developing emotional intelligence

Complete Step by Step Guide to Assessing and Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Complete Step by Step Guide to Assessing and Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Motivating Self-Improvement: Part Three

Share this Post

In this series, we will be examining how to motivate and realize self-improvement in your personal leadership skills, relationships, communication skills, and learning strategies.

developing emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is now being regarded as a more important indicator of success than IQ

Have you ever felt frustrated by your goals and processes? Stuck in the same cycle, but not getting any closer to the desired result? Constantly reacting to circumstances and other people, instead of feeling prepared to offer a helpful response and solution?

We can personally relate and believe that most entrepreneurs have dealt with some aspect of these feelings at one time or another.

Moe had a lofty goal. He wanted to make a million dollars, in order that he might have the freedom to pursue his passions and dreams. He was moving up in a corporate job. He believed he was focused and committed to this goal, but was constantly feeling frustrated at his lack of results. Even though he thought he knew what he wanted, he felt that he was constantly a step behind.

He felt it was hard for others to understand his goals and hard for him to involve others. No one was providing good input and many times it felt as if those around him were holding him back.

At first glance, these “symptoms” seemed unrelated. Moe set out to develop better goals and invest in a personal development plan. He also began focusing on developing his people management skills.

However, Moe quickly realized that all of these steps were associated with his emotional intelligence skills. Upon approaching these problems with the goal of developing emotional intelligence, his understanding of the obstacles and ability to produce results increased.

In his book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman quotes many studies showing that those with average IQ levels outperform those with high IQ levels, as much as 70% of the time according to some. He purports that success is actually determined by emotional intelligence.

TalentSmart, a firm that provides training for emotional intelligence in the workplace, states that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence.


What is emotional intelligence?

Although the concept of emotional intelligence (or EQ) was first introduced in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer (University of New Hampshire) and Peter Salovey (Yale), it has become a buzzword in business circles since Daniel Goleman published his first book, “Emotional Intelligence.”

The idea of emotional intelligence builds off of personality based assessments that are much older. The “Caliper” assessment, originally for sales people, was developed in the 1950s by Herb Greenberg on the premise that “who someone is is as important as what someone does.” This assessment measured, not their IQ, but certain personality traits that were associated with a successful sales person.

Goleman’s book starts off by quoting a survey of employers which found:

  • at least ½ of employees lack the motivation to keep learning and improving in their job
  • 4 out of 10 employees were not able to work cooperatively with other employees
  • 19% of those applying for entry level positions did not have the necessary self-discipline to complete their tasks

Goleman associates these skills (or sweeping lack of) with declining levels of emotional intelligence, claiming all of these skills require strong emotional intelligence. Luckily, Goleman (and other psychologists) believe emotional intelligence is not an inherent trait, but a set of skills that can be learned and developed.

An overall definition of emotional intelligence is:

  • the ability to perceive, understand, and manage your own emotions
  • the ability to perceive, understand, and manipulate the emotions of others

what is emotional intelligence

Goleman has organized emotional intelligence skills into four quadrants

Today, we want to provide a greater understanding of these four quadrants and practical steps you can take to improve emotional intelligence.

In this post, you will find:

  • The importance of the four quadrants of emotional intelligence:
    • self-awareness
    • social awareness
    • self-management
    • relationship management
  • 7 signs you need to improve your emotional intelligence in the workplace
  • How to improve emotional intelligence through practical and easily applicable steps
  • FREE periodical emotional intelligence assessment and checklist for developing emotional intelligence skills

The Necessity of Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence skills

Emotional intelligence involves being mindful of your own emotions, as well as those of others

Research shows that emotional intelligence is more important for success than IQ, but that doesn’t help us if we don’t understand the specific skills that emotional intelligence is linked to. How can we determine whether or not we already have a strong emotional intelligence, then continue to develop our EQ, if we don’t have a strong understanding of it?

We’ll go through the four quadrants, discussing the specific skills associated with each aspect of emotional intelligence. Each of the quadrants influences the other, making it important to develop our overall EQ and not just specific skills.


Goleman states that self-awareness is the “keystone” of EQ. Paul Jun, writer and author of “Connect the Dots: Strategies and Meditations on Self-education,” states that self-awareness is required for real habit change.

