More Than Tech Skills: How to Tap Into Your Emotional Intelligence & Become a Stronger Colleague

When you think of the term “emotional intelligence,” what comes to mind? You might imagine someone with a calm demeanor towards whom everyone seems to gravitate — someone who seemingly has effortless success without projecting a sense of superiority. Or, maybe it’s simply someone who is easy to talk to.

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence (EQ) as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Easier said than done for many people — achieving emotional intelligence requires skills like emotional awareness, problem solving, and emotional regulation. Now throw in the added pressure of achieving this balance within a workplace of differing personalities, perspectives, and abilities and it can seem impossible if you don’t know where to start.

In a recent 2U Career Engagement Network (CEN) workshop centered around emotional intelligence in tech, attendees gained a deeper understanding of the topic, improved their own emotional intelligence, and learned how to apply new techniques to their job search and careers. The engaging and interactive session was hosted by Christine O’Halloran and Allison Moran, Career Services Curriculum Engineers at 2U. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence, improve your EQ, and apply useful techniques to your job search and workplace.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

The workshop opened with a brief overview of emotional intelligence: what it is, how it affects relationships, and its importance in the workplace. As a manager, strong EQ can result in a happier team, less turnover, and company savings. As an individual contributor or contracted employee, having strong emotional intelligence can increase your visibility, foster stronger collaboration, and even promote better health.

According to CareerBuilder’s survey of over 2,600 hiring managers, 71 percent said they place a greater emphasis on EQ than IQ — and 75 percent also reported that they’re more likely to promote an employee with a high EQ. If one thing is clear, it’s this: you can’t get very far in your career without a strong EQ.

While it’s easy to believe that we’re all tapped into our innermost impulses and motivations, the truth is that most of us lack the awareness necessary to effectively manage our emotions. In her book Insight, psychologist and researcher Tasha Eurich explained that while 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15 percent really are. So, what if you’re not sure of your emotional intelligence, or if you know you have areas to work on? Where do you begin?

You can complete The Quick Emotional Intelligence Self-Assessment on the Psychology Today website to determine your emotional intelligence across four areas:

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

Your score totals for each trait will correspond to an effectiveness ranking to help you determine areas for enrichment.

In the next section, we’ll explain what each of the above traits is, how they impact the workplace, and how you can improve your scores. You’ll also find helpful resources and questions to ask yourself to help you enhance your emotional intelligence.

Emotional Self-Awareness

The first step in identifying your EQ is to understand how you connect with your own emotions. Emotional self-awareness is your ability to recognize your emotions, why you feel them, and how they’re affecting you at any given moment.

For employers, emotionally self-aware employees bring plenty of strengths to their work, including knowing their skills and limitations, seeking help and learning opportunities, knowing how to set themselves up for success, working well with others, and accurately communicating their challenges.

To quickly determine your emotional self-awareness in a given moment, ask yourself: How is emotional self-awareness affecting this situation?

How to grow your emotional self-awareness:

  • Observe your emotions
  • Try not to label emotions as good or bad
  • Ask yourself why you respond to situations in a certain way
  • Seek feedback
  • Understand how you behave under stress


  • Feelings Wheel — Moving outward from the center of the wheel, use the words to focus in on specific feelings you’re experiencing to better identify with your emotions.
  • Mood Meter App — The Mood Meter App helps you build emotional intelligence by expanding your emotional vocabulary, gaining insights about your inner life, and learning how your emotions impact your relationships.

Emotional Self-Management

Once you’re able to identify the feelings you’re experiencing in a given situation, emotional self-management can help you determine what to do with them. This process involves the ability to control how you respond to your impulses and emotions.

Employers like employees with strong emotional self-management because they make others feel positive and safe in the workplace, think logically and rationally in the face of challenges, adapt well to changes, take initiative, and follow through on commitments.

When strong emotions arise, don’t immediately give in; instead, ask yourself: Do I want to stay with this emotion?

How to grow your emotional self-management:

  • Set aside time for problem-solving
  • Practice patience
  • Think before speaking or acting
  • Develop tools for coping with emotions (i.e., set aside time to process unresolved emotions, take a walk)

Social-Emotional Awareness

After you have successfully identified and learned how to manage your emotions, you can more effectively harness your social-emotional awareness. This is the ability to understand the needs and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and connect with others.

In the workplace, employees with strong social-emotional awareness help create healthy work environments through their ability to help others, collaborate, lead successfully, and communicate effectively.

How to grow your social-emotional awareness:

  • Practice the art of listening
  • Seek to understand first
  • Observe body language
  • Pay attention to tone of voice
  • Remind yourself to be present

Relationship Management

The final trait that rounds out your emotional intelligence is relationship management: the ability to connect with others and build positive relationships.

Employees who bring enhanced relationship management skills to their work are a huge benefit to employers, since they can help in resolving conflicts, collaborate successfully, boost company culture, are generally liked, and are effective leaders.

How to grow your relationship management skills:

  • Seek to get to know others
  • Build trust by following through
  • Invite feedback from others
  • Show that you care about others
  • Avoid gossip

Emotional Intelligence in the Hiring Process

Now that you have a better understanding of your EQ, it’s time to practice your emotional intelligence with some sample interview questions you might encounter during your next job search.

Sample Interview Question #1

Describe a stressful situation that you had in a past job.

Sample answer: In my last role, I had a coworker that would frequently make updates and edits to the team’s code without informing the team. One day, I got so stressed that I decided we needed to have a conversation. I waited until the next day so I could approach the situation calmly and rationally. My coworker and I were able to come up with a comment system that enabled us to work efficiently and communicate changes.

Sample Interview Question #2

What has been the biggest period of change in your career? What did you learn about yourself and your skills in managing that change?

Sample answer structure:

  1. Describe the situation
  2. Describe how the situation made you feel and why
  3. Explain how you coped with your emotions, and what action you took
  4. Present the results of your action as a success

Sample Interview Question #3

How would you handle presenting a technical presentation to a non-technical audience?

Sample answer: In a prior role, I often presented data analytics to other departments. I typically try to break down some of the more technical components and add pauses for questions. This helped me to understand what the audience did and did not understand and pivot if necessary. I also used visuals to simplify complex data.

Sample Interview Question #4

Our company is fully remote. How would you seek to build relationships with your team?

Sample answer: In the past, I have worked on remote teams. I’ve found it helpful to set aside 20 minutes to meet with individuals or small groups to talk about their roles in my first few weeks on the job. I did this in my last role, and it helped me build relationships quickly — especially with individuals outside of my team.

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