My last blog was entitled “What’s in Your Leadership Tool Box? I hope Emotional Intelligence.” In the present moment, I truly believe our most successful leaders will engage their teams, organizations and communities from a center of Emotional Intelligence. So let’s put this EI into practice and grow your self-awareness and self-management skills, two critical aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

Here are some simple tips:

Tip #1: Notice your feelings, but don’t judge them as good or bad. Instead, start to recognize what is physically occurring in your body (i.e. flush of the skin in your neck or face, tightness in your chest, butterflies in your stomach, etc.). Pay attention to the intensity and duration of those physical feelings.

Tip #2: Notice your emotions as they arise. Describe your emotion in words (on paper, in your head, or to a friend). What is happening that brought that emotion about? Was it a person or situation that triggered you? Sometimes it can be helpful to keep a journal to jot these down and reflect on common themes or experiences. It can also help you put your emotions into perspective. Did I over- or under-react in a particular instance?

Tip #3: Push “Pause” when negative emotions arise. Take a deep breath. Count backwards from 10. Check your self-talk. Are you self-imposing your negativity because your self-talk is beating you up? My coach calls this negative self-talk a “gremlin” (like from the 1984 movie, Gremlins…simply terrifying to me as a kid!). I’ve named my gremlin “Nellie” so that when I recognize her voice in my head, I can say, “Whoa, Nellie!” and reel myself back in. Interestingly, this actually helps!

Tip #4: Make a list when you’re stuck on a frustrating thought. On one side of a piece of paper, jot down what your emotions are influencing you to do. On the other side, jot down what your reason is telling you. And if you are not in a state to think reasonably or rationally, go back to Tip #2! Or consider what a reasonable, rational person would advise you to do. Or seek counsel and advice.

The beauty is that we can intentionally grow our self-awareness in order to RESPOND in constructive ways rather than to just REACT with the force of our emotions. Responding is intelligent. Reacting is often irrational. It’s never too late to get started. I’m practicing these tips myself right now. I’d love to hear how your Emotional Intelligence practice is going! Good luck to you!