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The Seven Selves: Your Roadmap to Improving Emotional Intelligence What are the "seven selves," and how can they impact your leadership?

By Stu Sjouwerman Edited by Joseph Shults

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

High performers typically have good emotional intelligence (EQ) — research proves that. And, as you move higher and higher in an organization, the level of your EQ has an increasingly positive general influence. So, if you want to do well, climb the ladder and support your organization as a true team player, building your EQ isn't an option. It's a necessity.

To discover the current level of your EQ and what you can do to improve it, understanding your "seven selves" is key.

The seven selves 101

The seven selves everyone has and can strengthen for better emotional intelligence include:

  • Self-image: what you think of your own personality, abilities, and how you appear to others.

  • Self- and social awareness: Self-awareness, which is internally focused, is consciousness in the present moment about everything that makes you you, such as your normal behaviors or goals. Social awareness, which is externally focused, is how well you pick up on and understand social dynamics and the feelings of others.

  • Self-reflection: the ability to look back and think about your nature, motivations, and what you've done.

  • Self-discipline: the ability to keep ego/emotions from taking over and create/stick to a game plan.

  • Self-management: taking responsibility for and directing your own behavior.

  • Self-disclosure: revealing things about yourself (e.g., thoughts, successes, likes, mistakes) to others.

  • Self-development: gaining knowledge or skills to improve yourself.

Each self comes with its own hurdles. For instance, with self-image, one major problem is accuracy. Most people have a self-image that doesn't match how others see them, which can create problems such as not being confident reaching out to teammates or, conversely, being so egotistical no one can coach you.

Related: How to Deploy Emotional Intelligence for Work Success

Everyone is also really individual about which of the selves they're solid on and which ones are shaky. So you can't necessarily "fix" one of the selves the way you do another. The way you approach improvement has to be tailored to you rather than copying what somebody else around you has done.

All of the seven selves, however, are interconnected. For example, if you have good social awareness, then it can be easier to get feedback that gives you a more accurate self-image. And good self-discipline might help you create consistent time and strategies to reflect and learn about yourself. So, as you work toward great EQ, you'll likely grow in all areas, even if you're only focused on one or two that you see as needing some work.

Related: 5 Strategies You Can Use to Build an Emotionally Intelligent Team

How to start strengthening your selves for better EQ

If you're not sure where to start with fostering the seven selves, here are some great examples of actions you can take right now:

  • Ask for more input from others, especially people such as coaches who can guide you in self-evaluation or help you identify problematic spots in your life or work.

  • Observe how others treat you, what's happening in your space and how you feel. Don't judge the information you get — just collect it.

  • Ask yourself, "Where am I at?" (What can I do with the resources I have?) and put everything you observe into logical frameworks.

  • Practice active listening.

  • Do your own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis. Looking at these four areas will help you acknowledge what to improve while making a realistic plan to grow. As part of the analysis, be mindful of "life debt." These are things on your to-do list that you never completed. You'll pay interest on them in the form of stuck attention. Because no one really gets a do-over, instead of lamenting over or trying to "correct" these debts, make a list, prioritize AND GET THEM DONE.

  • Create a clear battle plan for your day that identifies and breaks down the short-range goals within your larger strategy.

  • When you feel your emotions running too hot, take a walk or do another calming activity you enjoy.

  • Admit mistakes as soon as you make them and share points about yourself with honesty.

  • Find an activity that lets you do some mental "push-ups." These can be work-related, but because information and skills can cross over from one area to another, just make sure you're learning and have fun! A good goal is five hours of these activities per week.

Related: 6 Strategies for Being a Better, Active Listener

Once you start, just keep on going

All of the enhancements you make to your seven selves and your EQ will ultimately have a positive influence on how well you communicate with others. That's your golden ticket — because, with good communication, you can create the positive relationships upon which every successful career and organization are built. But developing yourself and your EQ is a continuous, lifelong process. Don't stop. Commit for the long haul, be humble, stay curious, and have fun while you do it!

Stu Sjouwerman

Founder and CEO, KnowBe4

Stu Sjouwerman (pronounced “shower-man”) is the founder and CEO of KnowBe4, Inc., which offers a platform for security awareness training and simulated phishing.

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