Developing Emotional Intelligence as an Entreprenuer

Emotional Intelligence, also known as Emotional Quotient or EQ, was popularized by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in the 1990s. They defined it as the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and in others, with five components: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills.

People with high emotional intelligence have been found to make better decisions and be better problem solvers; are better able to remain calm under pressure; have higher levels of empathy; and are better able to listen, reflect, and respond to constructive criticism. They also tend to report higher job satisfaction and are rated as having higher job performance both by their managers and in self-reports.

Emotional intelligence has an impact on job performance through several factors, including emotional stability, conscientiousness, extraversion, individual’s ability to perform emotion-related behaviors (such as expressing emotions and empathizing with others), cognitive ability, and general self-efficacy. A stable, thoughtful, empathic, and internally motivated worker will not only rate higher on EQ tests, but will naturally receive higher scores on job reviews from their manager.

What does Emotional Intelligence Look Like in the Workplace?


Self-awareness means knowing yourself. This isn’t just the surface level things, like what you want out of your job. It means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, the things that drive you to succeed, your values, and what kind of impact you have on others. In the workplace, this might look like knowing you are detail oriented and value punctuality, which leads to a coworker choosing to include you on their team for a project as a fact-checker.


This is the ability to control and redirect destructive impulses and moods. In other words: if you are able to self-regulate, you are in control of your emotions and do not allow them to control you or your actions. In the workplace, this might look like walking away from a frustrating meeting without yelling, going for a short coffee break rather than breaking your computer, or politely accepting praise rather than jumping up and down and fist-pumping over your job well done.

Internal Motivation

Motivation is all about what makes a person get up and go into work each day. Internal motivation is passion for what you do. Even if you aren’t passionate about every part of your job, there should be at least some component of it that keeps you motivated to go back in, improve, and do the work well. An internally motivated worker is one who takes constructive criticism well and uses it to continuously improve their performance.


On the most basic level, empathy means understanding and considering other people’s feelings. In the workplace this could look like a manager speaking with an employee who has been having a difficult time to find out how they can better support the employee or a coworker who stays late in solidarity with another worker to keep them company while finishing a project.

Social Skills

Building relationships and networking with your coworkers, managers, and business associates is essential. Not only does it help you to move forward in your career, but it gives you the chance to practice your self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy skills.

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

While there is an innate quality to Emotional Intelligence, it is something that can be developed through exercise, just like a muscle. Here are nine easy ways to increase your EQ at work:

Pay attention to how you are feeling at work.

Does your jaw clench up every time you walk into the office building? Does the mere mention of your coworker’s name fill you with rage? Noticing what brings up certain feelings for you throughout the work day can help you to identify where things within your job need to change or be adjusted.

Learn to identify your emotional strengths and weaknesses.

Are you able to stay calm when your coworkers are panicking over deadlines? Do you get snippy right before lunch hour? Do you mirror back the emotions of your coworkers, or are you able to affect their moods through your interactions? These all can be counted as emotional strengths and weaknesses for your list. Once you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to look at your weaknesses and develop a plan on how to work on them until you can move them over to the “strengths” column.

Remember emotions are temporary.

Even the worst workdays end, and the feelings attached to them fade. It is tempting to make decisions or changes based on emotion (more on this later), but emotions will change, and you don’t want to calm down only to find you burned a bridge you need to move forward. Be aware of how you are feeling, but also recognize your feelings will change.

Find techniques to release workplace stress.

Work-Life balance is another buzzword thrown around a lot, but it is worth the hype. Hobbies and activities outside of work can help you to let go of some of the stress accumulated at work. Are hikes your go-to way to release tension?

Do puzzles help you to clear your mind? Is there a great spa nearby where you can enjoy a manicure or facial? Finding the things that help you to release stress and tension is essential to developing a healthy work-life balance. Stress can cloud your ability to think clearly, which can lower your EQ and ability to connect with the people around you.

Think before making decisions.

It can be incredibly tempting to make decisions based on gut-feelings, but those feelings may not always lead us to the best possible option. Emotional Intelligence requires us to think about our feelings regarding a decision before committing to a choice.

This gives us the chance to determine if we have considered all the sides of the situation before jumping in. In the workplace especially we want to be sure we have thoroughly considered a decision, as it can impact the company or organization in ways we may miss if basing the decision only on our emotions.

Listen to what others have to say.

Other people will have other perspectives. These perspectives can open us up to previously unconsidered options, which will help us to determine the best possible choice for any given situation. Actively listening to alternative perspectives is a required skill for successful communication within the workplace.

Pay attention to nonverbal communication.

Recent studies show that body language and nonverbal cues make up about 55% of communication. If you are going to fully understand a situation or interaction with another person, it is essential for you to notice and interpret their nonverbals. Are they leaning towards you or away from you during the conversation? What are the cultural considerations to take into account in their nonverbals?

Avoid office drama.

It can be ridiculously easy to get caught up in office arguments, coworker fights, and powerplays. One way to improve your Emotional Intelligence is to avoid the office drama. It allows you to remain objective among your coworkers, open to hearing new alternatives and able to focus on your work.

Focus on what you love about your work.

The best way to remain motivated is to focus on the good parts of what you do. Are you building something great? Do you have opportunities to be creative through your job that make excited to go to work every day? Make a list of what it is you love about your work, and keep it handy for the bad days.

How Counseling Can Help Your Develop Emotional Intelligence

Being able to understand and communicate emotion is a big predictor of success in both career and relationships. Counseling provides an opportunity to practice the skills needed to grow your emotional intelligence by increasing self awareness, fostering skills related to self regulation and working on attunement and empathy. Working with a therapist can help with both the internal and external manifestations of reactivity and can help move your emotional landscape from a defcit to an asset.

Contact me to learn more about counseling.

About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

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