Certified High-Performance coach, speaker, author, husband, adventurer, former commando-paratrooper, and tsunami survivor.

The Alpha's Guide to Emotional Intelligence


If you are reading this, your IQ is probably above average, but what about your Emotional intelligence (EI)? In the never-ending-almost-giving-up process of trying to understand my wife, I decided to dive deeper into emotional intelligence. 

I found out that learning about EI not only made me a better person (and husband!) but also a better leader. In this blog, you will learn more about this crucial skill for success and how to lead with emotional intelligence.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, CEO, or executive, this article will help you navigate the complex landscape of emotions.

This article addresses one of the key topics featured in the no-bullshit guide to creating success and fulfillment in life and business, where you’ll uncover the 3-part formula to design and live a more rewarding life. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s a system that actually works. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do so now to gain a better understanding of what it takes to reach excellence. Additionally, you can read the 4 steps to reach excellence and learn a methodology you can apply to any subject to speed up your progress.

The Alpha's Guide to Emotional Intelligence

The Alpha's Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence 

Emotion what? What does that even mean? Well, that’s the problem. We are not well supported or encouraged to make space for our emotions. With my military background, I can tell you that this is not a word we use very often. It is paradoxical because emotions are omnipresent in our life. But we are often taught to suppress, ignore, and even avoid them (and not only in the military).

“Suck it up and deal with it.”

“Boys don’t cry.”

“Be tough, don’t be a wimp.”

“Don’t show weakness.”

“Put on a brave face.”

“Don’t let them see you sweat.”

“Be strong and don’t let them get to you.”

“Real men don’t show emotions.”

And I am sure that while reading this, you must have thought for at least one of them: “No, but this one is true!” (I did while writing them…). We have a lot of programming when it comes to our emotions, and as a result, we miss valuable information about ourselves and get blind to other people’s emotions.

I remember my wife telling me after dinner with friends, “oh poor thing, she was really sad about this,” or “he was triggered when you said that!” and I would be like: What are you talking about? My wife is hypersensitive and can pick up the tiniest things, I, on the other hand, am (was) more stone-wired.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. And if you think you don’t have any, you have much work to do because they are there, and if you don’t let them out, you keep them buried deep inside! 

The good news is that you can train your emotional intelligence!

What are some common misconceptions about emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is just about being nice: It is more than putting a smile on your face! Actually, it has not much to do with smiling. Emotional intelligence is about understanding and regulating your own emotions and recognizing the emotions of others. It is not about being nice to everyone or avoiding negativity; it is about knowing how to navigate relationships.

Emotional intelligence can’t be learned: That’s way too easy to say” “not my fault; I was not born with the software upgrade.” Some people have higher EI than others, but it can be developed and improved with some effort. So, no excuses!

Emotional intelligence is only relevant in personal relationships: No, it is essential in every relationship, starting with the one with yourself!

Emotions don’t belong in business: Really? Multiple people are involved in a business (even if you are a solopreneur, you still have to deal with your clients). Being people smart is not a “nice to have “ but a “must have” skill. EI is even more important for leaders to lead efficiently.

Now that we’ve demystified those things let’s dive into why EI matter.

Why do you need emotional intelligence?

When you have a high EI, you are able to recognize your feelings and those of others and use that knowledge to guide your behavior and interactions with others. Seems pretty useful, isn’t it?

Imagine if you could avoid impulsive decisions (you know, those things you regret later) or be able to say the right things to people, so they feel heard and seen? No doubt that the people in your life would be extremely grateful.

Studies have demonstrated that individuals with high emotional intelligence are better communicators, increase their performance, make better decisions, and have more positive relationships. In short, they live with more satisfaction and success in many areas of life.

As someone who works exclusively with high performers who are determined to reach their full potential, I know that emotions can be tricky. Do we trust them? Do they control us? Is that weak to show emotions? For most, it feels a bit vulnerable to talk about those things we feel but don’t have much control over. Don’t worry; I got you. Let’s discover how we can all do more of what works and less of what doesn’t!

Why do we have emotions?

I like to understand things. And yes, I was the pain in the *** kid asking “why” all the time.

As humans, we have evolved multiple ways to analyze the vast amounts of information we receive from our senses to adapt and survive in our environment. We use conscious and unconscious processing to adjust our behavior and respond to life’s events (stay alive!).

However, there is simply too much information to process everything consciously. That’s why our unconscious mind creates emotions based on the sensory data it receives to communicate with the rest of our mind about what it notices. These emotions help us quickly and effectively respond to situations without consciously thinking through every detail.

