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3 ways to develop emotional intelligence, and increase your resilience

By Brett 02 Oct 2019
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Life is busy.

Between completing team assignments, working, watching your favourite online show, providing support to your best friend, dealing with a family crisis, going to the gym, contributing to your chosen cause, and dealing with the expectations you put on yourself, we understand you have many competing priorities. 

In fact, life is VUCA! 

Volatile: the nature and speed of change present in today’s society is unprecedented. 
predictability is decreasing and the prospects for surprise are on the rise. 
all the easy problems have been solved. 
black and white has dissolved into shades of grey.

Your number one tool to deal with it all (in our humble opinion)? Your brain! You can use your brain to control the choices you make and how you respond to life experiences. That is why emotional intelligence is not just a passing fad, but is a critical capability for individual resilience and for future-proofing your skill set.  Rebecca T. Dickson, who serves as a Forbes Council Member and is president of her own company built to elevate women entrepreneurs in online business, defines emotional intelligence as ‘the ability to see and master emotions while also recognising and respectfully responding to the emotions of others’ (Dickson, R 2019). Through this, one can master resilience, which is the capacity one can develop to combat life’s hardships. 

Did you know that your brain scans your environment looking for threats (which we move away from) and rewards (which we move towards) five times a second? Threat emotions include concern, worry, frustration, and stress. These types of feelings narrow our thinking and limit our productivity. Reward emotions include satisfaction, meaning, hope, and fun  . These reward feelings engage our brain and promote conditions for lateral and creative thinking, so the reward state is where we want to be most of the time.

Negative feelings and emotions aren’t bad though, they are a normal part of life. It is just how we deal with them that is important. For example, if you have experienced loss or change, then it is very natural, according to the Kubler-Ross model, to experience denial, shock, anger, frustration, helplessness, and hostility, before moving to a place of acceptance and possibility (Anastasia, 2015). Noticing your feelings and emotions  is the first step, proactively managing your emotions (and the resultant behaviours you choose) is crucial to moving forward.

Here are three simple strategies to help you build your emotional intelligence, which in turn will help you develop resilience.

Tip 1: Get some perspective. 

The brain is so efficient at processing information that it usually observes the world in line with our pre-held beliefs and assumptions. We don’t actually see the world how it is; rather, we see the world as we interpret it. A practical way to build perspective, especially when you are in conflict with someone, is to step down your ladder of inference before taking action. What are you not seeing? And what assumptions are you making? Check out the work of organisational psychologist Chris Argyis to learn more. Another way to challenge your perspective is to use an objective person you trust as a sounding board, and have them provide you with a different point of view to broaden your perspective.

Tip 2: Approach the world with a growth mindset. 

Carol Dweck in 2017 described a growth mindset as one in which people believe that their learning and intelligence can grow over time with effort and experience. This is different to a fixed mindset, wherein people believe their qualities are fixed traits that cannot be changed, and that success is built on the talent you are born with. Reframing your self-talk is an effective way to foster a growth mindset. For example, change, ‘I’m not good at this’ to ‘This will take some time to learn’, and, ‘I made a mistake and failed’ to ‘Mistakes help me learn and improve’.

Tip 3: Practise  mindfulness.

Remember that VUCA world we live in? An effective strategy is to purposely focus on the present moment, and not spend disproportionate amounts of emotional energy reliving the past or worrying about the future … in other words mindfulness. The simplest way to practise mindfulness is to complete four, slow deep breaths. This can be done during a lecture, at a work meeting, or dealing with a grumpy customer … anywhere, really. Also, perhaps consider putting away your smart device until you need to check it – take control. Recent studies by Deloitte (2017) show that people are checking their device in excess of 50 times a day on average! It is very hard to be present when you keep getting distracted. 

It is not uncommon in today’s VUCA world to be constantly busy and stressed. Building your awareness of self is the key to being able to respond to the pleasures and stresses in your environment to the right degree, at the right time, in the right way, and to future-proof your skill set. You can do this by getting some perspective, using a growth mindset, and practicing mindfulness in order to increase your emotional intelligence and personal resilience. 

If you are after more information about what Brett has discussed in this blog, make sure you check out the free webinar he co-presented with USQ Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion within Human Resources, Renee Stafleu, on the topic of Resilience and its influence: How to build emotional intelligence for future career success.

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Anastasia. (2015, June 24). Understanding the Kubler-Ross change curve. Cleverism. Retrieved from 

Deloitte. (2017). Smartphones are useful, but they can be distracting. Retrieved from 

Dickson, R. (2019). The Next Sign of Great Leadership: Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from 

Dweck, C. (2017, n.d.). Decades of scientific research that started a growth mindset revolution. Mindset Works. Retrieved from