’d complain ad nauseam about the hirees’ lack of autonomy. After all, this was how he had himself started out, learning on the job. So he didn’t really question his approach.

To reframe a thought or an emotion is to explore it from different angles in order to reorient it.

In this particular situation, my boss could have started by asking himself why he felt so irritated by all these questions, and what kind of training he would’ve liked to get when he first started out. If he were in his employees’ shoes, would he ask any less questions?

8. Assert Yourself

Work on your self-esteem, because low self-esteem is commonly something that’ll keep people from asserting themselves. And without the ability to be assertive, one cannot be authentic in their interactions and truly live out their emotions without shame and embarrassment.

“Stop being nice, start being real.” Emotional intelligence isn’t dancing around uncomfortable situations and other peoples’ negative emotions.

Emotional intelligence is what allows us to put our emotions to good use, and to manage our thoughts and behaviors appropriately, in order to achieve our goals.” To present ourselves just as we are is absolutely necessary, even if others might not like it.

9. Overcome your Prejudices

Overcoming one’s prejudices is anything but easy. First, we should remind ourselves that every single person has prejudices. A prejudice is an impression, and everyone forms impressions.

That being so, you can learn to simply ignore your prejudices. Practice putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes. In any given situation, maybe you’d have made the same choices as them if you were in their shoes.

Emotional Intelligence as a Way to Stand Out

Emotional intelligence is not innate. It is a developed skill that takes practice. What’s more, people with high emotional intelligence stand out. Their authenticity is refreshing, and their ease with emotions is impressive. They know how to make others comfortable and defuse conflicts handily. All the more reason for you to get started.

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