Damn, how incredible we are!

In short, emotions are automatic responses evoked by our external or internal environment to help us quickly respond to events. They create physiological changes, such as increased heart rate, sweating, etc.

Here is the problem: emotions can be influenced by various factors, such as past experiences, current circumstances, and personal biases, which can cloud our judgment.

The first time I felt a small earthquake, I smiled; I thought it was fun and impressive. After nearly dying in a deadly 7,5 magnitude earthquake that killed 4000 people in Indonesia, I can assure you that even the vibration of a truck passing by makes my whole body tense! Same event, completely different reaction. 

Emotions give you valuable information about something that is going on; they are always true, but unfortunately, they are not always right. You need to learn to trust your emotions and, at the same time, stay critical.

Emotions vs. feelings

Feelings, on the other hand, are our conscious interpretation of those emotions (closer to a cognitive process than emotions). Because they are the result of the mind processing information, they are also influenced by personal beliefs, thoughts, and memories. Yes, it’s complex!

Let’s say you receive an unexpected promotion at work. You may feel a surge of happiness and excitement (the emotion), but upon reflection, you might also feel anxious about the added responsibilities and pressure (the feeling). 

Feeling and emotions are often intertwined; they both provide valuable information for making decisions and maintaining mental health. It is important to remember that your job is to identify, name, and process them in an emotional and rational way.

The Alpha's Guide to Emotional Intelligence

How to train emotional intelligence?

There are two main components of emotional intelligence; self-awareness and social awareness. With simple techniques practiced over time, you can increase your EI.

Knowing Yourself

Isn’t it funny that we spend most of our life trying to understand ourselves? Well, we weren’t born with the manual, and we are more complex than an IKEA wardrobe.

Self-awareness is knowing yourself inside and out (get familiar with the voices in your head!). It means being in tune with your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values. When you understand how your emotions and feelings influence your actions and interactions with others, you can remain in control and engage in manual override (instead of unconscious reaction)! 


Three practices to increase self-awareness

1. Journaling

There are different ways to improve your self-awareness; what really helps me is to spend time reflecting and journaling. I aim to journal every morning (not going to lie, sometimes I don’t) and have weekly reflection time about my life and business. Here are a few prompts you can use to start:

– Reflect on a recent conflict you had with someone. What emotions did you experience during the conflict, and what triggered those emotions? How could you have responded differently to the situation to achieve a more positive outcome? If the conflict is not resolved yet, what would be a desired outcome, and how do you need to behave to achieve that?

– Think about a challenging situation that caused you to experience intense emotions. What did you learn from that experience? How can you apply those learning to a current challenge?

– Identify a person who consistently triggers negative emotions in you. What about that person’s behavior or personality bothers you, and how could you reframe your thoughts or reactions to create a more positive dynamic in the relationship?

2. Meditation

Another practice that has had a profound impact on me is meditation. It is a powerful tool to increase self-awareness by promoting present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings. 

When I first heard of meditation, I decided to join a very strict Vipassana Retreat in a beautiful temple in Java (Indonesia). I like challenges, but the daily 12-hour meditation, vow of silence, no eye contact, and fasting were too much for a newbie (at least for me, it was!)! I lost my mind and left after four days. Still, it was a fantastic experience.

To be honest, I have a love-and-hate relationship with meditation. Sometimes I am called to meditate multiple times a day; sometimes, I do it for the check mark on my to-do list. I was frustrated when I first started meditating as I expected to reach a state of no-thoughts and pure quietness, but unfortunately, my mind was never really cooperative. 

With more research about the practice, I realized that the goal is not the absence of thoughts but the letting go of the passing thoughts, and things started shifting! There are tons of apps and videos to guide you. It may feel uncomfortable initially, but the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Best tip: start small (just a few minutes) and build it up.

When you know yourself, you can put in place systems to manage yourself, like self-care practices, setting boundaries with others, and reframing negative thoughts to be more positive and constructive. Instead of being reactive, you are proactive, and eventually, you get better at life.

3. Self-nurturing

After identifying and understanding your emotions, you can engage in nourishing and restorative activities. For example, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness, doing more things that bring you joy, being kind to yourself, and showing compassion. If you feel stressed, what can you do to relax? If you feel lonely, what can you do to connect with others?

Understanding Others

Social awareness is a powerful skill you want (need!) to have in your toolbox! As I explained in my article about the six key elements to building and maintaining healthy relationships, we can not avoid human contact. So we better learn how to deal with one another.

