7 Tips for Leaders to Improve Your Self-Awareness


By now, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) needs little introduction – it’s the sine qua non to your success. Here’s some stats that demonstrate the power of EQ in today’s marketplace.

  • “People with the highest levels of IQ outperform those with average IQs just 20%of the time, while people with average EQs outperform those with high IQs 70% of the time.”
  • “EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58% of performance in all type of jobs.”
  • “The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.” [1]

Self-awareness is not simply knowing that you’re a night owl or an early bird. It’s much deeper than that. It’s going on this journey of peeling back the layers of an onion. It’s a life-long journey.

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves defines self-awareness in their best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 as the following:

Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across your situations. 

The best part of the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is the unique code to an online assessment where you’ll be able to get a free report and analysis of your EQ scores. It’s highly revealing. The authors lists creative ways in which you can increase your self-awareness.

1. Quit Treating Your Feelings As Good or Bad

People have a tendency to create dichotomies. Either good or bad. Some would automatically classify frustration as bad. For emotions like excitement, you might find those as good emotions. But, attaching such labels make it difficult for us to really understand what it is that you are feeling.

2. Observe the Ripple Effect from Your Emotions

Like dropping a stone into water, your emotions are like stones that creates a ripple effect. Your emotions will impact other good either in a good or negative way. The more you understand the impact of this ripple effect, the more you’ll be able to realize what type of influence you want to exert through your emotions

3. Feel Your Emotions Physically

Practice experiencing your emotions through your body. The physical sensations can be quite unique such as stomach muscles tightening, your breathing quickening, heart rate increasing, or your mouth going dry. Since your body and mind are intimately connected, one of the best ways to gauge your emotions is to spot the physical changes that come with your emotions. Practice closing your eyes the next time you have a few moments alone. Feel how slow or fast your heart is beating. Notice the pace of your breathing and how tense or relaxed your muscles are in the various parts of your body. Now, think of defining moments in your life – both the positive and negative – that generate strong emotions. Take note of the physical changes that accompany the memory.

4. Know Who and What Pushes Your Buttons

All of us have buttons. We might call this pet peeves and triggers. When you push it long enough, you get irritated and explode. If you become aware who pushes your buttons and how they do it, it will help you develop the ability to take control of these situations and calm yourself down. Pinpoint the specific people and situations that trigger you (e.g., drama queens, feeling scared or caught off guard). When you get to the source of it, this will really help you find ways to manage it properly.

5. Keep a Journal About Your Emotions

The greatest challenge with improving your self-awareness is maintaining objectivity. Use a journal to record what events triggered strong emotions in you and how you responded to them. If you practice this for a month, you’ll begin to notice specific patterns in your emotions and you’ll develop a better understanding of your tendencies. You’ll understand which emotions get you down, which pick you up, and which are the most difficult for you. Describe the specific emotions you feel each day, and don’t forget to record the physical sensations that accompany the emotions.

6. Spot Your Emotions in Books, Movies, and Music

If you’re struggling to spot your own emotional patterns and tendencies, you can discover it by looking outside yourself in movies, music and books you identify with. For instance, when the lyrics or mood of a song resonate with you, capture it. They say a lot about how you feel and when a character from a movie or book sticks in your head, it’s because you relate to his thoughts and feelings. Try to journal these things and you’ll find yourself connecting to certain emotional tendencies.

7. Seek Feedback

Everything we see and interpret is based on our filter. The problem is that our lens through which we see the world is tainted with our experiences, culture, beliefs and moods. Self-awareness is the process of getting to know yourself from the inside out and outside in. Open yourself up to feedback from others. If you’re afraid of feedback, try feedforward. Ask your friends, colleagues, coworkers, mentors and family to give you specific examples and situations. Look for patterns and similarities in the information. These outside views can be a real eye-opener by showing how other people experience you.

To learn more about every day tips on improving your emotional intelligence, click here


[1]  Bradberry, T., Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego, CA: TalentSmart