Emotional intelligence for employees

Free activities to increase your ability to manage your reactions and control how you impact others. Building your emotional intelligence can help reduce stress.

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What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is our ability to identify and manage our own emotions and reactions. It also includes our ability to identify the emotions of others and respond in a way that’s effective. Learn more about the Emotional intelligence self-assessment.

When our emotional intelligence is low, we may have challenges in our relationships, in communicating our thoughts and ideas and in managing our own stress. The opposite would be true if our emotional intelligence is high.

Who are these activities for?

There are many ways to improve your emotional intelligence including learning from your mistakes. If you’re someone who’d prefer to avoid mistakes in your relationships and on the job, the following activities and information can help. Review what is offered and choose the areas where you feel you could benefit from improvement.

The activities on this page are meant for everyone. If you are also in a position of managing or supporting others, check out Emotional intelligence for leaders.

Communicate with emotional intelligence

When we are able to understand what drives behaviour, we can stop reacting to the behaviour and begin to respond to the person’s actual needs. This also applies to understanding what drives our own behaviour. Our thoughts, emotions, assumptions, implicit biases, upbringing and current state of wellbeing all have an impact on our behaviour.

When we learn to respect our emotions rather than deny or supress them, we can choose our reactions more intentionally.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Acknowledge differences. Before reacting to someone’s behaviour, take a moment to consider what might be motivating it. Could it be their current health, family issues or life stressors?

Attribution error. Whether we’re talking about our own behaviours or someone else’s, we’re likely to make assumptions about why they occurred. We often attribute behaviours to something either external or internal to the person.

Before you say no. When people come to you with suggestions or requests, taking the time to understand where they are coming from before you say no helps build rapport by letting them know their opinion and needs matter.

Emotionally intelligent emailing. Learn to write an email to avoid misunderstandings.

Envision others’ evaluations. Explore why you might be perceived differently from how you would ultimately describe yourself.

Envision your ideal self. Describing the best version of yourself in detail means you're much more likely to reach that goal more often.

Implicit bias. Learn to identify and understand implicit bias, microaggressions and intersectionality.  

Monitor your impact on others. Your mood affects others, whether you wish it to or not.  Strengthen your relationships by being aware of your impact on others.

Practice non-judgmental interpretations. When we express judgment and criticism we may shut down any chance of an open and honest discussion.

Strengthening relationships. Learn to build, maintain and deepen any relationship for a stronger connection.

What drives behaviour? Recognize that all human behaviour is an attempt to meet a perceived or actual need. Choose to look beyond the behaviour and become curious about the need someone’s trying to meet.  

Language matters

Language does matter. This is true whether we’re talking or writing. We can use our words to tear people down or lift them up. We can express respect and appreciation. Or we can choose words that trigger anger or fear in others.

We can learn to express our own anger and emotions in a way that does no harm and we can continually seek to improve our listening and speaking skills.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Avoid blaming and shaming. Most people react negatively to being blamed or shamed. Learn how to choose language that avoids triggering a negative response.       

Choose your words. Learn how your choice of words can make a difficult conversation even more difficult.

Distinguish acknowledgement from agreement. When people are told their opinions are wrong, they’re likely to become defensive or shut down. Learn to acknowledge their perspective without necessarily agreeing with what is said.

Emotionally intelligent emailing. Learn to write an email to avoid misunderstandings.

Express respect and appreciation. Tips and strategies to effectively give positive feedback.

Improve listening and speaking skills. Tips and strategies to communicate when someone is emotional.


Non-verbal communication

While words are important, they’re only part of the story. Our body language, level of intensity, communication style and our ability to listen to understand the other person’s perspective, are all critical parts of emotionally intelligent communication.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Body language awareness. Effective communication isn’t limited to the words we say. Our non-verbal communication includes body language, tone of voice, eye contact and facial expressions.

Communicating with clarity. Learn how to adjust the intensity of your communication to improve your ability to get your message across.

Listen to understand. Listening is an important communication skill. It can become even more critical when you’re listening to someone who’s emotionally distressed.  

Monitor your communication style. Understanding why you use assertive, aggressive, passive and passive-aggressive communication styles can help you recognize your underlying emotions. This is particularly important for difficult conversations.

Difficult conversations

What makes a conversation difficult is our own discomfort. If we are comfortable with conflict, crying or criticism, we can have these discussions without difficulty. When we’re worried about how the other person will react, we are likely to feel uncomfortable.

Learning to be relaxed, curious and supportive in potentially difficult conversations requires a level of emotional intelligence that can be learned.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Constructive criticism. Learn to provide constructive criticism to help resolve issues without conflict or misunderstanding.

Dealing with a stressful boss. Strategies to help you maintain your well-being while working with a boss you find difficult.  

Express anger constructively. Learn to respond more effectively when you’re angry.

