Do You Recognize 2 Signs of Emotional Intelligence?

By Stephanie Zonars

A dear friend lost her husband to a sudden heart attack last week. Only in his 50’s, he was a great man and they had a beautiful marriage. Her loss is truly heartbreaking.

It’s a deeply painful time, but she will make it through this.

Certainly because of her faith. But also because of two signs of emotional intelligence (EI) that I’ve seen her exhibit.

Part of EI is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions. Experts say that high EI is a better indicator of our success in life than high IQ.

My friend is displaying high emotional intelligence at one of the most difficult times of her life.

It’s remarkable.

And it challenges me, because I have a lot of room to grow in these areas.

EI is crucial to your ability to lead well, so I wanted to share these observations:

EI skill #1: awareness of her emotions.

Granted, this is an extreme situation and her emotions are raw and intense. It’s hard to miss them.

Even so, in this first week without her beloved she can articulate the moments of the day that are hardest. She is aware of her capacity and when she needs people or time alone. She has a keen sense of what is going on inside her and her emotional triggers.

This kind of awareness is the first step in developing emotional intelligence, and a huge hurdle for many.

Why is this important?

Because most of us have ways of responding to life that we’d like to change, but we can’t change the behavior without identifying the emotion that causes it.

One of my clients, for example, was an assistant coach with a difficult co-worker.

Every time he knocked on her office door, negative emotions welled up inside her. And they resulted in behaviors like a frustrated tone and the inability to make eye contact.

She tried to change her behavior, but it never lasted long. The route to real change was through identifying the emotions and addressing her triggers.

A feeling wheel can be super helpful here. It gives you language for emotions when you can’t find the right words. Here’s how it works.

Maybe you feel scared. That’s helpful, but using the wheel you can drill down to a more specific adjective. Do you feel anxious? Insecure? Helpless? Rejected? Confused? And if you choose anxious, is that the right word or is overwhelmed a more accurate description?

This may appear elementary, but it’s important to pinpoint the emotion. How can you manage what you can’t identify?

One friend even kept a feeling wheel on her refrigerator to teach her children how to identify their feelings. The earlier we learn this life skill, the better.

The second sign of my friend’s emotional intelligence is equally, if not more, important.

EI skill #2: asking for help.

Not only did she notice that mornings are tough, but she calls a friend to talk or pray with her. She invites others into her grief and pain and receives support and love.

This is part of managing emotions effectively. And it’s a choice. Believe me, she doesn’t feel like reaching out.

And even in much less painful situations, neither do I. Perhaps you can relate.

One friend who just lost her first head coaching job would say that if she could try again she’d ask for help sooner.

Asking for help shows humility—that you know you can’t do it all.

What you think makes you look weak or stupid, simply makes you look human. It endears you to your staff and co-workers. People love following and working with humble leaders.

Asking for help promotes teamwork—giving others an opportunity to offer their gift to the team.

During my time on the Penn State’s women’s basketball staff, I liked being asked to help my co-workers or boss. I felt needed and valued, like my role and work mattered.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but of strength. It’s not an imposition, but a gift. [Tweet That!]

Accepting help is a gift to the helper.

—Robyn Benincasa, World Champion Adventure Racer

Regardless of the challenges you face this week, these two life skills—awareness of your emotions and asking for help—are imperative to your success as a leader.

Which one needs more of your attention this week? What action will you take to get better?

Do You Recognize 2 Signs of Emotional Intelligence? appeared first on Life Beyond Sport.

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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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