Mental Skills for Building Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence.

Great athletes are smart in more than one way. They have game sense and physical intelligence, sure, but they also have the maturity and self-control to recognize and handle their emotions no matter how unfair the call was, how uneven the score is, or how grueling the practice is getting.

That ability is Emotional Intelligence, and the good news is that it can be learned. With the right techniques and targeted advice and support, athletes can start strengthening their EI and using it to improve coordination between teammates, take feedback on board, and stay focused and grounded during competition. The results are a direct improvement in scores and race times, across the board.

Our Deep Dive on emotional intelligence for athletes covers all of those topics and includes a detailed list of strategies for improving your own EI.


Top Mental Barriers: Emotional Intelligence 


Emotional intelligence, or EI, is the ability to recognize and regulate emotions, both our own and those of the people around us. When you notice that a teammate is stressed and quietly offer encouragement, that’s emotional intelligence in action. When you notice that you’re criticizing yourself and shift focus to what you’ve done right, that’s EI at work too.

There are dozens of components included in EI. It’s really more like a bundle of different skills, habits, capacities, and traits than a single mental skill. What brings them all together is that they rely on being able to label emotions and then take action to change them. Two indicators of high EI are the ability to manage stress and the ability to stay optimistic even in difficult circumstances. For athletes, the four main areas of EI to think about are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Why it Matters for Athletic Performance

Every aspect of EI contributes to athletic excellence. It’s essential too building positive team environments, making athletes want to show up for practices and competitions, creating motivation, and staying focused. Professional teams with higher EI have much stronger records than their opponents, sometimes by 50% or more, and high-EI coaches have a much easier time leading their teams to victory.

We get into those links in detail, and explain the science behind them, in our science-based Deep Dive into Emotional Intelligence.

How to Improve

We’ve developed a handy list of a dozen or so skills for improving EI in our Emotional Intelligence Deep Dive, along with strategies for strengthening them and the best chances to practice.

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