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Top 5 Tools For Emotional Intelligence and Communication Skills



These are my Top 5 Tools For Emotional Intelligence and Communication Skills. We all kind of know what Emotional intelligence (EQ) is - in a general way, it’s all about understanding and managing emotions, both your own and those of others, to enable effective communication techniques.


If we’ve not met, I’m Oliver and I’m a family systems therapist and I love working with people to manage stress, understand the emotional reaction they have in relationships and build strong relationships.


I'm a huge fan of Dr. Murray Bowen’s work, especially his concept of Differentiation of Self. He explained that the pinnacle of psychological health is becoming fully differentiated. This means knowing your own thoughts and feelings, which is to do with your SELF and understanding the thoughts and feelings of Others.


Understanding Emotional Intelligence and Communication Skills

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and manage your own feelings and the emotions of others. Recognizing and interpreting body language is crucial in demonstrating empathy and building trust in relationships.



differentiation of self and emotional intelligence

Possessing strong emotional intelligence skills can have a number of positive effects on a person’s life, including improved relationships and mental health. Emotional intelligence is critical for leaders to develop in the workplace, as it drives engagement and improves outcomes.


The Importance of Emotional Intelligence at Home and in the Workplace

Emotionally intelligent people can leverage awareness, emotional control, and honesty to enable effective communication skills. Developing high emotional intelligence and improving interpersonal communication can lead to better outcomes. Managing stress can lead to better decision-making, improved performance, and stronger relationships. Emotional intelligence is vital to understanding a person’s overall intelligence.


Things get really complicated when our thoughts, feelings, and sense of self and others get tangled up with others. This is an undifferentiated person and if you put this on a spectrum, the bad news is we’re all closer to this end of the scale.



emotional intelligence and murray bowen

And it’s not good news that we’re down here because it when TFSO and other all mushed up it gives a lot of room for chronic anxiety to sneak in - this is a background anxiety that tends to make us, us more reactive than responsive. Part of my work is about stress management and helping someone develop the critical skill of differentiating thoughts from feelings and self from other.


Bowen’s work ties in perfectly with Emotional Intelligence, because they’re all about thinking about your feelings in  your self and thinking about feelings in others


All of the emotional intelligence skills in this video are aimed at helping you separate out TFSO and move closer up the scale to being differentiated.


By using these and practicing thse skills ,  it not only improves your personal well-being , it lowers that chronic anxiety - AND also helps you build more meaningful and fulfilling connections, both personally and professionally.


Who wouldn’t want to learn more about this?



1. Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence and is at the core of interpersonal skills. It’s all about being able to distinguish between your thoughts and feelings, recognize your emotions as they arise, and understand how they influence your thoughts and behaviors.


One key aspect is learning to identify feelings versus thoughts masquerading as feelings. Often, we say things like "I feel that you're being manipulative" when, in reality, "I feel mistrustful" would be a more accurate representation of the emotion. 


I feel + that = a thought so we all need to get better at actually naming the feelings.

Focusing on the skill of differentiating thoughts from feelings more precisely is crucial for emotional literacy and EQ


Beyond just naming emotions, awareness means being able to think about your feelings and have feelings about your thoughts.

Why am I having angry thoughts about my boss, or why am I raging at the driver who just cut me off. 


Here are some exercises that can help:


Pause throughout the day to label your emotions in the present moment, refrain from judgment notice any accompanying bodily sensations and thoughts.


I tell my clients who are all in LA that they should do this when they pull up to a red light. I ask them to take a deep breath and focus on better understanding their inner world. I still do this myself - the red light is just a cue to focus on what your mind and feelings are up to. It's even more important to do this in stressful situations as with developing new skills, your technical ability improves with practice. The more you can differentiate between thoughts and feelings, the more you'll understand yourself and what drives your behaviors. This self-knowledge lays the groundwork for managing emotions effectively.


Use an "emotions wheel" to expand your feelings vocabulary beyond just happy, sad, angry, or afraid.


If you want to download the emotional literacy pdf I’ve put together, it includes this feeling wheel. It's a great packet to help improve communication, stay calm, and build self-confidence.


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2. Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is all about managing strong emotions in a healthy and productive way, and it goes hand in hand with emotional awareness.When we experience intense emotions, our feelings can overwhelm our thoughts, making it hard to think clearly and manage emotions.


 But by consciously separating our thoughts from our feelings, we can gain perspective and better regulate our emotional responses.  This process involves recognizing and labeling our emotions—a practice known as "naming it to tame it." 


