How To Use Emotional Intelligence And Self- Management Skills To Make You A Better Coach

The phrase emotional intelligence, or its shortened version EI, has taken on a whole new meaning with more people emerging in technology and social media today. The concept has gone viral since its introduction in the early 1980s, coinciding with Howard Gardner’s first theory of multiple intelligences. This theory influences more businesses, education and leadership skills around the world than most ideas even flourish.

The term “emotional intelligence” was introduced by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in a 1990 research paper, and in 1995, the publication of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, popularized the concept (Wicks, 2014).

The basics to emotional intelligence surround the ideas and abilities of how to monitor your own feelings and emotions, as well as of others. Enhancing these skills are helpful to guide one’s behaviors, and the ability to identify and control emotions in difficult situations, including coaching sessions.

Coaching involves leading and managing people to their highest quality of performance. Combined with the dynamic nature of time and experience, the adaptability of different techniques is necessary for success within this type of occupation. A life coach requires strong leadership skills to guide the relationship, hence, the profession of coaching is more than just instruction and giving resources. Such leadership qualities include ‘soft skills’ such as emotional intelligence (EI), motivation and inspiration, conflict management, and the ability to align them all together (Chan & Mallett, 2011). For more info on life coaching click here.

Self-Management Skills

Using your self-management skills are similar to emotional intelligence when it comes to most coaching situations and techniques. According to House (2011), using self management is an expression of the total commitment to your client, and is what coaches do to recover when conditions create less than a 100-percent connection.

In comparison to what Daniel Goleman (1995) states about emotional intelligence, self management skills use similar tactics surrounding self awareness. Self awareness involves noticing the emotional stirrings that signal destructive emotions, then thinking about what those stirrings might indicate, rather than using the same old rote thoughts that usually go with them (Wicks, 2014). This approach combines an awareness of our feelings with reasoning about their causes, a method popularized in the West by “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.”

Being self aware of our feelings helps us to understand what is happening in that moment, as well as what it has led to. In coaching sessions this typically goes by unnoticed. If we can get to know our own self-judgements, and where we find faults within our coaching, we gain that mental edge which allows us to stop and think of what otherwise would become a destructive hook.

For example, in coaching, clients may try to ‘hook’ you into acting in a way that is not connective. Sometimes a word, or conversation can throw you off course by distracting you, or sparking a reaction that is unwanted. It may happen in the material clients bring to you, sometimes something will trigger your own pet peeves, or your personal standards will clash against a clients comments, and from that you become judgmental, ungrounded, or even opinionated (House, Sandahl, & Whitworth, 2011). To counteract those feelings, becoming self-aware allows you to redirect the conversation in a more connective manner while detaching emotionally.

Here are 10 examples of what a client may say to ‘hook’ you into not using your emotional intelligence or self-management skills wisely:

1. “I’m so mad at my mother-in law, she always gets involved, you know how they are!”

2. “I do not want to be on welfare, it’s only for poor people who can’t work.”

3. “I can’t find anyone to date, all divorced men are obviously divorced for a reason!”

4. “I know I said I would commit to not eating snacks, but I’ve binged everyday this week.”

5. “I can’t do it, I’ve tried. What next?”

6. “I’ve taken your advice and it’s not working.”

7. “It’s all my ex’s fault, why should he not suffer?”

8. “I just don’t have the time or the energy. Period.”

9. “My kids are brats and all they do is complain!”

10. “Green smoothie? They are disgusting! I can’t do it.”

One way of using your self-management skills and applying emotional intelligence that may help avoid these ‘hooks’ is to ask yourself questions surrounding topics that are most uncomfortable.

For example, ask yourself, “What topics get under my skin?” “What subjects are my pet peeves?” “Which topics make me feel inadequate, inexperienced, or most uncomfortable?” By becoming self-aware of your own judgements, the less likely you are to be hooked by them in the middle of a coaching session (House, Sandahl, & Whitworth, 2011).

Another way of using your emotional intelligence to avoid these hooks is to be honest with yourself and your client. Admitting that you have gotten bumped off course from their comment, or letting them know that you have become distracted builds trust and helps the client empathize with your concerns. You are human, and things like this do happen at times, so being prepared is beneficial.

Clients respect your honesty about what is happening and how you feel at that moment. They appreciate when you don’t try to cover it up, or dismiss what they have said. Your admission by using this emotional intelligence approach, is a way of telling the client that you are truly committed to them and not just pretending (House, Sandahl, & Whitworth, 2011).

For more info on how to become self-aware and truly live the life you want to live, check out: How To Find Your Super Awesome Sassy Self!


Chan, J. T., & Mallett, C. J. (2011). The Value of Emotional Intelligence for High Performance Coaching. International Journal Of Sports Science & Coaching, 6(3).

Goleman, D. Emotional intelligence. Retrieved March 5, 2016, from

Goleman, Daniel. (1995), Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam Books Print.

House, H., House, K., Sandahl, P., & Whitworth, L. (2011). Co-Active Coaching. Changing Business Transforming Lives. (Third Edition ed.). Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Wicks, J., Nakisher, S., & Grimm, L. (2014). Emotional intelligence (EI). Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Health.

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