I’ve been advocating for the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) among UX professionals for several years now. I’ve delivered a talk on the same multiple times over the past few years and am currently presenting the topic on my podcast. The most frequently asked question that arises involves how to learn more about and improving one’s EQ.
In response, I’ve decided to publish my EQ book recommendation list. I’ll expand as I discover more over time, but here’s my current list of favorite books on the subject:
- The EQ Difference (Adele Lynn)
Adele Lynn’s book has been one of my favorites on EQ, as she was the first author I encountered with what some might consider to be an expanded model. For this reason, I highlighted her during my recent podcast on this topic. Most authors presented four segments of EQ, while Lynn spoke of five, all focused on how we specifically engage at work: 1) Self-awareness and self control; 2) Empathy; 3) Social expertness; 4) Personal influence and 5) Mastery of purpose and vision. Understanding and embracing these factors can help an individual ascend to heightened operation in EQ.
- Everyday Emotional Intelligence: Big Ideas and Practical Advice on How to Be Human at Work (Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee & Shawn Achor)
This book is a combination of Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence and the HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence. The collection in the first part of the book includes 10 intriguing segments that look at EQ from different vantage points — from leadership to the impact of EQ deficits and incivility in the workplace — while the second portion of the book provides a well-presented overview of emotional intelligence. It’s a fine read that’s presented in wonderfully digestible chunks.
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves)
Bradberry is probably the most prominent expert on EQ in the world today. He’s certainly the most visible. One of the things I love about the mindset Bradberry and Greaves speak of involves the importance of taking the time to think things through, digesting options, and making sound decisions versus being rash and allowing one’s emotions to dictate behavior. After all, that’s what EQ is all about. The book also includes tips on how to identify various aspects of emotional intelligence and several strategies on how to excel in each area. It’s a great read and very insightful.
- Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader: A Guide to Cultivating Effective Leadership and Organizations (Christopher Connors)
The overview for this books says it all. “Success requires more than hard work and good ideas: you need to be able to understand, inspire, and motivate those around you.” Connors’ book helps us understand the impact EQ has when it comes to operating optimally in our workplaces, especially for leaders.
- Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: How to Use EQ to Build Strong Relationships and Thrive in Your Career (Mark Craemer)
Craemer’s book addresses the importance of EQ in the workplace, especially as it pertains to driving strong relationships and optimizing them for mutual success. My favorite segment is the final chapter, which reminds readers of the importance of going beyond intellectual exposure and letting us know what we need to do in order to ensure our exposure to the content is lasting. Smart!
- Emotional Intelligence: 100+ Skills, Tips, Tricks & Techniques to Improve Interpersonal Connection, Control Your Emotions, Build Self Confidence & Find Long Lasting Success! (Kevin Moore)
This is a great book, but I highlight the content that focuses specifically on how to help people improve their EQ — 100 skills, tips, tricks, and techniques. This book also provides info about several EQ references, tests, and associated applications to help in your journey. For those seeking expert ways to achieve greater levels of EQ, this book is for you.
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Dale Goleman)
This book is one of my favorites due to what I’ll refer to as “EQ-oriented voice and tone.” In other words, Goleman writes in a way that realists (i.e., EQ-favoring) people can and will digest. One of my favorite parts of this book is the chapter covering obstacles to becoming emotionally intelligent. This is wonderful, as one cannot be successful without the wherewithal to overcome what stands in our way.
- Multipliers (Liz Wiseman)
This one is not recognized by many as an EQ book, but a close look reveals that it identifies different types of leaders and the qualities needed to excel and leadership and motivate those who reports to said leaders to be their absolute best. I’d say that qualifies this as an EQ book. ;-) Definitely one of my personal favs.
- The Emotional Intelligence Workbook (Jill Dann & Derek Dann)
This book leans on the andragogical approach (i.e., adult learning principles), by tapping into self-motivation (another aspect of emotional intelligence. The book contains several techniques and exercises to help readers expand EQ prowess. It addresses methods on such things as self-awareness, self-control, awareness of others (as EQ doesn’t just address self-awareness), resilience, ethical influence, conflict resolution, and organizational awareness. Truly valuable!
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni)
This one is one of my long-time absolute favorites. Like Multipliers, this book might not be considered by many to be related to the topic of emotional intelligence. This extremely introspective book addresses factors that keep teams (and people) from being their absolute best: Absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Any time these factors are present, teams are dysfunctional. The book also provides tips on how to overcome these issues. It’s an absolutely marvelous and wonderful read and very insightful!!!
- The Language of Emotional Intelligence (Jeanne Segal)
One of the biggest takeaways from this book is the focus on what the author refers to as “emotionally intelligent communication.” Segal also ways to help use this factor to achieve long-lasting, genuine relationships. Another wonderful and different takeaway from this book is the advice on how to use humor to navigate difficult circumstances. This book is very insightful and practical.
- The Other Kind of Smart: Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success (Harvey Deutschendorf)
Deutschendorf covers many of the same factors as the other authors, but the chapter on Reality Testing can be life altering, especially in an age where many find misinformation and escapism to be desirable. He says “How well we function in this world has a great deal to do with how accurately we view it.” How right he is. The reality of the world is not always pretty, fun, or delightful, but having accurate depictions and perspectives is extremely empowering and liberating, especially considering the possibility of being “bound” by misguided ideals and personal truths. This book presents EQ on a different and liberating level.
- Working With Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)
Daniel Goleman is another of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of emotional intelligence. His work contains several mind-blowing perspectives. The one that stands out the most for the purpose of this list is found in the Appendix section of the book—Calculating the Competencies of Stars. In this segment, Goleman talks about the two different types of workers. The first seeks to get by with minimal skills, while the other operates in a manner that sets them apart from other workers–the stars, if you will. Basically, the difference between the two workers is the level of EQ they possess. Who knew?
- Primal Leadership, With a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence) (Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee)
This one’s a late addition to the list. Daniel Goleman teams up with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee to deliver another wonderful book on how to excel when it comes to EQ. One of the highlights of this book is its coverage of EQ as it relates to humor and how the presence of humor can also be used to evaluate and identify those best suited for leadership roles. I always believed this, but never saw anyone address it in such a manner. Enlightening indeed.
Any of these books would serve as a treasure chest in one’s quest for optimal EQ. You can pick one or two or you can be like me and buy them all. And I’ll exercise EQ by being patient as I digest the critical content contained in each over time
Best wishes in your quest!
Interested in an EQ Eval?
If you’re interested, you can also take a quick quiz via the folks at MindTools that provides high-level insights of your current EQ level. You can find more in-depth analysis tools, but if you’re just starting to dive into the topic and get a quick glimpse, this quiz will help lay a sound foundation for your EQ journey.
Doing UX is about quite a bit more than the work alone. We must cultivate and manage relationships. We must manage the frustrations that go along with managing UX maturity levels. We must remain constructive and practical when dealing with difficult clients or stakeholders. The challenges associated with operating as a UX professional are practically innumerable (and those who fail to inform you about such are doing you a gross disservice.
In order to thrive in the midst of these elements, one must deliberately focus on and mature when it comes to EQ. These resources will help.
For those interested, here’s the first episode of a 13-part series from The World of UX podcast entitled “Emotional Intelligence and UX.” Happy trails!
Darren Hood is a 26+ year UX practitioner with a broad professional footprint that spans several types of business. He serves as an adjunct professor at Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), Lawrence Tech University (Southfield, Michigan), and Harrisburg University (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). He is also one of the authors featured in “97 Things Every UX Practitioner Should Know.”