For example, when dealing with a child having big feelings, they might act out or have tantrums because they don’t really know what they're feeling. Sometimes, the key to helping them is saying, "I think you're really mad at me for not letting you stay up longer," or "I think you're really tired right now, so why don't we read a book together." By naming the child's feelings, you help them understand and soothe themselves.


So his simple act of naming the emotion can help reduce its intensity and keep it from consuming our thoughts and actions.


Even as adults, identifying and articulating the specific feeling we're experiencing, like anger, sadness, or fear, we create a mental separation between the emotion and our sense of self - we are so muc more than just our feelings - that distance can be super helpful 

Our ability to regulate emotions improves when we distinguish between our own thoughts and feelings (self) and those of others (other). 


So if you’re feeling anxious or irritable, who around you is also anxious or irritable - 

I get super anxious when I’m about to travel or fly anywhere, and if you were coming with me on a trip, you would absolutely be pickin up on my stress levels, anxiety has a funny way of spreading.


You might easily become agitated yourself, or feel that something was off between us and that might make you anxious. Perhaps I’m more quiet or snippy, which makes you more guarded and defensive and next thing you know we’re both cranky and hate it eachother and we’re not even at the airport yet.


Recognizing that your  emotional reactions stem from me in that instance can also create some distance. You can start thinking, "Oh, Oliver’s stressed out, he’s anxious, I don’t have to be"


That’s a distinction between reacting impulsively to my feelings and choosing to respond to them differently. 


When we can pause, reflect on our thoughts and feelings, self and other we can choose a more constructive response. 


This self and other awareness along with emotional literacy help us respond to situations with greater intentionality and emotional intelligence.


3. Emotional Intimacy and "I" Statements

The next of the emotional intelligence skills is about mastering emotional intimacy, and it again builds on the last two steps. it is where "I" statements come into play and it's an essential part of becoming self aware.


Using "I" statements lets you express your feelings directly and take ownership of them, rather than blaming or accusing your partner. 


For example, instead of saying, "You're always on your phone even when we’re going on vacation," try, 


"I feel sad and lonely when you’re on the phone on our vacation" This subtle shift removes the accusatory tone and creates space for open and vulnerable sharing of your emotional experience.


I statements have the greatest chance of not making the other person defensive or snippy. And if the other person has awareness of them, they can tolerate your feelings and actually, you feel closer to one another - that’s emotional intimacy right there.


4. Empathy: A Key Emotional Communication Skill

Empathy is really complex 

It involves knowing your feelings - Self - and Feelings

It also involves thinking (thoughts) about another person (other)

And then dipping into the feelings of that person and trying the on for size.


Empathy is different from sympathy because you’re actually feeling the feelings - sympathy is a more intellectual response that comes from thinking only.


An emotionally intelligent person knows that empathy involves some self control, holding your own internal experience and your perception of the other person's emotional state in mind simultaneously. 


This helps you be present with that person and validate their emotional truth. If you get overly involved with their feelings and become distressed, your self and other have got all blurred and messed up - that’s an enmeshment of whos feelings are whos. It's useful in a professional manner when people's emotions are less appropriate to show, remaining calm aids in conflict management and happier team members.


Empathy creates an opening for deeper emotional communication and connection but only if you can keep self and other separate, and not go too far into thinking or intellectualizing - which is more sympathy than empathy


5. Active Listening Skills

Actively listening to someone is all about giving your full attention to the speaker and making a conscious effort to understand their perspective without getting distracted by your own thoughts and feelings.


When practicing active listening, your "self" takes a backseat, and you focus entirely on the "other" person speaking. This means temporarily setting aside your inner monologue, opinions, and emotional reactions to fully concentrate on the speaker's message.

The greatest gift you can ever give someone in a relationship is to put aside your own thoughts and feelings that come up as a response and focus only on their experience. 

If you find yourself getting caught up in your own thoughts or formulating a response or giving advice while the other person is talking, you're not truly listening. Your mind has drifted away from being present with the speaker, and you are thinking about 'Self'.

That’s a much more reactive position to take, and differentiation is all about responding. 


You can imagine that this is one the first skills we learn as a therapist, I listen to clients all day long and have a million thoughts and feelings that come up as I’m listening. I HAVE to put them aside - not necessarily discard them - but put them in an imaginary bubble that i might come back to later. 


It’s absolutely exhausting and takes practice, but if you can nail the art of giving your undivided attention to the other person, you demonstrate that you are creating true emotional intimacy.


Obviously once the speaker has finished, you can re-engage your own thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints to respond thoughtfully - which is different from reacting in the moment and being reactive to a strong emotion that comes up in you.



