The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Product Management

How empathy, self-awareness, and relationship building can enhance collaboration, stakeholder management, and product success.

Princess Akari
People In Product
5 min readSep 14, 2023


This article is inspired by my live show presentation on Emotional Intelligence, on the Product Beats Show (A talk show for Product People by Product People).


In today’s world, AI dominates many aspects of our lives, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of innovation. While AI can enhance efficiency and processes, it often falls short of genuinely replicating the innate human capacity for empathy and connection. This is where emotional intelligence bridges the gap, enabling product people to continuously develop products and services that genuinely address customer pain points and meet their underlying emotional needs.

The success of any product hinges on its ability to deeply understand and empathize with its users.

In this article, we will be:

  • Exploring the significance of emotional intelligence in product management and how it serves as the core foundation of this concept.
  • Delving into the components of emotional intelligence and understanding how they contribute to successful product development.
  • Discussing practical techniques for developing emotional intelligence, enabling us to better understand and empathize with our users.

What is Emotional Intelligence and why is it significant in Product Management?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one's own emotions and those of others. This enables product people to tap into the emotions and motivations that drive user behaviour; deeply understanding and empathizing with their needs, desires, and pain points.

By leveraging emotional intelligence, we can go beyond surface-level insights and uncover the unspoken desires and aspirations of users, leading to innovative breakthroughs and products that provide meaningful solutions.

  • Emotional Intelligence enables us to empathize with users, uncover their unmet needs, and design effective solutions.
  • It empowers us to create user experiences that evoke positive emotions and drive user engagement.
  • It builds trust and fosters user loyalty by addressing their needs, leading to increased satisfaction and engagement.
  • Emotional intelligence drives us to innovate.

Key Components of Emotional Intelligence

  • Self-awareness: Gaining insight into your biases, motivation, and decision-making processes. Recognizing and understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and values.
  • Self-regulation: Remaining composed and focused, enabling rational decision-making and effective responses in challenging times. Ability to control and manage one’s emotions and reactions.
  • Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings and perspectives of your users.
  • Motivation: Drive and passion to achieve goals and continuously improve your product.
  • Social skills: Building and maintaining relationships, engaging diverse stakeholders, and working collaboratively when developing products.

How do these components contribute to successful product development?

1. Self-Awareness

Cultivating self-awareness involves engaging in self-reflection, and regularly taking the time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and reactions during product development processes. This helps you understand your biases, strengths, and areas for improvement.

Another way to cultivate self-awareness is by seeking feedback from peers, users, and stakeholders. This helps you to gain insights into how your emotions and behaviors impact others. You can use this feedback to enhance your self-awareness and adjust your approach accordingly.

2. Self-Regulation

By enhancing your self-regulation you develop emotional resilience: recognize and manage stress, frustration, and other challenging emotions that may arise during product development. You should implement techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or taking breaks to regain focus and regulate your emotions.

Setting clear boundaries is another way to self-regulate, and define boundaries between work and personal life to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This helps prevent burnout and supports emotional well-being.

3. Empathy

You can build empathy by conducting and engaging in user research activities, such as interviews, surveys, etc., to understand users’ needs, desires, and pain points. Immerse yourself in their experiences to develop a deeper sense of empathy.

Also, practice active listening when interacting with users or stakeholders, listening attentively, and seeking to understand their perspectives and emotions. Validate their experiences and show genuine empathy.

4. Motivation to Continuously Learn and Improve

By seeking professional development opportunities — attending events, or taking courses focused on emotional intelligence, leadership, and interpersonal skills, you can learn new strategies and techniques to strengthen your emotional intelligence capabilities.

Regularly reflect on your product development experiences and identify areas where emotional intelligence played a significant role. Analyze the successes and challenges, and identify areas for improvement in future projects.

5. Fostering Collaboration and Social Skills

Collaborating with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and roles helps you gain exposure to different viewpoints and develop effective communication and collaboration skills.

This also helps you practice effective communication — clearly and empathetically articulating your ideas and listening actively to others. It’ll encourage open and inclusive discussions, ensuring that everyone’s input is valued.

Developing and honing these skills can greatly enhance a product manager’s effectiveness and their ability to lead successful product initiatives. A well balanced Product Manager will produce a well balanced product.

Applying Emotional Intelligence to Product Development

Research and Empathy Mapping

Emotional intelligence helps you define your research goals, target audience, and research methods. It helps ensure that user pain points and desires remain at the forefront of your decisions, ultimately leading to more empathetic and successful products. With the Think, Feel, Say, and Do framework, you will gain insights into user emotions and motivations.


Emotionally designed products leverage the following;

  • Visual Elements — Color schemes, typography, imagery
  • Storytelling — User guides, campaigns
  • Interactive Elements — Haptic feedback, animation, sounds
  • Language and Tone — Empathetic and supportive language

Testing and Iteration

Test design: Develop tasks or scenarios that are designed to gauge emotional engagement with the product.

Emotional Feedback: During user testing sessions, ask how certain features or design choices made them feel and how they impacted their overall experience.

Nonverbal Cues: For focused group sessions or similar, pay attention to participants’ nonverbal cues during testing sessions, such as facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice.

Emotional Journey Mapping: By identifying emotional highs and lows, you can pinpoint critical touchpoints where users may experience heightened emotions, frustration, or satisfaction.

Emotional Impact Analysis: Analyze the collected data, feedback, and observations to identify emotional patterns and trends.

Iterative Improvements: Incorporate the emotional insights gained from testing into the iterative design process. Use this feedback to inform design decisions and prioritize improvements. Iterate on the product based on emotional data to enhance emotional engagement, mitigate negative emotions, and amplify positive emotional experiences.

Practical Techniques for Developing Emotional Intelligence

  • Practice active listening
  • Engage in Empathy Exercises
  • Conduct User Interviews
  • Observe User Behavior
  • Learn about Empathy-Building
  • Practice Reflective Thinking
  • Foster Collaboration and Feedback
  • Practice Self-Care

By understanding the emotional drivers behind user behavior, product managers and teams can make informed design decisions, create experiences that align with users’ emotional goals, and drive long-term success.