Business is, and always will be, about people. Even though other skills are important, there's probably no better investment you can make for yourself and your business than to boost your emotional intelligence. This refers not only to how you can interpret and respond to the feelings and thoughts of others but also how well you know yourself and respond to your own feelings and thoughts. It's one of the best things you can do to move forward as a truly fearless leader.

Responding well to others starts with knowing yourself.

Emotional intelligence involves empathy, by definition. It's about looking at the cues you're getting and putting them into a context, based on your own experiences. So, if you want good emotional intelligence, start by looking at yourself. Do everything you can to become as self-aware as possible and understand what triggers specific emotions or reactions for you.

Here's one simple exercise you can try to get started with understanding your emotions. Consider these nine emotions:  anger, sadness, energy, lack of energy, satisfaction, happiness, un-fulfillment, anxiety, and excitement. Of course, there are many more emotions than this, and much of life is arguably spent in gray areas where we feel a mix of different things. But for this exercise, just pick five emotions from the list above. Write them down. Then, for each one you've picked, list a few things that trigger those feelings. Getting praise from a co-worker might make you feel happy or proud, for example. Don't worry about it if the same situation makes you feel wildly different than someone else. Everyone is unique, and you're trying to understand yourself.

Other popular techniques can help you become self-aware, too. For instance, meditation and journaling are great choices that can help you see patterns or notice more of the world around you. The main thing is to be willing to be an investigator. What do you see and hear? Are there emotions or thoughts you have that won't go away? Carve out some time each day to get answers, and accept that learning about yourself is a constant, ongoing process.

After recognition comes management.

Emotional intelligence is a two-part affair. You have to recognize what you personally think and feel, but you then have to decide what action to take. That's self-management. If you do it right, self-management helps you direct how you feel in the immediate future, improves how you interact with others, and leads to great performance results.

Good self-management usually focuses on minimizing "negative" emotions like anger and maximizing "positive" emotions like joy. Think back on some recent instances in your life. If someone made you upset, how did you handle it? Did it totally wreck your day, or were you able to shake it off and keep moving toward your goals? If someone pumped you up, what can you do to create more potential for that kind of situation to happen again?

You can't guarantee that every day will be perfect at the office. But personally, I've found that two mantras really keep me grounded and get my attitude in the right place:

  1. "Small things amuse small minds. So just let it go. Be the bigger person."
  2. "The only way they can win is if I let them. So I'm going to choose to win the day."

Applying it all to others.

There's still a third aspect to emotional intelligence -- understanding what triggers others, how they think and feel, and how that all influences how everyone interacts. Watch carefully for people's cues, such as body language or tone of voice. Then, use your management skills to intentionally decide how to speak or behave so that you trigger the reaction you want in them. Fearless leaders learn to do this in a wide variety of settings, even under stress. And if you channel your own emotions properly, then you can have a powerfully positive influence on your friends, family members, colleagues, and the entire community.

When others need help, you can be a solid rock.

Business can be amazingly rewarding, but it can be incredibly complex, too. When anxiety or doubt starts to creep in, applying emotional intelligence to yourself and others is like finding a life preserver in rough water. Practice your EQ skills as much as you can so others can cling to you, and together, you'll always come into a safe harbor.