Boost your EQ

An illustration in pastel colors of two people looking at each other

Credit: Illustration by Stephanie Singleton

Being a witness to people's healing and growth is the privilege of my life. As a psychotherapist and career coach, I have a unique window into the lives of my clients. Whether it's helping a person navigate anxiety in therapy, coaching a leader to become more self-aware, or presenting the topics of mental health and resilience to a corporate audience, it has been a rewarding career and calling.

This past March, I spoke at the 10th annual Johns Hopkins Women's Leadership Conference, where we focused on creating stronger community connections and thriving in challenging times—a powerful theme given what we've collectively been through at home and in the workplace over the past few years. My presentation was titled "How Developing Your EQ Is a Game Changer at Work."

EQ—short for emotional intelligence—is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and others. You can have a really high IQ, but your intelligence may not get you far if you don't know how to recognize emotions and use them to take action aligned with your values.

Do you notice when your shoulders are tight? When you're holding your breath instead of regularly inhaling and exhaling? What do these sensations tell you? Strong emotional experiences are providing you with data and information. Am I safe? Should I fight, flee, freeze, or fawn to survive? Past experiences can subconsciously dictate how you react. If you had a parent who was critical, you might find yourself triggered when you get feedback. Challenging the automatic thought that a colleague is trying to sabotage your work can be the difference between sending a nasty email or pausing to ask questions to understand intent behind a comment.

So how can you increase your EQ? A coach or therapist can offer support to help you gain greater access into your internal world. EQ assessments like the EQi-2.0 or the Enneagram can provide insight into strengths and blind spots, while apps like Mood Meter, Calm, and Headspace can help identify emotions and process them in productive ways.

Perhaps the most important tool in developing your EQ is your mindset. Leading with curiosity—and without judgment—into what you're thinking and feeling allows for more insight and acceptance. I'm right there with you; this is hard work! As a card-carrying member of the human race, I personally do this work in my own coaching and therapy sessions, and it has totally been a game changer.

Caitlin Magidson is an executive coach and licensed clinical professional counselor who merges knowledge around mental health, psychology, and career development to empower clients in reaching their goals for more clarity and fulfillment in life.

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