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Next Wave
Harnessing Emotions

Put these tactics to work to improve emotional intelligence.
  • Carly Burnham
  • October 2019
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Last month I introduced the five components of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills—and illustrated how they can be beneficial for your insurance career development. This month, I want to share some tactics for improving emotional intelligence. 

Self-Awareness: Improving your self-awareness is the first step. There are numerous quizzes online to identify how strong your emotional intelligence skills are. Try one out. Additionally, practicing mindfulness and journaling will allow you to hone in on your own triggers and patterns.

For example, set aside five minutes at the end of the day to reflect on any interactions that brought up emotional responses. How did you handle them? In retrospect, would you have made different choices or communicated differently? This practice will build your understanding of your own emotional states throughout the day.

Self-Management: Once you're aware of your emotional states, you can start to manage them. A key component of managing emotional responses is to acknowledge that the way you communicate or handle your emotions will impact your relationships throughout your insurance career. Determining your triggers and patterns will give you the ability to build better relationships. For instance, if you are an underwriter, and you find that a particular agent knows how to push your buttons, look for ways to change the interaction. For example, schedule those meetings for a time of day when you have more energy or use deep breathing to relax before heading into a challenging circumstance.

Motivation: Maintaining motivation can be difficult, especially if you haven't mastered self-awareness or self-management. When things get tough, your emotions can prevent you from feeling motivated. One strategy I have used to improve my motivation is to look at my long-term goals and break them down into smaller pieces. By doing this, I also get the opportunity to celebrate my small wins.

Empathy: There are a number of ways to develop empathy. Journal about interactions with others and attempt to understand their perspectives. Practice active listening, which allows you to learn more about those you interact with. And consider taking some time to learn about body language. You can learn a lot about those you are communicating with by watching their body language for cues about their emotional state. 

Social Skills: In the relationship-based business of insurance, social skills are the keys to connecting with fellow professionals and building your network. A fantastic place to start is by learning about communication styles. Examine your own tendencies, looking for potential communication pitfalls in how you send or receive messages.

As an introvert, I find it helpful to listen more than I talk. Allowing others to share their stories is a tried-and-true way to build rapport. Also, it's important to intentionally practice trustworthiness. When you say you are going to do something, do it. Be honest and authentic. You will find that practicing these strategies will allow you to build stronger relationships and practice your social skills more frequently.

These are a few tactics for increasing emotional intelligence. There are many more. If you consider the five components, you may even think of your own ways to improve on each individual component. I'd love to hear about your practices.

Next month, my final column on this topic will address how to recognize and encourage emotional intelligence in the insurance workplace.

Carly Burnham CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at and can be reached at

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