You’ve seen the headlines: “Five Point Plan to Get Your Dream Job.” “Seven Steps to a Better Relationship with Your Team.” Or the perennial favorite, “Three Easy Tricks to Lose 10 Pounds in Five Days!”

We love checklists, don’t we? Somehow, it’s comforting to boil a complex task down into concrete steps, a magic formula that will lead to success. Just do these five or seven or ten things, and everything will be perfect.

It’s not so easy to break emotional intelligence development down into a step by step list. The five building blocks (self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and relationship management) are all interrelated, not linear. And there are no shortcuts – the process takes time, and it never ends. EI is a lifelong endeavor.

All that being said, there are habits you can cultivate to get you started. In my last post, I talked about self-awareness, and promised to share some actionable tips for expanding this critical building block of EI. So let’s talk a little about what this term means, and some simple things you can start doing today.

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your personal moods and emotions and drives, and their effect on others. It depends on your ability to correctly identify and name your emotions. Hallmarks of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.”                  – Daniel Goleman

Here are some exercises to try:

  • Name your emotions. Write down all the emotions you can think of, and then spend a few days naming your feelings throughout the day as they emerge. It’s often very eye-opening for people to realize the limits of their emotional vocabulary.
  • Identify triggers. Throughout the day, recognize when you are feeling bothered, anxious, or stressed. Take a moment to write down how you are feeling physically and mentally, and what you perceive as the cause of the stress. Do this for a few days, and then look for patterns. You may be surprised at the trends that emerge.
  • Seek feedback. Ask business peers and family members how you are perceived. Their reaction to the request will tell you a lot on its own. Remember the saying, perception is reality. Often, your self-concept doesn’t match the perceptions of others.
  • Talk about your feelings and triggers with your family and friends. Play a game with your friends and ask them which feelings go with which set of events. This will enable you and your circle of support to understand more about feelings and go a long way to developing your emotional vocabulary.

Again, none of these are quick fixes. But if you’re just beginning to contemplate your emotional intelligence quotient, these exercises can be very helpful in making the somewhat abstract concepts of EI seem more tangible. Don’t try to do them all at once – implement one or two each week and you’ll find that your self-awareness will increase exponentially. Once you see the benefits, you may want to engage a coach to help you move to the next level. It will take longer than five days, and I can’t promise anything about those 10 pounds. But I can promise that if you sincerely work at strengthening your EI, you will be a more successful leader, team member, partner, parent, and friend.

Next time, we’ll tackle self-regulation, the next building block of emotional intelligence. Stay tuned!

Kelly Mannel, SPHR, is the founder of ImagePartners, Inc., where client companies benefit from her 25 years of fast-track experience in building effective business units at the local, and regional levels. Kelly’s technical experience encompasses organization and leadership development, executive coaching, assessments, talent management and emotional intelligence. Learn more at or call Kelly today at 904-707-7650.