The four pillars for building our emotional intelligence and improving our ability to manage emotions and connect with others are:

  1. Self-Management
  2. Self-Awareness
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Management

Emotional intelligence (EQ) isn’t something genetic. It can be and is taught. There’s a distinction between simply learning about emotional intelligence, and actually applying what we’ve learned to situations in real life. Just because we know something it doesn’t mean we’re benefiting from it. This is especially true when something like stress, which can overpower your best intentions, overwhelms us. We need to learn how to resolve tensions in the moment and in our relationships. In order to permanently alter our responses and outlook, and to stay emotionally conscious.

Let’s look at each pillar in more detail.


Self-management is all about knowing how to make sound decisions regardless of how we feel. We all know how easy it can be to lose our composure in the moment, and to behave thoughtfully and properly when we become overrun by negative emotions.

Think of a time when you have experienced this. Was it easy to think or make a logical decision clearly? Probably not. When we become excessively anxious, for example, our ability to judge our situations and the situations of others in a  clear and objective way, becomes impaired.


When we see ourselves more objectively we become much more effective people in our environments. We can communicate better and make better decisions, as well as cultivate stronger and healthier relationships. At the same time, we’re much less likely to cheat, lie or steal. We also become better workers whether we’re an employee or a business owner.

Mindfulness in self-awareness for emotional intelligence

Mindfulness is the practice of concentrating your attention consciously on the current moment and without judgment. The cultivation of mindfulness has origins in Buddhism. However some type of related prayer or meditation technique is used in most religions. Mindfulness helps to change your concern about thinking towards an awareness of the moment, our physical and emotional experiences, and brings to life a broader viewpoint. Mindfulness calms us and concentrates us in the process, making us more self-aware.

When we’re able to remain present during heightened emotional states, we and those around us can depend on ourselves to be a rock. In this state we can regulate impulsive emotions and behaviors. We can manage our emotions in healthy ways, take action, fulfill commitments, and adapt to changing conditions without losing ourselves momentarily.

Handle your emotions

Our early life experiences are a huge factor in determining our current life experience. The quality and consistency of the emotions in these early life experiences often depends on our ability to handle feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy.

If our primary caretaker as a child has been aware of this, will have a much better chance of becoming emotionally intelligent. It is because they will provide us the right space to grow from. On the other hand, if our childhood emotional experiences were confusing, threatening or painful, we may try to distance ourselves from our feelings.

  • When your life shifts from moment to moment, do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another? 
  • In areas of your body like your stomach, throat, or chest, are your feelings followed by physical sensations that you experience? 
  • Do you encounter individual feelings and emotions, each of which is visible in subtle facial expressions, such as rage, sorrow, fear, and joy? 
  • Do you feel strong emotions that are powerful enough to grab your attention as well as that of others? 
  • Are you paying attention to emotions? Will they take your decision making into consideration?

If any or all of these things are unfamiliar to you then you may have to reconnect to your core feelings. Embrace them, and become comfortable with them in order to develop EQ and become emotionally balanced.

Social Awareness

Social awareness helps us to perceive and interpret the primarily nonverbal signs that others are actively using to connect with us. These signals help us understand how people really feel, how their emotional state shifts from moment to moment, and what really matters to them. 

We are able to interpret and understand the power dynamics and mutual emotional experiences of the group. When groups of individuals send out similar nonverbal signals.

Mindfulness in social awareness for emotional intelligence

Mindfulness is also an element of emotional and physiological awareness.

We must understand the importance of mindfulness in the social process in order to create social awareness. When we’re in our own mind, worrying about things, or on our devices, we can’t pick up on subtle nonverbal signals from others. The moment needs our presence. While all of us may be proud of our ability to multitask, we are also missing out on the subtle exchanges that take place in our day to day interactions with others that help us connect and understand one another.

  • By putting other thoughts aside and concentrating on the interaction itself, you are potentially more likely to further your social objectives.
  • Following the flow of the emotional responses of another person is a give-and-take approach that allows you to pay attention to the changes in your own emotional experience as well.
  • It doesn’t weaken your own self-awareness to pay attention to others. You’ll also gain insight into your own emotional state as well as your values and principles by taking the time and effort to really pay attention to others. For starters, you’ll have learned something important about yourself if you experience discomfort hearing others express those opinions.

Relationship management

Working well with others is a process that starts with social maturity and the ability to consider and understand what other individuals are feeling. We learn additional social/emotional skills once emotional awareness is in play. This will make our relationships more productive, fruitful, and fulfilling.

Non-verbal communication

We must become aware of how we use nonverbal communication. It is difficult to resist sending nonverbal signals about what you are thinking and feeling to others. The many muscles in the face, especially those around the eyes, nose, mouth and forehead, help us to express our own emotions wordlessly as well as read the emotional intent of other people. This plays a huge role in improving your relationships by recognizing the nonverbal messages you send to others.

Stress management

To alleviate tension, laughter and play are helpful. They are natural stress antidotes and reduce our burden and assist us in keeping perspective. Laughter brings our nervous system into balance reducing stress, calming us down, sharpening our mind, and making us more compassionate.


Learn to see confrontation as a chance to grow closer to others. In human relationships, conflict and disagreements are inevitable. Two people at all times may not have the same needs, opinions, and expectations. That needn’t be a bad thing, however. Conflict resolution in healthy, constructive ways can reinforce trust between people. It fosters freedom, creativity, and security in relationships when conflict is not seen as threatening or punishing.

A great foundation to move into more advanced material for emotional intelligence

If you’re interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, check out our podcast episodes on Emotional Intelligence here.

You may also want to check out the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