Exercises to Build EQ in Your Clients

One purpose of this blog is to provide coaches methods to help their clients build EQ skills, and thereby help clients be more successful. Since we began this blog thirty-four issues ago, we have explored many ways to do so. Some posts have focused on practical methods, while others have been more theoretical.  You can catch up on any that you missed at Blog – EQ Leader, Inc. You can also find a complete program for building EQ skills in leaders in the EQ Leader Program 2.0 manual. The manual has been used by coaches world-wide since 2006, and was updated and revised in September of 2020.

Today’s post will focus on building a specific EQ skill, Emotional Self-Awareness (ESA). The EQL manual contains field tested exercises, used by coaches all over the world, to build each of the sixteen skills that comprise EQ. While each skill is important, ESA is particularly so. It, along with Empathy, is a foundation skill for EQ. Other EQ skills are easier to improve when your client has developed reasonable facility with these two foundation skills.

How I use the exercises: After an assessment that includes the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) 2.0, my client and I have a debrief session, during which we discuss their results. We identify which two or three skills, out of the sixteen, they would like to focus on in their development. Which ones will pay them the most dividends, depending upon their EQ profile and the demands of their current role?

I then provide them with handouts containing the exercise menus from the EQL manual for the skills they select as critical. I tell them that their first homework assignment (yes, I give homework!) is to read over the handout(s) to get a feeling for what will be involved. Then, when we meet next time, we select a few exercises that fit their current state of development, style, and situation.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that my client has decided to work on Emotional Self Awareness.

As with every menu of exercises, the first page of the ESA handout describes the concept of ESA. The description is structured to help the client be prepared to use the exercises that follow.

Here is the introduction for ESA from the EQL manual:

“Emotional Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize and accurately label your own feelings.

Introduction. Emotions express themselves through three channels, physically, in our thoughts, and in our impulses. You can learn how to identify your feelings by paying attention to these channels, as they provide essential cues about what you are feeling.

Physical sensations – All emotions have some kind of physical expression. Each emotion will have its own way of showing up in your body’s reaction. Different people react to the same emotion with different physical sensations. Some people may feel tension in their forehead while others may feel it in their lower back or with an upset stomach. Many of your body’s reactions, which (up to now) you may have thought were just stray physical events, are actually signals to you that you are experiencing some kind of an emotion. In fact, some physical illnesses result from chronic feelings, such as anger or anxiety, that go unrecognized. The toll of chronic physical reactions accumulates until real damage is done.

Thoughts – Emotions prioritize thought. You can’t focus on everything at every moment. What do you select? You focus on whatever is most emotionally relevant to you at the time. Thus, your thoughts can help you know what you are feeling. Here are some examples:

If you find that your focus is on all the negative characteristics of the person across your desk, it might indicate that you are angry with that person.

If you find that your focus is on lost opportunities, it might be a signal that you are feeling sad or regretful.

If you find that your focus is on threats, you might be feeling anxious.

Impulses – Emotions create an impulse to act. You might not follow through with the impulse but you can still notice that you “feel like” doing this or that Here are some examples:

If you feel like hitting, you are probably angry.

If you feel like crying, you may be sad or frustrated.

If you feel like running, running, running, you may be experiencing anxiety.

A good thing about being aware of your feelings is that you can identify your impulses earlier. That way you can have more control over which impulses your good judgment allows you to indulge and which ones are best put away.”

My clients find this introduction particularly useful. It creates a foundation for understanding emotions which heretofore may have been a complete mystery to them.

You can get the complete set of exercises for ESA, as well as all of the exercises for the other fifteen EQ skills, in the full EQL manual, or, if you prefer, you can purchase the entire set of sixteen exercise menus separately (Module 5 of the EQ Leader Program).

Please visit The EQ Shoppe to find out how to order.

For now, let’s look at one of several exercises designed specifically for ESA:

Exercise 4

Read books or watch movies designed to provoke strong emotions, e.g., books/movies/videos/DVDs that are intended to be sad (tear-jerkers), suspenseful, or scary. During or afterwards, write down:

The feeling (example: sad)




Thoughts that went with the feeling (example: remembering a loss of your own)




Impulses that went with the feeling (example: wanting to go off by yourself or the opposite, wanting to have someone comfort you)




Your body’s way of expressing the feeling (example: crying or feeling like crying)




Exercise 4 has been particularly useful for people who are at an early stage of ESA development. It gives them situations that are predictable with regard to emotions that are likely to be elicited. When they have success connecting, say sadness, with particular thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, they begin to “get the hang” of ESA. It becomes easier for them to extend that learning to other emotions.

Homework is an essential part of coaching. No one’s behavior changes in a sustainable way simply from coaching conversations. Our clients need to practice skills in their real world of work. Structured exercises, prescribed by their coach, give them a methodology that works.

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