Training Emotional Intelligence: 10 Tips & Exercises for Daily Work

Stefan Schulze

Three people train their emotional intelligence with the Masterplan learning platform
VIDEO With english subtitles

Emotionally intelligent people are more communicative, more efficient and more successful at work. We explain why employees should train their emotional intelligence and what methods and tricks you can use to support them as an HR manager.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, understand, regulate and respond appropriately to one's own and other people's emotions. It is essential for effective collaboration, interpersonal relationships and successful communication in the workplace.

The original idea of emotional intelligence goes back to Peter Salovey and John Mayer, but was coined in the 1990s by the psychologist Daniel Goleman. In his work, Goleman emphasized how crucial emotional intelligence is in various areas of life, including in education and work.

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Fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence

Goleman's influence has helped to raise awareness of emotional intelligence and emphasize its importance in the modern world.

In his framework, emotional intelligence is made up of four aspects:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the key to emotional intelligence. It includes areas such as: 

  • Emotional awareness, which enables us to recognize and interpret our feelings in real time
  • Self-reflection to critically analyze emotions and actions and gain deeper insights into our motivations and behavior patterns,
  • Realistic self-assessment to evaluate ourselves objectively and without excessive self-criticism,
  • Self-confidence, to trust in our own abilities without being arrogant, and
  • Authenticity, in order to act in accordance with one's own values.

Internal self-awareness answers the question "What are my feelings, how do I react to certain situations and how do others see me?" and forms the basis for external self-awareness, which helps us to understand how our emotions and behavior affect those around us.

Self-Management

Self-management is made up of four areas of EI:

  • Motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, drives us and influences our actions.
  • A positive mindset promotes emotional strength and resilience.
  • Adaptability or resilience enables us to react flexibly to challenges.
  • Self-regulation is the key to controlling emotional reactions. 

Successful self-management helps us to cope with stress, set goals and act consistently. It is about answering the question "How do I gain control over my feelings and actions?".

Social Awareness

Social awareness involves understanding the social environment in which we operate.

  • Empathy allows us to recognize the emotions and needs of others and respond compassionately.
  • Organizational awareness goes beyond this and enables us to understand the dynamics in groups and organizations. 

"What exactly does the social environment in which I find myself look like? What role do I play in it?" The answers to these questions strengthen interpersonal relationships, promote teamwork and enable us to better meet the needs and expectations of those around us.

Relationship Management

Relationship management revolves around the art of successfully shaping social interactions. It includes

  • Influencing others,
  • Coaching and mentoring,
  • Teamwork and
  • Conflict management.

It is about answering questions such as "How do I skillfully navigate my social environment? How do I have healthy relationships with others and how do I manage to exert influence?". This aspect of emotional intelligence helps to build harmonious relationships, resolve conflicts effectively and work successfully with others, whether professionally or personally.

Pie chart: Emotional intelligence according to Daniel Goleman with the four areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important? 

A high IQ may help you to be a technically competent engineer. But it's much less useful in the real world if you're, well, an emotional jerk.

This may sound a little dramatic, but there's a lot of truth in it – and it applies to every profession.

If you think about it, you can probably think of a few projects that failed not because of the intelligence or expertise of the individual team members, but because of inefficient communication and lack of collaboration.

If everyone involved in the project had acted in a more emotionally intelligent way, it probably wouldn't have turned out that way. This is because:

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It has even been proven that a high EQ is particularly beneficial for change and transformation processes. The better connected someone is, the more successful he or she is at changing things in the organization.

EI as a Career Booster and Quality Factor

Nowadays, anyone who wants to excel or advance in their job must have strong soft skills. And whether from the perspective of the employees themselves or through HR glasses – there is no way around a high EI:

Good Reasons for More Training and Development

For L&D and HR managers, this means one thing above all: investments should be made in EI skills when upskilling employees and developing managers in the company, because:

Can You Train Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, emotional intelligence can be trained – both in yourself and in your employees!

This is because emotional intelligence is a soft skill, and therefore, an ability that you can actively work on.

However, one-off training sessions and even regular training sessions do not guarantee that you will become an emotional genius. As with IQ, EQ can be developed (almost) indefinitely, and only very few people make it to the top limit.

For you and your employees, EI training is the start of a lifelong learning journey on which you can continuously develop and improve.

The good news: at a certain point, you can call yourself emotionally intelligent! This is the case if you have sufficient skills in all four areas – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

With the following practical tips and exercises, your employees (and you too) can work on independently developing emotional intelligence.

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Tips for Better Self-Awareness

The first step to becoming more emotionally intelligent is to understand yourself and your own emotions. To do so:

<span style="color: #fc6676">1.</span> (Always) Start with Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is the basis of all EI training. Encourage your employees to reflect independently on how they reacted in stressful and upsetting situations and how this could have happened.

The "Ask What Not Why" method is particularly helpful here. If you focus on the what (i.e. the trigger of an emotion) during self-reflection, you receive more specific information about the circumstances that influence your own emotional state and can learn to deal with these situations better.

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<span style="color: #fc6676">2.</span> Develop a Healthy Feedback Culture

You learn a lot about yourself when you proactively seek feedback from others. HR managers can support their employees in this by establishing a constructive feedback culture in the company. 360° feedback, peer feedback, coaching and mentoring are efficient methods for this.

