Emotional intelligence is, arguably, the single most important skill for any aspiring or current life coach. Simply put, you need to be able to understand, interpret, and adapt to the emotions of your clients to be successful in this field.
Indeed, cultivating better emotional intelligence is vital if you want to thrive in the competitive coaching market. Today, let’s take a closer look at the role of emotional intelligence and life coaching and how you can develop it more deeply in yourself.
Components of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be essentially broken down into five key components:
- Self-awareness, which describes how aware you are of your own emotional processes, biases, and strengths
- Self-regulation, which is how well you are able to regulate the worse parts of your personality, such as avoiding a situation where you may behave poorly
- Motivation, which measures your ability to motivate yourself, particularly when facing a challenge
- Empathy, which describes how well you can empathize with others and understand their unique struggles and viewpoints
- Social skills, which is a catchall term referring to how well you read people’s emotions, voices, etc.
Each of these components is important. As a life coach, you need to develop each of them fully. Furthermore, many of your clients will request help to develop some or all of these components of emotional intelligence.
The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Coaching Relationship
At its core, emotional intelligence has a significant role in the coaching relationships you have with your clients. Why? For two reasons:
- The more emotionally intelligent you are, the better you’ll understand your clients (especially if they are reserved) and the better you’ll be able to communicate with them
- Many of your clients will come to you seeking to develop their emotional intelligence. Therefore, you need to understand this topic deeply so you can help them develop this skill successfully
Say that you have a new life coaching client who wants to know how to make friends at work and how to form strong relationships with supervisors. This is important to your client because they want to have a better social life in the workplace, and they want to climb the corporate ladder.
You need to have emotional intelligence to determine where your client’s socialization attempts are going wrong. Maybe they’re “trying too hard” and are coming across as awkward or desperate. Or maybe they’re too in their head, and people already like them just fine.
Then, you come up with a plan to solve the client’s needs, giving them emotional intelligence exercises, helping them talk about their feelings, and so on. In this hypothetical example, your emotional intelligence was the cornerstone skill you used to provide solid life coaching to your client in need.
Developing Emotional Intelligence as a Life Coach
If you believe your emotional intelligence skills are a little lacking, don’t give up. In fact, there are lots of great ways in which you can develop emotional intelligence for your future life coach career.
For example, you can practice mindfulness and observe how you feel. “Mindfulness” is simply stepping outside your moment-to-moment reactions to things and observing how you think and feel about subjects or stimuli in your environment, your body, etc. Mindfulness is crucial because it helps you understand and recognize your emotions – and those of others – more easily.
In addition, you should pay attention to how you behave and ask for feedback about your emotional intelligence from your friends and family members. They’ll be able to give you advice about how you should tweak your responses or emotional attention to things.
Other smart ways to develop emotional intelligence include:
- Taking responsibility for your feelings
- Questioning your opinions – ask yourself why you believe what you believe or why you think certain things
- Take deep breaths if you feel overwhelmed or if negative emotions may cause you to act out
Overall, developing emotional intelligence is a lifetime process. The more you practice it, however, the better results you’ll provide for your clients. You’ll also be much better equipped to provide emotional intelligence advice to your clients if they need it.
Measuring Emotional Intelligence
Measuring emotional intelligence in your clients is important, especially if they come to you with emotional-related concerns or problems. There are three big ways you can do this:
- Ask your clients to self-report their emotional intelligence
- Get the friends or family members of clients to report on the client’s emotional intelligence
- Have a client take an official test. Ability testing for emotional intelligence is usually done with the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), but there are others, too
Measuring emotional intelligence as objectively as possible is very useful. It helps you develop a plan and fixes for your clients more quickly.
Just don’t forget that emotional intelligence can differ heavily across different cultures and backgrounds. What “counts” as empathetic in one culture can come across as too cold or too open to another.
Therefore, you should consider the background that each client hails from before coming up with an emotional intelligence development plan for those clients. Say that you have a client from China working with you to develop her relationship-building skills, both for personal and professional reasons.
The last thing you want to do is impose Western values and emotional intelligence suppositions on her. Instead, remember that Chinese people interpret emotional reservation differently. You might tailor your emotional support development plan to focus more on inner understanding as opposed to openly sharing feelings with you, her coach. You might also use different tests for clients from different cultures or countries to measure their emotional intelligence levels.
All in all, emotional intelligence will have an outsized, significant impact on your success rate. The more emotionally intelligent you are as a coach, the better your clients will respond to you and the better advice/guidance you’ll give.