Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become a buzzword in recent years, but what exactly is it and why does it matter? Emotional intelligence refers to our ability to understand, express and manage our own emotions, as well as perceive and respond to the emotions of others. Developing emotional intelligence allows us to communicate more effectively, succeed at work and school, and build stronger relationships.
In this blog post, I will discuss 8 bestselling books that provide frameworks, insights and strategies to improve your emotional intelligence. Whether you want to boost your EQ to become a better leader or simply be more attuned to your own feelings, these books offer research-backed advice that can help you on your journey.
Why Emotional Intelligence Matters
Before diving into the books, it’s worth underscoring why emotional intelligence is such a critical skillset. While cognitive intelligence (IQ) certainly plays a role in success, researchers have found that EQ is an even stronger predictor of achievement in the workplace, relationships and health.
Emotionally intelligent individuals are able to manage stress, resolve conflicts, motivate themselves and read social cues. This gives them an edge in their careers, personal lives and inner well-being.
The good news is EQ can be developed through learning and practice. As you read through the highlights of these transformative books below, keep an open mind about strengthening your own emotional intelligence.
#1 Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
The classic book that popularized the term “EQ”, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ lays the groundwork for understanding this crucial set of human skills. As a psychologist and former New York Times science journalist, Goleman brought EQ into the mainstream conversation in 1995.
He argues that raw cognitive intelligence offers little preparation for the interpersonal and emotional demands we face in life. Instead, abilities like self-awareness, managing emotions, empathy and social adeptness are greater predictors of success.
Goleman provides a framework of emotional competencies that comprise emotional intelligence. This includes being attuned to our own feelings and able to control our responses or impulses. It also covers understanding others’ perspectives, building rapport and resolving conflicts through flexibility.
Importantly, the book emphasizes that EQ skills can be enhanced at any time through strategic practice. Goleman offers concrete techniques and exercises individuals and organizations can use to boost abilities like impulse control, distress tolerance, listening and teamwork.
#2 Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
In this follow-up to Goleman’s work, TalentSmart cofounders Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves provide practical tools to increase emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 strategically builds on EQ’s four core skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skill.
Using data from over 500,000 people, the authors uncover patterns around EQ and gender, age, ethnicity, geography and job level. For instance, women tend to score higher in empathy while men excel more with stress tolerance. The stats help readers understand where they stand compared to others.
At the heart of the book are 36 proven strategies to develop the branches of EQ. For each one, the authors provide a concise explanation of the skill, its importance, case studies and exercises to grow it. Whether you need help with impulse control, listening or conflict management, these actionable tips make it easier to become more emotionally intelligent.
#3 Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Research professor and bestselling author Brené Brown offers a unique take on emotional intelligence through the lens of courage and vulnerability. In Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, she makes the case that the ability to be vulnerable and daring is at the core of great leadership.
True belonging and connection happen when we are emotionally exposed rather than perfect. By embracing imperfection, we build trust, empathy and understanding with those around us. Brené guides readers to accept vulnerability not as a weakness but as the birthplace of game-changing ideas, creativity and innovation.
While many leadership books focus on strategies, Brown emphasizes mindsets and values. She illuminates four core skillsets: courage, vulnerability, empathy and connection – the foundation of daring leadership. With personal anecdotes, case studies and clear examples, Brown teaches readers how to lead with full authenticity and grow EQ in the process.
#4 The EQ Difference by Adele B. Lynn
For those interested in optimizing their EQ skills at work, The EQ Difference offers targeted advice for boosting emotional intelligence in your career.
Written by organizational development expert Adele B. Lynn, the book clearly explains the role of emotions in the workplace and how to harness EQ to excel. It will help you improve decision-making, productivity and teamwork by managing your own and others’ emotions.
Lynn devotes individual chapters to different components of EQ. For instance, she covers the value of optimism, motivation techniques, resolving conflicts and boosting empathy. She balances explanation of these skills with assessments, case studies and group exercises.