If we can better perceive and understand, not only our external motivations and surface goals, but also our deep, internal motivations, driving forces, and emotions, we will be better equipped to:

  • set more specific goals and shape better action plans
  • recognize our individuality, allowing us to feel more confident and bounce back from undesired results
  • better understand the emotions of others (social awareness)
  • better manage our emotions (self-management)

Social Awareness

If we can better perceive and understand, not only the external actions of others, but also their more subtle or hidden emotions and motivations, we will be better equipped to:

  • respond, instead of react to others (self-management)
  • genuinely listen, allowing you to understand their needs/desires better
  • respond in a way that promotes cooperation
  • better serve clients, coworkers, and employees (relationship management)


Goleman separates self-management into two categories: self-motivation and managing emotions. If we can better respond to, utilize, and manipulate our own motivations and emotions, we will be better equipped to:

  • respond, instead of react to others and our circumstances (social awareness)
  • act in a trustworthy manner, as our controlled responses will be more in line with our values than uncontrolled reactions (relationship management)
  • take initiative and show optimism, even in difficult or uncomfortable circumstances
  • adapt to unexpected circumstances

Relationship Management

If we can better respond to and utilize others motivations and emotions, we will be better equipped to:

  • develop relationships that produce results
  • promote cooperation

As you can see, the four quadrants tend to reinforce and develop each other, further increasing your ability to produce results when you utilize a well rounded EQ to tackle obstacles, as opposed to reacting to and focusing on each obstacle individually.

Also, developing solutions that only address the outward symptoms of a problem won’t last. I would much rather use emotional intelligence to identify and address the underlying problems, producing a much more permanent solution.

7 Misunderstood Signs That You Need to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

  1. “I tend to get defensive when talking to others.”

This one applies specifically to me. It is often so hard for me to take criticism! If your instinct is to silently fume when receiving advice, or you tend to take any criticism very personally, this can be a symptom of not understanding and having control of your own emotions, as well as an inability to understand the other person’s motivation or emotions.

2.“I feel out of control of my life/job/direction.”

It is so easy to set broad goals! If you have set goals, but they are not going anywhere, it could be that you are not setting specific goals that build off of your internal motivations and desires. Setting specific goals requires a strong self-awareness, but provides a stronger drive.

3.“I find it hard to delegate tasks to others and am often described as ‘controlling.’”

Social awareness will help you better understand how your actions are effecting others and enable you to better manage your relationships.

4.“I have well-organized processes in place, but they are not working. I continue to repeat a cycle of crashing and burning.”

If you continue to use processes or repeat actions that are not working, it may be because you are not willing to evaluate your actions and emotions in a neutral light. Once you have developed a strong self-awareness and self-management skills, you will be able to more easily identify why your processes are failing, or perhaps that you need to develop different processes that fit who you are better.

5.“I feel the need to justify my actions to myself and/or others.”

If you do not have a high level of self-awareness or strong self-management skills, you are often not confident in your actions.

6.“I often take on more than I can handle.”

Improving your self-awareness can help you understand why you take on more than you can handle, or why you are not comfortable confronting a coworker who pushes responsibilities on you. Developing your relationship management skills will help you conduct a beneficial conversation that can fix the situation.

7.“I have trouble bouncing back from a business loss, sales rejection, missed quota, etc.” or “I often feel depressed about work.”

Self-awareness is the first step towards self-management. Taking practical steps to manage your emotions, instead of being controlled by them, can help you break out of a rut and move forward even when your emotions are holding you back.

How To Improve Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence in the workplace

We face many external distractions that can make it hard to practice self-awareness and social awareness

At the Biohacking Entrepreneur, we are all about providing the most efficient and practical knowledge, mindsets, and tips. We are tired of hearing a bunch of theory from “experts,” with no practical application. This is why we focus on data, research, and specific step by step hacks.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the Goleman’s EQ quadrants and why EQ is important, here are some steps you can take for developing emotional intelligence.

How to Develop Self-awareness

1.Set specific goals

Fill out a goal setting worksheet and personal development plan that drive results (click on the link for FREE downloadable pdf versions, developed by the Biohacking Entrepreneur)

2.Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Once Moe started using the Headspace meditation app, he found not only was he more self-aware, but it was easier for him to listen to others first, instead of immediately reacting. Paul Jun recognizes the importance of mindfulness in breaking from reactions to responses. A large part of emotional intelligence is not judging your own emotions, others emotions, others input, etc. Mindfulness Meditation not only promotes a non-judgmental mindset, it also provides a greater understanding of your own emotions and helps clear our heads of extra noise, assisting in self-management. Check out our guide on how to meditate for beginners.

