Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the awareness, control and expression of emotion and the ability to handle interpersonal relationships in a thoughtful and compassionate manner. In a nutshell, it is the ability to understand and manage our emotions and those of the people around us.
EI is fundamental to our life experience and can influence how successful we are in our relationships and career. Although there are many competencies associated with EI, let’s focus on two key components that are essential to be our best selves in our relationships. The first is Emotional Self-Awareness which refers to how we relate to ourselves, our emotions and our responses to the word around us. The second, Empathy, refers to our awareness of and how we relate to others.

With the pace and demands of our hectic lives it can be easy for many of us to lose touch with our emotions. When this happens it more likely that we will act unconsciously and in doing so not recognize the valuable information that can be gained from tuning into our emotions.

“We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions”

Brene Brown

Emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand our emotions and how they impact our behavior. With emotional self-awareness we know how we feel and why we feel that way. And, we can identify how those feelings help or hurt our actions. As well, with this awareness we can more accurately sense how other people see us.
Emotional self-awareness allows us to make decisions that are consistent with our values and in doing so helps us to identify behavior patterns that we want to change.

Emotional Self-Awareness – Understanding How You Feel

Without being able to recognize our feelings, we can’t control them. The good news is that being able to recognize our feelings and their influence on our actions is a skill that can be ehanced. It’s a “muscle” that requires attention and practice to develop and consistent attention to maintain.

As you tune into your feelings and increase your emotional self-awareness, pay attention to the actions that you take as well. Take note of how you behave when you’re experiencing certain emotions, and how that affects your day-to-day life and your relationships. Does it impact how you communicate with others, your productivity, or your overall sense of well-being?

When we pay attention to how we’re feeling, we learn to trust our emotions, and we become far more adept at managing them

It’s difficult to understand or influence others if you don’t know how you feel. Tuning into yourself is the first step. A lack of emotional self-awareness also gets in the way of sensing the emotions of others – in other words, showing empathy.

Here’s Some Tips to Improve Emotional Self-Awareness

Understand Your Triggers
A trigger could be a person, a situation or a condition that creates emotion and prompts you to certain action.

Identifying your trigger leads to improved emotional self-awareness because it allows you to develop the ability to control the outcome. In the case of a negative trigger, understanding what pushes your buttons will help you defuse your emotions and take control of your actions.

Keep a Journal
Journaling allows us to clarify our thoughts and feelings, resulting in gaining valuable self-knowledge and emotional self-awareness. Journals can be used on a daily basis to capture how you feel, your goals, priorities and reflections.

Use psychometric testing
EI assessments are a very useful tool in helping you to understand your level of emotional self-awareness. The EQ-i 2.0® assessment and de-brief provided by Alchemy Coaching is a self-report that identifies strengths and areas of improvement over all 15 EI competencies, including emotional self-awareness and empathy.

Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation is being aware of your breath in the moment. As you take your breath mentally scan your body to strengthen your ability to notice changes in your breath and other parts of your body that accompany emotions. There are lots of guided meditations on the internet – browse around to see which one is a right fit for you. One of my favorites is Body Scan Meditation by Daniel Goleman.

Check-in Exercise
Set your phone, watch or fit bit for different times during the day. When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Pay attention to where that emotion is showing up in your body and what that feels like. The more you can practice this, the more it will become second nature.

Empathy – Understanding How Others Feel

“When dealing with people, remember that you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion” Dale Carnegie  

Empathyforms the basis of relationship management and is seen as an important factor in improved relationships.

Empathy means recognizing, understanding and appreciating how others feel. With empathy, you sense unspoken emotions and you listen attentively to understand the other person’s point of view. Empathy involves acting in respect of other’s perspectives and feelings. 

Here’s Some Tips to Increase Empathy


This refers to taking the time to observe others (body language and tone) to help identify how they are feeling.  Everyone provides cues beyond the words they are saying. Not shying away when emotions are high or low, and noticing the underlying emotions, will set the stage for a more authentic and meaningful interaction. 


Once you are aware of the emotions being displayed it is important to find a way to open the conversation and let the other person know that you are aware and interested. Something as simple as, “It looks like something may be bothering you” may be a good start.


When we’re curious, we engage with others and get a better understanding of their perspective.  The next step after asking the question is to consciously pay attention to their answer; listening for both the words being said and the feelings behind them.  Responding appropriately, including physical signs of acknowledgment (nodding your head for example) will ensure that the person feels heard and understood.  You could start with a statement “That must be difficult” that lets them know you are there for them and then a question could be, “Would you like to talk about it?” 

Offer Assistance 

The key is not to provide solutions. Instead using open ended questions like “What do you need?” and “How can I help?” ensures that the person knows that they are supported, and that the assistance will be based on their comfort level.

Final Thought

It is possible to increase your overall EI… and improving Emotional Self-Awareness and Empathy as a part of that, is a conscious practice which is fundamental to improving ourselves and the relationships in our lives.