8 Ways to Display Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

Justin Bariso
[4-min read]

It was a chilly morning in November when I met Alex, a seasoned project manager with a reputation for turning around troubled projects.

Over coffee, Alex shared a recent challenge that had put his skills to the test: a project team at odds, plagued by missed deadlines and mounting tensions.

Despite his extensive experience, Alex was stumped. The usual tactics and methodologies weren’t making a dent.

Curious, I asked, “How’s the mood in your team meetings?” That simple question sparked a realization for Alex. It wasn’t just about tracking and managing tasks; it was about sensing and managing emotions.

He started by actively listening to his team members, acknowledging their frustrations without rushing to offer solutions.

He made a point of expressing genuine gratitude for their efforts, no matter how small.

When conflicts arose, he encouraged open communication and mutual respect, helping the team see disagreements as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

The transformation was slow but undeniable. The atmosphere lightened, collaboration improved, and, gradually, the project got back on track.

Alex’s story wasn’t just a tale of project management; it was a powerful lesson in the often-overlooked value of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence as a Catalyst for Change

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions, as well as to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others.

EQ is often described as a soft skill. But it’s much more than that. It’s a foundational element of effective leadership, teamwork, and personal growth.

In Alex’s case, his willingness to engage with the emotional landscape of his team — acknowledging their feelings, showing empathy, and creating a culture of open communication — was the key to turning around a failing project.

EQ isn’t about suppressing emotions. It’s about understanding and channeling them constructively.

It’s about creating a space where everyone feels heard, valued, and empowered to contribute their best.

Making It Work for You

Applying emotional intelligence isn’t about grand gestures; it’s the small, consistent actions that build over time.

I created an infographic to illustrate the concept. Click the image below for a high-res (printable) PDF version.

Here’s how you can start:

1. Listen More Than You Speak: Before jumping in with solutions, really listen to what others are saying. It shows respect and opens the door to deeper understanding.

2. Express Gratitude: A simple “thank you” can work wonders. Acknowledge the efforts of those around you, no matter how small the contribution.

3. Pause and Reflect: Feel a strong reaction coming on? Take a moment. Breathe. Responding instead of reacting can change the course of a conversation.

4. Embrace Mistakes: Own up to your errors. It’s human to err, and showing vulnerability can strengthen trust within your team.

5. Seek Understanding: Before making assumptions, ask questions. Clarity prevents misunderstandings and builds stronger connections.

6. Encourage Others: Celebrate the successes of those around you. Their win is a win for the whole team.

7. Assume the Best: Start from a place of trust. Believing in the good intentions of others creates a positive environment.

8. Be the Calm in the Storm: When tensions rise, be the voice of reason. Your calm can be contagious.

Incorporating these practices into your daily routine can transform not just your work environment, but also your personal life.

Emotional intelligence is like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

Diving Deeper

Interested in strengthening your emotional intelligence further? Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:

Podcast: The Science of Happiness by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Dive into research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life, many of which are rooted in emotional intelligence.

Book: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This book offers a step-by-step program for increasing your EQ through four core skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

App: How We Feel developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This tool helps you identify and label your emotions, an essential skill for developing EQ.

Connecting the Dots

Embracing emotional intelligence can enrich every aspect of your life. Like Alex, when you start tuning into the emotions around you and within you, you unlock a new realm of possibilities.

It’s the small acts of listening, understanding, and showing empathy that lead to monumental shifts in your interactions and outcomes.

So, as you move forward, remember the power of EQ. It’s not just a skill but a way of being that can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Until next time, let your emotional intelligence light the way.