In their book, Emotional intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves outline the four skills that constitute emotional intelligence. The first two relate to personal competence and the second two relate to social competence.

1) Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive, recognise, and understand the emotions we experience in the moment. It is an on-going process of self-knowledge – coming to understand our motivations and inclinations, learning to see how we react in different situations, and coming to know our strengths and weaknesses.

Self-awareness requires a curious and inquisitive mindset. In order to learn about ourselves we must be open and willing to inquire into ourselves, as we seek to understand where our emotional reactions come from and what triggers them. Self-awareness is a foundational skill, in that its development paves the ways for the cultivation of the other aspects of emotional intelligence.

2) Self-management

Self-management builds on self-awareness. It uses the knowledge we gain from self-awareness to direct and control our actions. Self-management means first becoming aware of our emotional reactions and then, through the practice of self-restraint, learning to remain flexible and adaptable in not reacting in unhelpful and self-defeating ways. Instead we choose to respond wisely and skillfully, particularly in difficult situations when there are a lot of strong emotions involved.

Self-management is the cultivation of self-control, which often means learning to resist gratifying immediate impulses in favour of pursuing valued action that aims at the attainment of more long-term and wholesome needs.

3) Social awareness

Social awareness is the ability to understand the thoughts and emotions of others. Empathy is a key component of social awareness in that we are seeking to understand the other person and look at things from their perspective.

In order to do this we need to develop the skills of listening and observing. This means dropping the internal monologue that is often running through our heads which distorts the reality of the other person and our understanding of them, by constantly interpreting, evaluating, and judging them.

In order to develop social awareness we must become really curious and interested in the other person. This means talking less in order to understand more. We develop a mindful presence and attention to watch and learn, picking up cues from the other person – body language, gestures, tone of voice – to understand what the other person is feeling and thinking.

4) Relationship management

The last skill integrates and builds on the first four. Relationship management uses self and social awareness to manage relationships well and communicate effectively.

Relationship management is developing the ability to connect deeply and cultivate quality relationships through building trust. It is about developing the skills to handle conflicts skillfully and effectively. In order to do this we must be able to manage our own stress as well as that of the other person. We must learn to diffuse both our own anger and the anger of others in times of high tension and difficulty.

Focusing on developing these four skills can help increase our emotional intelligence and lead to an increase in emotional health and well-being, and a flourishing in social interactions and relationships.