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The 4 Domains of Emotional Intelligence

The 4 Domains of Emotional Intelligence

Dave SeatonBy Dave Seaton
3 min read

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on emotional intelligence and why it plays an important role with sales leaders today. It is authored by CX and emotional intelligence expert Dave Seaton.

In our last chapter in this series, we covered why emotional intelligence is important for sales leaders. But just what is emotional intelligence? Where does it come from and how do we use it when we interact with others? Let’s explore…

Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand emotions in yourself and other people and use that understanding to choose actions that improve your relationships. Psychologists group these abilities into four domains: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management.

Watch this video for a quick overview: 

Self Awareness

Only 36% of people*

could understand their emotions in the moment as they are happening

*tested by TalentSmart EQ research

Self Awareness is understanding your own emotions in the moment as they are happening. It sounds simple, yet the TalentSmart EQ research found that only 36% of the people they tested could do it.  

Imagine you’re traveling to an important meeting and your flight is delayed. You sit at the airport, watching the clock as you visualize in growing detail the embarrassment of being late. What will your boss say when you walk into the meeting? Should you stroll to the front of the room and crack a joke, or slip in the back and hide? Should you just skip the entire trip and tell everyone you were abducted by aliens and forced to eat Fruit Loops while watching endless reruns of I Love Lucy?  

If you’re self-aware, your rational brain interrupts this panic-spiral of doom. “Hello, anxiety!” it says in a cheery voice. “You’re feeling anxious because this weather delay is really messing with your emotional need for control.” The brain’s logic center, the prefrontal cortex, fires up as you label your emotion and the trigger that produced it. And with this awareness, you have an opportunity to practice the second domain: Self Management. 

Self Management

When you are aware that you’ve been emotionally triggered, Self Management is choosing your reasoned response to the emotion rather than reacting. 

After finding out about the flight delay, you take few deep breaths to slow your heart rate. You remind yourself that weather delays mess up the whole airline system, likely affecting others. You call your boss and let him know about the situation. You decide not to chug two beers and yell at the gate agent. 

We often focus on managing “negative” emotions, like anger and fear. But don’t be fooled by a good mood, either! When you’re elated because you just won a fortune at the roulette table, it’s probably smart to wait a few days before rushing off to the Elvis Wedding Chapel with your new friend Destiny.

Social Awareness

While Self Awareness is being aware of your own emotions, Social Awareness is being aware of others’ emotions in the moment they happen. Using empathy, you understand what another person is feeling and why. Listening and observing are key. Often, we must stop talking and acting so we can learn how others are feeling. 

Imagine you’re the boss in our flight delay scenario, and you get the call from a key employee explaining they’ll be late. If you’re socially aware, you pick up on the emotional clues that your employee is anxious—not just about missing the meeting, but about your reaction to the situation. You understand that people may fear your reaction to bad news because you’re in a position of authority, especially if you’ve blown up before. (It’s ok, we’ve all done it).

Relationship Management

Building upon the other three, Relationship Management means using Self Awareness, Self Management and Social Awareness to manage interactions with others and choose actions that resolve conflict and cultivate long-term relationships. 

You choose to back down from an argument, even when you know you’re right, because you value the long-term relationship over the short-term victory. You choose to coach an employee, rather than criticize their failure, recognizing the future impact of their engagement and contributions. 

When you get the call from your flight-delayed employee, you don’t just address the business need of who will cover the meeting. You also meet their emotional needs, reassuring them that there won’t be any professional fallout from the situation. 

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