Extra tip: Comparing self-assessment and external assessment is particularly informative for improving emotional intelligence. You can easily carry out a test for this in a team by having one person answer questions about themselves and a colleague answer exactly the same questions about them. Comparing and discussing the answers provides valuable insights.

Tips for More Efficient Self-Management

Emotional intelligence also means always being in control and constantly thinking and acting rationally. This works with these tips:

<span style="color: #fc6676">3.</span> Help to Manage Stress and Regulate Emotions

Keeping calm in stressful situations is an art in itself. The following three techniques will help you and your employees to keep a cool head at all times and regulate impulsive emotions:

1. Stop and count: Slowly count to ten. This gives your prefrontal cortex time to regain control.

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2. Distraction: Change your environment or engage in calming activities. This strengthens the rational part of your brain.

3. Emotional Inhibition: Conflicting emotions are often mutually exclusive. So think about things that trigger gratitude or joy.

<span style="color: #fc6676">4.</span> Increase Intrinsic Motivation and Establish Habits

Others often don't even realize how much each individual employee contributes to the overall success of the company – and that can be quite demotivating.

In order to maintain or promote intrinsic motivation for their work, you should always make it clear to your employees what contribution they make and how their work contributes to the company's success.

To maintain motivation, you should establish habits, for example with the 1% method: by continuously improving by 1%, you celebrate many small successes. These positive emotions are linked to new routines that become anchored in everyday life.

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<span style="color: #fc6676">5.</span> Support the Development of a Growth Mindset 

Developing a growth mindset is a lifelong journey – but it is worth it. People who have a growth mindset see challenges as opportunities for growth and further development. They see obstacles as only temporary and easily surmountable.

Encourage your employees to say "yes" to new challenges. The greatest learning experiences come from confronting new things. Even if something goes wrong, lessons can be learned for the future. Need a good example? Even Titans like Oliver Kahn learn from mistakes!

<span style="color: #fc6676">6.</span> Promote Adaptability and Resilience

Reacting flexibly to change, adapting to new circumstances and dealing with uncertainty: If you can do this, you are adaptable. Resilience is a sub-area of adaptability and initially means mental resilience in difficult or uncomfortable situations.

In the world of work in particular, new technologies and innovative trends are constantly turning established routines upside down. As a result, employees need to become increasingly resilient. There are several options for training this aspect of emotional intelligence in employees (and yourselves), such as self-tests to reflect on stress levels and exercises to strengthen individual resilience.

Tips for a Stable Social Awareness

As previously shown, a person’s social network is developed, the more successful people are in their work. Therefore:

<span style="color: #fc6676">7.</span> Make Sure that People Are Actively Listening

The intention to really want to understand the other person (and not just react to what is said) is an effective lever for an emotionally intelligent action. It's about (seriously) developing empathy and applying it in conversation. 

The following tricks should make this easier for you and your employees:

  • Repeat statements (when appropriate)
  • Show non-verbally that you are listening
  • Ask more questions than you think is necessary
  • Minimize distractions
  • Do not practice your own answers in your head while listening to the question

<span style="color: #fc6676">8.</span> Enable a Shift in Perspective and Sharpen Organizational Awareness

Emotionally intelligent people can "zoom out" of a confusing scene and see it in its entirety. They have a heightened awareness of what is needed in the implementation and organization of processes, which procedures are critical and what does not work.

Especially when projects have not been successful or in/after stressful situations, a change of perspective and an outside view are worthwhile. If all employees are able to do this, everyone can work on themselves and help shape future projects more effectively.

Tips for Successful Relationship Management

Communication is the key to successful collaboration in any organization. These tips will help you improve your employees' communication skills:

<span style="color: #fc6676">9.</span> Improve Communication Skills

Or more directly: teach your employees to influence others. What sounds like manipulation at first is simply the ability to convince others of your own opinion - without acting manipulatively or with malicious intent.

This works best if you respond to your counterpart with a positive attitude. After all, we generally respond to those who act selflessly, generously and socially towards us with equally positive behavior. This psychological phenomenon is known as reciprocity.

Other impactful communication techniques include the Minto Pyramid and Dual Coding.

<span style="color: #fc6676">10.</span> Work on Teamwork and Conflict Resolution Skills

Whether for managers or team members - the how is crucial for successful cooperation. So motivate everyone in the company to communicate in a specific, positive, resource-oriented, realistic, collaborative, measurable, prioritizing and supportive way.

Managing and resolving conflicts is an essential leadership skill, but it is also of great value to all team members. Here’s a little tip on how all employees can deal with problems better: Make sure that personal, emotional opinions are kept to a minimum. Instead, focus on objective facts to help solve problems.

Conclusion: Training Emotional Intelligence Pays Off

The three basic learnings summarized in this article:

Emotional intelligence ...

  1. Is crucial for successful communication, interpersonal relationships and efficient collaboration in the workplace.
  2. Is made up of four aspects: Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.
  3. Is trainable and there are practical methods your employees can use to effectively improve their EI.

With the 10 tips in this article, your employees (and you) will be able to individually develop their EQ. If this is successful, employee performance will increase and your company will gain flexibility and efficiency.

So then, when do you start EI training?

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FAQ on the Topic

What is emotional intelligence?
What are examples of emotional intelligence?
How do emotionally intelligent people behave?
Can emotional intelligence be trained? If yes, how?

Stefan Schulze

Stefan Schulze is Content Marketing Manager at Masterplan. In the blog, he explains important terms from the L&D and HR world and writes about methods, concepts and developments in corporate learning.

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