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Self-Compassion as a way to enhance emotional intelligence

Have you heard about Emotional Intelligence (short EI) at work? Many in the corporate world have heard about this term - it is widely used as a way to enhance employees' wellbeing and to drive internal policies. EI was that “thing” that drove many workplace courses, meetings and conversations. Some companies even went as far as to introduce it as a part of their recruiting process where potential employees had to participate in Emotional Intelligence tests.

Currently, it seems to me that EI is going out of fashion in the corporate world. The most important question to ask at this juncture then becomes “do we still need Emotional Intelligence at work”? I believe it is more important than ever. With employees’ mental health issues at all-time high and spiking stress within organisations, we have a lot to do. However, after years of learning about employees’ mental wellbeing, I, strongly believe, we are missing the “key to success” - self-compassion. We cannot enhance Emotional Intelligence without tapping into self-compassion. But… Let’s start from the beginning to understand these terms.

What’s Emotional intelligence?

"Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you".

What’s self-compassion?

"Self-compassion is simply the process of turning compassion inward. We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy".

How are these two terms connected…

Emotional Intelligence is based on empathy. Empathy can be defined as: “the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation” (source: Cambridge Dictionary). Brené Brown, a world-renowned researcher on empathy (also an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host) suggests that empathy “requires us to recall or reflect on feelings that are uncomfortable”. This indicates that in order to enhance empathy we need to tap within ourselves. The best way to do that is to learn self-compassion and be kind to ourselves.

Ways to practice self-compassion

According to the Positive Psychology portal (, there are 5 ways to practice Self-Compassion:

  1. Practice Forgiveness - accept that nobody is perfect and it’s OK to make mistakes.

  2. Employ a Growth Mindset - try to look differently at challenges that you face. Instead of avoiding them tap into their meaning and embrace the learnings.

  3. Express Gratitude - focus on your blessings and move away from your shortcomings and outward world.

  4. Find the Right Level of Generosity - the power of giving can be draining too. Think about your resources so you can give with ease and joy.

  5. Be Mindful - it helps to lessen self-judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 2014). Can you be more present in the moment? Be aware of what’s right now without judgment and labelling.

I hope this article was helpful for you to learn the connection between Emotional Intelligence and Self-Compassion. I am certain that in order to be more empathic towards others, we need to enhance our self-compassion skills, which can have a positive impact in every area of our lives.

I encourage you to share your comments below. Let’s have a conversation.

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