Emotional Intelligence

by Andy Smith

Step one: Self-awareness


Emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognise what you are feeling, understand your habitual emotional responses to events, and recognise how your emotions affect your behaviour and performance.

When you are self-aware, you see yourself as others see you, and have a good sense of your own abilities and current limitations.

Self-awareness is the core of emotional intelligence. It underpins the other components of the model. You need to be aware of your emotions and habitual patterns to be able to manage them. And someone who cannot recognise their own emotions will also be unable to recognise them in others.

Knowing and understanding your own emotions is essential to knowing what you really want and understanding the impact you have on other people.

Rating your self-awareness

This self-rating scale is not to be taken as a scientific or objective assessment. Treat it as a thought-provoker. Just thinking about and answering the questions will begin to enhance your self-awareness!


Fill in the self-awareness part of the attached questionnaire (PDF format).

How to improve your self-awareness

Here are some suggestions for improving your self-awareness. Select a couple that appeal to you so you find what works best for you. When you practice them regularly, you will find they soon become automatic and effortless. You can combine them in new ways to create your own method of deepening your knowledge of yourself.

Accept your emotions

Whatever your feelings are, accept them as yours. Realise that your inner self is doing the best it can right now. Giving yourself a hard time because you ‘shouldn’t’ be feeling a certain way is not going to help you. If you don’t like the way you’re feeling, there are ways you can change it (see the Self-management page).

Get in touch with your emotions

Notice how you feel right now. Now let your eyes stray down towards your dominant hand (the one you write with). Notice how you feel now – are you more intensely aware of it?

Take the labels off your feelings

If you don’t like the way you’re feeling, ask yourself: ‘How do I know I’m feeling that?’ Forget the label that you’ve given the emotion – sadness, anxiety or whatever – what are the physical sensations and where in your body are they? How intense are they? Are they constant or do they change? After doing this for a couple of minutes, you may feel different.

Keep an emotional journal

Take ten minutes at the start and end of each day to write down your feelings, without judging or censoring yourself. Notice what you learn.


When you meditate, it’s easier to be aware of your feelings without being distracted by the busyness and noise of everyday life. Often creative ideas will come to you as well.


Meditation in two minutes

Sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and just be aware of your breathing.

Any time you feel your attention wandering, just bring it back to your breathing.

Just allow your thoughts and feelings to come and go, without judging them.

Notice how you are not your thoughts and feelings. (If you are just your thoughts and feelings, who’s observing them?).


Listening to emotional messages

What if that troublesome emotion is trying to tell you something? No wonder it won’t go away – you have not listened to its message yet. So ask yourself: ‘If this feeling has a message for me, what is it trying to tell me?’

Feelings about feelings

We can have feelings about the way we feel. For example, we might feel guilty about getting angry. So if you catch yourself feeling bad, ask yourself ‘How do I feel about that emotion?’

See yourself as a friend sees you

Other people may see aspects of us that we are unaware of. Put yourself in the shoes of a friend or someone who loves you – stand like them, breathe like them, ‘be’ them. Notice how you look through their eyes and how they feel about you. You may be pleasantly surprised by how different you seem from the outside.

Listen to your heart (and gut)

The heart is traditionally the source of love, acceptance and self-in-relation-to-others. For problems or decisions that you can’t solve with logic alone, put your hand over your heart, close your eyes and imagine you are breathing into this area. When you feel you have identified with your heart area, ask your heart what to do. Notice what new insights come to you, and how you feel differently about the problem and life in general from this perspective.

You can repeat the exercise, identifying into the area just below your navel; notice what additional perspectives you get from this viewpoint.

The heart has its own ‘brain’ made up of 40,000 neurones and appears to some extent to be capable of ‘thinking’ independently, rather than being completely controlled by the brain as used to be thought. It also has the largest electromagnetic field of any organ in the body. Heart rhythms both affect and are affected by emotional states in the body.

Key tip

Don’t judge your emotions. You are not what you do, or what you think or feel, because that changes from day to day.

Other people as mirrors

Sometimes we can deny uncomfortable feelings within ourselves and ‘project’ them onto other people. So if you find that, for example, other people are often angry with you and you don’t know why, ask yourself, ‘When am I like that?’

Monitoring your progress

Once you have consistently implemented your chosen methods of enhancing self-awareness for 21 days, you can retake the self-awareness self-rating test and notice any differences.

You can also make a habit of noticing what has improved about your self-awareness. Ask yourself ‘How will I know that my self-awareness is improving?’ and look for signs that this is happening.

If you are not progressing as quickly as you would like, you may want to consider a more serious 360 Degree Assessment or hire an emotional intelligence coach.