Express emotions constructively. Bottling up emotions can harm our physical and mental health and damage our relationships. Learn to express difficult emotions constructively.

Helping troubled co-workers. Learn how to help co-workers who’re struggling with mental health issues. Steps are provided to help you intervene while protecting your own well-being.

Interpret negative feedback accurately. Most of us find it difficult to receive negative feedback.  We may feel criticized, judged or blamed. Learn how to hear feedback as information about what we can do differently rather than who we are as a person.

Preparing for a difficult conversation. Taking a few moments to reflect on your assumptions and intentions before beginning a difficult conversation can set you up to be more effective.

Resolving personal conflict. Tips and techniques to use when dealing with conflict. These strategies are intended to help you resolve issues yourself.

Responding to crying and whining. Many people feel uncomfortable with these displays of emotion. Learn how to respond in a more effective way.

Respond to those who are emotionally distressed. Our own emotions, including frustration, guilt or pity can impact our ability to respond to someone in distress. Learn to recognize and manage your reactions.

Preparing for a difficult conversation. Taking a few moments to reflect on your assumptions and intentions before beginning a difficult conversation can set you up to be more effective.

Psychosis and how to help in a crisis. How to help someone who is experiencing psychosis until professional help arrives or the crisis resolves. Learn about warning signs, symptoms, de-escalation and how to be supportive and safe.

Supportive conversation library. Questions and strategies to help you have a supportive conversation with someone you care about on difficult topics like mental health, stress, addiction, anger, abuse or lying.

Understand your emotions

A significant component of emotional intelligence is the understanding that all of our emotions have a purpose. Even negative emotions provide information that something needs our attention or it needs to change.

When you become self-aware, all emotions can be helpful in choosing our responses and actions.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Anger as a symptom. Sometimes we react with behaviours that look like anger but are actually a symptom of an underlying emotion like guilt or shame.

Build your emotional vocabulary. Learn to describe your emotions accurately based on their intensity level to improve communication and reduce misunderstanding.

Emotional triggers. When we’re triggered, our reactions may be difficult for us and others to handle. Identify your triggers so you can manage your reactions.

Link emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Learn how we associate our emotions – positive or negative – with the ways we think about ourselves, how we behave and how we perceive others and the world.

Mental health awareness videos. Video interviews with people who experienced mental health issues at work discussing what helped. Their strategies and advice can act as virtual peer support and mental health awareness.

The function of emotions. Learn to embrace the value of emotions so they can function as opportunities to learn and grow.

Track your emotions. Gaining insight into why and when your emotions go up or down can be an important first step to enhancing your self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Understand anger. Learn to deal with anger in yourself and others.

Understand fear. Learn to deal with fear in yourself and others.

Understand guilt. Learn to deal with guilt in yourself and others.

Understand sadness. Learn to deal with sadness in yourself and others.

Understand shame. Learn to deal with shame in yourself and others.

What were you thinking? Our thoughts are not facts. They are often assumptions, reactions or unfair self-criticisms. Learn to challenge your thoughts to manage your mind.

Worry myths. It’s rarely, if ever, helpful to worry. Learn fact from fiction when it comes to worry.

Manage your reactions

When our emotions cause us to react in ways that are less than helpful, we can make the situation worse.

Choosing your reaction intentionally rather than emotionally is an important component of emotional intelligence.

Learn more through these activities and information:

Explore your options. We have options for dealing with stress and adversity. Learn how one of the four A’s – Accept, Avoid, Alter or Adapt – can help you respond to stress.

Managing stress in the moment. Techniques to help you reduce anxiety and deal with stressors more effectively throughout your day.

Tame your self-talk. “You idiot!” You’d be offended if someone said this to you, but how often do you say it to yourself? Learn to make your self-talk more respectful.

Tolerating confrontation. Unless we agree with everything that others say or do, conflict is inevitable. When we’re comfortable with conflict, we can see it as an opportunity to learn about another’s perspective and share our own.

Take the self-assessment

  • The free Emotional intelligence self-assessment takes about 10 minutes to complete. The results will highlight your strengths as well as areas where you can benefit from additional skills training. The four areas that are covered are:
    • Self-awareness which is your ability to accurately identify your emotions, understand why you react the way you do, and recognize the impact you have on others.
    • Self-management which is your ability to effectively regulate stress and appropriately express emotional reactions, whether alone or with others.
    • Social awareness which is your ability to understand others’ emotions and reactions and respond in a supportive and non-judgmental manner.
    • Relationship management which is your ability to communicate in an assertive, respectful, and non-defensive manner, particularly when providing feedback or managing interpersonal conflict.


Managing stress and Resilience offer even more strategies and activities that can help you manage your emotions.

Contributors include.articlesDr. Joti SamraMary Ann BayntonWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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