The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence leverages awareness, emotional control, and honesty to enable growing communication tools. Developing high emotional intelligence and improving interpersonal communication can lead to better outcomes. Emotional intelligence is vital to understanding a person’s overall intelligence.


Pay Attention to Your Own Emotions

Understanding your own emotions is necessary to understand the emotions of others.Paying attention to your emotions can help you become more aware of your own emotions and better understand your colleagues. Self-awareness is essential for building trust and transparency among team members.


Try Journaling to Increase Self-Awareness

Reflecting on your thoughts and behaviors can help you spot specific patterns and improve your emotional intelligence.Writing down your thoughts can help you become more aware of what upsets you and avoid future outbursts.


How to Communicate Effectively by Understanding Others

Emotionally intelligent leaders can empathize with others, communicate effectively, and manage conflict. Being a good listener is crucial to connect with others and understand their thoughts and feelings, showcasing the qualities of an emotionally intelligent leader. Impactful communication involves being clear, direct, and concise in our messaging, actively listening, and adapting communication styles to fit the needs of the situation. Good communication tools are critical for building meaningful, effective relationships.


Demonstrate Empathy and Be Socially Aware

Empathy is needed to build trust in any relationship. Leaders need to consider others’ emotions to build trust and create better relationships. Social awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.


Self-Regulation: Managing Your Emotions

Self-regulation refers to how you manage your emotions, behaviors, and impulses.The more self-aware you are, the easier it becomes to manage your emotions and respond appropriately.Improving self-regulation can help you avoid doing anything that could jeopardize the goodwill you’ve worked hard to build.


Social Skills: Navigating Relationships with Ease

Social skills are all about how you perceive emotions and interact and communicate with others. Emotionally intelligent leaders can assess others’ feelings and build and maintain relationships. Leaders with strong social skills know they can’t achieve success alone and require collaboration and communication.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is Emotional Intelligence's Role in Communication?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) plays a crucial role in communication by enhancing the quality and depth of our interactions. Firstly, EQ fosters self-awareness, allowing individuals to recognize and understand their own emotions. This self-awareness helps in expressing oneself clearly and assertively without being overwhelmed by emotions.


Secondly, empathy, a key component of EQ, enables individuals to perceive and understand others emotions. This understanding fosters compassionate and responsive communication, making the other person feel heard and valued. Lastly, effective emotional regulation, another aspect of EQ, helps in managing one's emotional responses, especially in stressful or conflict situations, leading to more constructive and less reactive conversations. Overall, EQ cultivates a more empathetic, self-aware, and emotionally regulated approach to communication, enhancing its effectiveness and depth.


How Does Emotional Intelligence Impact Relationship Building?

Emotional Intelligence significantly impacts relationship building by fostering trust, facilitating conflict resolution, and deepening connections. High EQ individuals can manage their emotions effectively, which helps in maintaining calm and composure during disagreements.


This emotional regulation aids in resolving conflicts peacefully without escalating tensions. Furthermore, empathy enables individuals to understand and share the feelings of others, which builds trust and strengthens bonds. By recognizing and validating each other's emotions, individuals create a supportive and understanding environment, essential for deep, meaningful relationships. In professional settings, EQ helps in team collaboration, leadership, and networking, while in personal relationships, it enhances intimacy and emotional connection.


Why is Social Awareness Important in Communication?

Social Awareness is vital in communication because it enables individuals to perceive and understand the emotions of others, leading to more effective and empathetic interactions. By being attuned to the emotional cues and nonverbal communication or body language of others, socially aware individuals can respond appropriately, fostering a sense of understanding and connection.


This awareness helps in recognizing underlying emotions that may not be explicitly stated, allowing for more sensitive and responsive communication. Additionally, social awareness helps in navigating social dynamics and cultural nuances, ensuring that communication is respectful and considerate of different perspectives and backgrounds. Ultimately, social awareness enhances the ability to connect with others on an emotional level, making communication more meaningful and impactful.


What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional Intelligence, often referred to as EQ, is the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and utilize emotions effectively in oneself and others. It encompasses several key components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness involves recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions and their impact on thoughts and behavior. Self-regulation is the ability to manage and control one's emotional responses, maintaining emotional balance and flexibility.


Motivation refers to the inner drive to pursue goals with energy and persistence, often fueled by emotional resilience. Empathy is the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering compassionate and supportive interactions. Social skills involve managing relationships, building networks, and navigating social complexities with ease. Together, these components of EQ enable individuals to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically, enhancing both personal and professional success.

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