Before you win as an entrepreneur, you have to win the emotional and mental battle in your mind. Your ability to remain positive amid rejection, maintain your composure during a disagreement or adapt your value proposition during a sales pitch — depends on your level of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Travis Bradberry, the co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, defines EQ as your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

Are You Prepared to Unlearn?

Although EQ may sound like a “touchy-feely nice to have” skill, your level of EQ can make or break the success of your business. It’s just not enough to create a great product, show up for work, and work hard. Managing your emotions, building positive relationships and communicating clearly and confidently determines how far you go in life. So ultimately, you may need to unlearn some habits or childhood beliefs you’ve developed over the years.

EQ includes four main elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. To guide you in making better decisions and creating smart habits as an entrepreneur, here are a few ways to turn theory into practice:

Self-Awareness and Self-Management

As an entrepreneur, you’re always dealing with uncertainty as well as pressure to make a profit. “What if I don’t get this sale? What if I can’t afford to pay my staff?” Many times the emotions that stem from our thoughts turn into actions, which can help or hinder our success.

Whether you’re interacting with anyone from customers and employees to followers on social media, pause and pay attention to what you’re feeling. Ultimately, you want to control your emotions so you can respond in a non-aggressive way.

Another critical component of self-awareness is understanding your strengths and weaknesses so you can prepare and emotionally adapt to challenging situations. Ask yourself:

    • What am I feeling?
    • How might these emotions affect potential customers, or my ability to make a profit?
    • Can I express myself in a way that doesn’t damage a relationship?
    • How do others perceive my communication or leadership style?

Another EQ superpower is asking for feedback. Sometimes how we see ourselves is different than how other people perceive us.

Social Awareness and Relationship Management

Self-awareness and self-management are focused on managing your thoughts and improving how you think. However, social awareness and relationship management require you to enhance your social skills.

When you understand your customer’s journey and can see things from their perspective, you’ll have a better chance of making a sale. If you put relationships before transactions, you’ll have an opportunity to gain the trust and loyalty of your customers as well as your employees.

Social awareness starts with empathy. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes so you can see things from their perspective. Understanding and appreciating the differences in others and being able to anticipate those needs is an element of relationship management.

Ready to level up? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

    • What can I do to show my customers or employees I care about what they’re going through?
    • How can I inspire and motivate my team to take action every day?
    • Is there a common ground both parties can agree on?
    • What system can I implement to regularly gather feedback?

Improving your emotional intelligence comes down to your daily routine. A simple way to start is to pause and pay attention to your thoughts, and feelings.