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5 Ways to Mindfully Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a superpower in today's workforce. And, leaders need to prioritize their social-emotional skills if they hope to successfully lead diverse teams.

A close up of a carton of eggs, each egg has a face drawn on it in marker, displaying different emotions, including uneasy, happy, nervous, and panicked

A key characteristic of successful trauma-informed leaders is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is a person’s ability to understand and manage their emotions in a positive way.

EQ encompasses skills such as effective communication, empathy, conflict resolution, distress tolerance, and coping strategies. People with higher emotional intelligence tend to foster stronger, more meaningful relationships, manage stressful situations better, and succeed at work and school.

The good news is that emotional intelligence isn’t an innate trait but a learned skill. Here are 5 ways to mindfully develop your emotional intelligence.

1. Cultivate self-awareness

When you engage in self-awareness, you are aware of what you think and feel. You can see how your emotions affect your actions and how your behaviors impact those around you. Self-aware people are able to clearly see their strengths and weaknesses and reflect when given criticism about their personality, attitude, or leadership style.

If you want to cultivate better self-awareness, you can:

  • Journal each day about your thoughts and feelings

  • Slow down or pause during tense moments

  • Make a habit of asking yourself, “How do I feel right now?”

  • Talk to friends or a therapist about your feelings and how they relate to your behavior

2. Increase your social awareness

Trauma-informed leaders are self-aware, but they are also socially aware. That means they understand how their emotions, words, and actions affect others.

To become more socially aware, you can:

  • Reflect on how other people’s actions affect you, then consider if you act as they do

  • Ask others how your actions affect them, and actively listen to what they have to say

  • Observe how others respond when you speak or behave in certain ways

3. Put in the work in your relationships

Like anything that needs to be built, relationships require effort to create and sustain. That applies to personal relationships as much as it does professional ones.

Whether at home or work, you can use these relationship-building skills to increase your emotional intelligence:

  • Practice calm conflict resolution among team members

  • Improve your communication skills by clearly articulating what you mean

  • Praise others and give recognition where it is due

  • Consider weekly or monthly relationship check-ins, where you discuss areas of improvement in the relationship itself

  • Treat others with respect, honesty, consideration, and vulnerability

4. Improve your self-management skills

Trauma-informed leaders are often in charge of managing others, but learning how to manage the self is even more important than managing others. When you succeed in self-management, you are capable of:

  • Identifying when you experience stress

  • Remaining emotionally present

  • Controlling your behavior during a distressing moment

  • Choosing a positive coping mechanism

  • Managing your emotions in a healthy way

Leaders who excel at self-management are capable of receiving upsetting information without falling into a trauma response. If they do experience a trauma response, they are able to recognize it and act accordingly to restore executive functioning.

Ultimately, self-management takes repeated practice, although resources such as therapy can help.

5. Embrace presence through mindfulness

Emotionally intelligent people are capable of remaining present without obsessing over the future or ruminating on the past. Mindfulness, the state of being aware, is an essential tool for achieving self-awareness.

Although you can improve your ability to be mindful through meditation, it is also possible to cultivate mindfulness during your day-to-day activities. You can be mindful while eating a meal, exercising, or doing work. When you’re being mindful, you might consider how your body feels, what ideas cross your mind, or what emotions you’re feeling.

Mindfulness can aid us in developing emotional intelligence because it supports self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship building.

Final Thoughts: Emotional Intelligence is cultivated

Mindfulness and emotional intelligence don't come easy to many people. It's not because we're wrong or bad. It's because these are learned skills that many of us were not taught.

Still, as adults, we are responsible for taking care of ourselves and doing as little harm as possible. We can achieve both of those things by cultivating a mindfulness practice that strengthens our emotional intelligence.

What has your mindfulness practice done for your life? Share your tips and goals in the comments below!

This article was originally published in Chefalo Consulting's August 2022 Trauma-Informed Newsletter.


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