Whether you lead projects or work in a supporting role, applying these tools can profoundly impact job performance, collaboration, and even company culture. Lynn demonstrates how even small shifts in thinking emotionally can bring tremendous benefits.
#5 Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
For those specifically seeking to optimize their leadership abilities through emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman followed up his groundbreaking EQ book with Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. This guide shares research and protocols on bringing EQ into organizations to drive results.
Goleman explains that resonant leaders – who attune to others’ needs and emotions – are more effective than dissonant leaders who lack these skills. He shares examples of leaders who failed vs. succeeded based on their EQ competence.
The book delves into applying emotional intelligence when setting strategy, leading change, building trust or making cogent decisions. This allows organizations to capitalize on the talents and motivations of their workforce.
Goleman also offers a 5-step systematic approach for cultivating peak-performing teams, based on factors like mutual trust, group identity and collective efficacy. Any manager or executive can employ these protocols to create an emotionally intelligent culture.
#6 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey’s iconic self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, while not strictly focused on emotional intelligence, contains many insights around EQ skills.
Much of the book focuses on taking personal responsibility, setting goals based on values and prioritizing relationships – abilities undergirded by high EQ. Covey stresses the choice we have in how we perceive and react to the world around us.
Some particularly applicable EQ-boosting takeaways include: seeking first to understand, thinking win-win rather than zero-sum, synergizing opposing views and taking time for physical/mental renewal.
While the first three habits focus on self-mastery, the final four revolve around empathy, compassion and building bonds of trust – all hallmarks of emotional intelligence. Two decades after publication, the principles continue to resonate for a reason.
#7 The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren
Those struggling to understand their own emotions and inner signals can find clarity in Karla McLaren’s The Language of Emotions. This guide explains the evolutionary role of our emotions and how to harness them for growth.
McLaren encourages developing emotional literacy by tuning into emotion messages. For instance, sadness may signal loss, fear points to a perceived danger and anger represents a boundary violation. While we label emotions as “negative”, each feeling provides wisdom to heal.
She presents a constructive approach to embracing all emotions and channeling them effectively. This prevents suppressing feelings that later manifest unproductively. McLaren also offers communication techniques to convey emotions and resolve conflict through empathy.
For anyone overwhelmed by their feelings, this book provides a roadmap to mastering your emotional language. By seeing emotions as messengers rather than enemies, you can drastically improve your EQ.
#8 The Emotionally Intelligent Manager by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey
Rounding out our list is David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey’s The Emotionally Intelligent Manager, written with EQ experts and professors. This work translates emotional intelligence into key skills that will allow any manager to bring out the best in their team.
The authors outline four critical emotional competencies for managers: coaching, vision, influence and teamwork. They provide models, assessments and activities to build authentic connections, inspire others and promote wellbeing.
For instance, you’ll learn ways to be more directive or empathic when giving feedback depending on the circumstance. Other tips help resolve conflict, celebrate group accomplishments and recognize individual efforts.
This is an indispensable handbook for cultivating your own EQ as a leader while creating an emotionally intelligent workplace culture. The authors make a compelling case that emotions utilized constructively have the power to unite and motivate.
The Path to Emotional Intelligence Starts Here
Developing your emotional intelligence requires commitment and practice – but the payoff can be life-changing. I hope this overview of the 8 best books on EQ has illuminated key skills, insights and growth opportunities in your journey.
The most critical first step is self-awareness – tuning into your own emotions and how they impact your thoughts and actions. It’s impossible to manage emotions effectively without that foundation.
From there, implementing even small changes to build your self-control, empathy, connection, communication and other skills can improve how you interact at work, school, home and beyond.
When you understand yourself better, it allows you to understand others and meet their needs. Emotional intelligence creates the bonds of trust and understanding that make life meaningful.
I encourage you to pick up one of these excellent books that speaks to you – and get started raising your EQ today. Your relationships, leadership and wellbeing will thank you.