Career Coach Deirdre Mulhern shares a guide to Emotional Intelligence and how to use it to improve your interactions with others at work.

‘Emotional intelligence more than any other factor, more than IQ, or expertise, accounts for 85-90% of success at work. IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.’

Warren Bennis (Leadership Scholar)

Many would argue that EQ is a stronger predictor of success than IQ.

Examples of strong emotional intelligence include – knowing how to respond to a strong emotional response from a customer complaint on the phone and empathising with their struggle; noticing that a colleague is quieter than usual in a meeting and because of this understand the need to check in with them to check they are ok; and being able to manage your emotions after receiving constructive criticism on a project by acknowledging and accepting your initial frustration and then beginning to reframe your mindset to the feedback, recognising its benefits to your development and thus potentially adding value to your performance going forward.

When you learn to become more aware of your emotions and how you react based on these emotions, you will have a better chance of successful relationships at work.

The 4 Fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Self Awareness

Self awareness is being able to identify and name your emotions and your emotional triggers. Being aware of your feelings helps you understand how others might perceive your emotions/ moods.

Self awareness is a valuable attribute to have to understand how you are viewed by your colleagues, clients or managers. 

To improve your self awareness start by trying to gain a better understanding of your emotions, your thoughts, mood, behaviour and therefore actions.

Determining what brings you joy, sadness, anger or fear is the first step towards understanding these emotions and not letting them affect your judgement.

Start observing your emotions. When you have a strong emotion, catch it, take some time to explore it and look at what factors are driving this feeling for you. Get in the habit of reflecting on your actions and emotions daily.

Journaling these observations in a diary is a great way to self reflect.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see what exactly is driving our emotions so writing it out will help you to get clarity and help you begin to see trends or patterns triggering positive and negative responses in you. With this awareness you will then be able to avoid certain triggers or be better prepared when an unavoidable event presents itself.

  1. Self Regulation

Having emotions and thinking things deeply is a good thing. It’s part of being human.

Self regulation is the ability to manage your emotions to create a desired effect. This will positively impact your relationships because your feelings can sometimes have a strong and undesired effect on others. Eg. If you are stressed with a work task when a colleague interrupts you to ask a question. You might quickly answer in an unfriendly tone and this could come across that you are frustrated with them when in fact you are not.

Self regulation is about training your mind to be more positive.

It’s very empowering to understand how you are feeling and take the steps to adjust your feelings to remain in control of them and stay professional.

Easy ways to do this include: Break up your large work task into smaller more manageable pieces and celebrate the milestones with a reward; meditation to help calm you in the here and now; journaling is a great way to help regulate your emotions when feeling stressed or overwhelmed; breathing in deep 10 times can help centre yourself and give you that sense of calm.

  1. Social Awareness

Social awareness is understanding the emotional needs of those around you and then customising your message to meet others where they are in order to connect, inspire and influence behaviour.

Showing empathy and noticing emotional cues from others can lead to better social outcomes.

Start by paying close attention to the subtle actions and reactions of others. Over time you can improve your ability to perceive and understand others emotional responses, enabling you to empathise with them and understand why others feel the way they do.

If someone comes to you upset about a problem, acknowledge their feelings and look for ways to understand their reasons for feeling this way.

People are not always vocal about how they feel so trying to stay in tune with their emotions and body language helps also.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Understanding others emotions helps you deal with workplace situations more effectively.

You do not need to agree with someone to be able to empathise with them. 

  1. Relationship management

Creating healthy, amicable and productive relationships with others is usually based on your ability to clearly communicate your thoughts, influence others with your words and actions and successfully work within a team.

Your relationship management usually improves when the other components of emotional intelligence do. Strengthening relationships can start with improving your active listening – focus completely on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.

This can help you be perceived as someone who cares and who is a team player.

One final word of advice – If you are to vent to someone about your frustrations, do so outside of work and not to colleagues. Speak to someone you know you trust or this could come back to haunt you.

To assess your emotional intelligence ask yourself how you would rate yourself from 1-10 in the statements below.


  • My mood impacts the people around me.
  • I find it easy to put words to my feelings.
  • Even when I’m upset I’m aware of what’s happening to me.
  • I accept responsibility for my reactions.
  • If an issue does not affect me directly I don’t ,let it bother me.
  • I can accept critical comments from others without becoming angry.
  • I am generally able to understand the way other people are feeling.
  • I sense it when a person’s mood changes.
  • It is easy for me to make friends.
  • I find it easy to share my deep feelings with others.

If you find this blog post of use you may be interested in learning more in DM Career Conversations new book which is due out later this month ‘ How to Win at Work – Using the 30-60-90 Method.’ This is underway due to the success and demand of our first book – released last year – ‘My Career Audit and Success Plan Journal’.

See or @dmcareerconversations Instagram page for more helpful tips, career coaching or to purchase these books. 


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