3.Take a personality test

The more you understand your personality, the easier it will be to anticipate your emotions and reactions to other people and different scenarios. You can take one such as the official Myers-Briggs Personality test for $50, or you can take a free simplified version from many psychology sites.


How to Improve Social Awareness

  1. Request regular feedback

This is incredibly important for social awareness AND self-awareness, as we often miss important emotions or motives because of our biases. If done correctly, this can also help with relationship management as it shows initiative, a motivation to improve, and a desire to understand the other person’s perspective/goals. It is important to define a process for which the feedback can be given to make it easy for the person giving feedback, show further initiative, and make sure feedback is actually given.

  1. Listen genuinely

It is important to seek to understand, not to be right. This applies when listening to others input and perceiving their emotions, but also in perceiving our own emotions. Too often we try to understand our emotions in a way that justifies them, rather than simply understanding them, being willing to take responsibility if they were unjustified.

How to Improve Self-management

  1. Self-motivation
  2. Managing Emotions
    1. “Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business.” – Norman Vincent Peale
    2. Anger

In his book, Goleman quotes multiple studies indicating that expressing anger actually amplifies the feeling. While it can be a healthy solution to vent and express sadness, it is quite a different story with anger. Instead, Goleman suggests that you:

  • take multiple deep breaths before responding
  • go for a walk before responding, but do not indulge in angry or vindictive thoughts
  • re-frame your thoughts. You can do this by either:
    • responding to your anger as though it was someone else’s, i.e. what advice would you give to someone who is feeling the way you are now
    • putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, i.e. why might they be acting the way they did? Give them the benefit of the doubt, e.g. “maybe they had a really tough day today.”
  1. Sadness/depression
    • Goleman encourages his readers to acknowledge that distracting themselves, rather than ruminating on the sadness, will often produce a much better result. The sorrowful, or depressed salesman who focuses on his sales calls as a distraction will end up accomplishing something and achievements help to combat sorrow or helplessness.
    • Stephen Ilardi, author of “The Depression Cure” and advocate for TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change) has compiled a list of 6 scientifically backed steps that have helped thousands of patients beat minor and severe depression. We highly recommend reading the book, or watching his TedTalk, but we have included a brief summary of these steps:
      • Eat Brain Food (download our free guide on the best brain food)
      • Don’t Think, Do (stop ruminating on depressing thoughts)
      • Antidepressant Exercise (exercise that boosts dopamine levels)
      • Let There Be Light (get enough sunlight exposure/vitamin D)
      • Get Connected (stay involved with friends and coworkers/invest in meaningful activities e.g. volunteer)
      • Habits of Healthy Sleep (get enough sleep every night)

How to Improve Relationship Management

1.Give constructive criticism. Goleman outlines three requirements of constructive criticism:

  • Be specific
  • Offer a solution
  • Show empathy

2.Practice producing “emotional contagion.”

Goleman quotes studies that prove more expressive people tend to have their emotions “rub off” onto less expressive people. Practice expressing the emotions you want others to show.


Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Work to understand their emotions and desires, then show them that you are invested in understanding them and helping them reach success.

Emotional intelligence skills can have a profound impact on your ability to understand obstacles and better craft solutions. We have worked to create a routine (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) emotional intelligence assessment so that you can consistently evaluate and improve your emotional intelligence.

Here your FREE copy of our routine emotional intelligence assessment, containing steps to assist you in evaluating and developing emotional intelligence.

✓ Learn to recognize and understand your own emotions
✓ Find out how to control these emotions
✓ Learn how our actions and behaviors influence other people

You can download your copy of the routine by clicking here

Emotional Assessment Worksheet
Evaluating and Developing Emotional Intelligence

Enter your name and email below to download the FREE guide 

Take Aways

  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) is often more important than IQ
  • Emotional intelligence impacts four areas of your life, including:
    • self-awareness
    • social awareness
    • self-management
    • relationship management
  • Developing emotional intelligence can help you produce long term solutions with a better understanding of underlying problems
  • There are many practical steps you can take to improve emotional intelligence over time



Ready To Learn?

Join us on our mission to help young founders and entrepreneurs optimize their performance.

Share this Post

Questions about this post?

Leave your questions and responses in the comments section below. If you want your question to be featured on the next Q&A episode, submit it in the Podcast Question form! You can also ask your questions and engage with other biohacking entrepreneurs through the Biohacking Entrepreneur Forum, Twitter, and Facebook!