Easier said than done! We are naturally self-absorbed and distort everything based on our own perspective. When you combine that with a fast-paced society, everything out there competing to have your attention and dealing with your own past problems and future stress; it leaves little head space for others.

But they deserve your full attention; after all, that is what you expect from them! To understand and recognize the emotions and needs of others, you must pay attention to social cues and nonverbal communication, as well as empathize with others and see situations from their perspective. This is only possible when we are fully present and more empathic.


Three strategies to increase social-awareness

1. Be more present: 

– Focus on your breath: that’s, to me, the easiest way to leave your head and ground in

your body.

– Reflective listening: listen to understand and bring the best out of people.

– Limit distractions: take back control over your damn phone.

2. Leave your ego aside

It is not always about you! Accept that you have biases and limitations, and your truth is true for yourself but not especially for others. Suspend yourself from judgment, and focus on the other person’s needs, thoughts, and feelings. Doing this creates a safe and respectful space for others to express themselves.

3. Develop empathy:

We all have different levels of empathy. And, if, just like me, you are not on the high side of the spectrum, you can still do some things to be more empathetic. It’s simple, but it requires intentionality:

– Active listening

– Try to understand others’ perspectives and feelings

– Reflective listening

– Pay attention to nonverbal cues

– Support (don’t give advice or assume what they need but ask how you can support them)

The Alpha's Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Leading with more emotional intelligence

Let me first tell you what leading with emotional intelligence is not: utilizing emotional knowledge to strategically achieve a self-serving goal. This is manipulation.

Emotional intelligence in leadership is to better understand and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, so you can be an effective communicators, build positive relationships with your team members, and inspire and motivate others.

Leadership is the ultimate selfless position. Because when you are a leader, it is not about you anymore; it is about the people your serve. So you better have your sh*t together because, on top of dealing with yourself and showing up as your best by choosing to be a true man of character, you are responsible for supporting others.

In that sense, emotional intelligence is an absolute requirement for good leadership. You must develop a higher self-awareness to ensure not to let your past experiences, traumas, and wounds negatively influence how you lead. You can then regulate your emotions in a way that is appropriate for the situation and avoid impulsive or inappropriate behavior.

I want to emphasize once again the importance of self-awareness because we all experience traumas and suffering in our life (that’s part of the human experience), and that’s ok. What is not ok is putting our frustrations, resentment, and anger onto others. As a leader, it is abusing your power.

If you are not a psychopath, this process is unconscious. So you must keep yourself in check and be willing, honest with yourself, open to feedback, and committed to personal growth. Your job as a leader is to create a structure that will keep you aligned with your values. It will require to be committed to reaching excellence and building self-discipline.

Blind spots that can prevent leaders from being self-aware

The biggest problem is that seeking to understand your emotions is not always comfortable. Therapy and coaching should be mandatory for every leader so they are well supported. Not looking at your issues doesn’t mean they go away. It is challenging for leaders to find time to reflect on their actions and decisions in their busy schedules. And that is the issue; it is not about finding time for self-reflection but about creating it and making it non-negotiable.

The second problem is the “yes-culture” surrounding leaders. People lower in the hierarchy don’t want to compromise their careers. There is a lack of feedback, or feedback asked too late when things are got out of control.

Receiving a leadership position might also result in becoming overconfident and entitled. When people receive power, they might think that they are always right and that their decisions are the best for the organization, which can lead to a lack of openness to feedback and self-reflection.

Lastly, cultural differences and communication barriers make understanding other people’s emotions even more challenging. 

When you are aware of those blind spots, you can commit to learning to navigate these challenges and keep developing yourself to become an extraordinary leader.

In short

As we’ve seen, emotional intelligence is a crucial skill that can benefit anyone, from entrepreneurs to CEOs to anyone looking to improve their personal relationships. As uncomfortable as it can be, understanding your emotions and those of others can lead to better communication, better decision-making, and more satisfying relationships. It is not weak to learn to understand your feelings and emotions; it is to be human.

It’s important to remember that emotions are automatic responses that provide valuable information, but past experiences and personal biases can influence them. You must learn to listen to the message they convey and stay critical. It takes time (here is how to remain patient), but by following simple strategies and practices, you can increase your self-awareness and social awareness, improve your emotional intelligence and ultimately lead happier, more successful lives. 

Emotions are a natural and valuable part of the human experience. So, how can you start embracing and leveraging emotional intelligence to help you achieve greater success and fulfillment in your personal and professional life?

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Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

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