7 books to improve your EQ and communications skills

Want to bolster your technical skills with some lessons on emotional intelligence? Check out these top resources
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The challenges of the past few years have prompted many leaders to take a fresh look at their emotional intelligence (EQ) skills. It’s an area that’s worth focusing on, especially for those who want to advance their career by offering qualities that go beyond technical skills.

Here are my top picks for readers looking to improve their EQ. While some of these were published years ago, they still hold relevance today.

1. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

by Daniel Goleman

The book that is credited for bringing the concepts of emotional intelligence to the masses is still a great first read for anyone interested in this area. Goleman does a great job of providing some interesting examples of how EQ can be applied in a variety of settings. It’s not a reference book, exactly, but it provides some great jumping-off points for further exploration.

2. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success

by Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book

Every attendee of my EQ-I & EQ360 Certification Workshops receives a copy of this book, and for good reason: It’s mapped directly to the EQ-I 2.0 model of emotional intelligence, making it the perfect companion for anyone using or taking the EQ-i or EQ360. It’s a great reference resource for coaches, consultants, and leaders alike.

[ Read also: 5 TED Talks to increase your emotional intelligence. ]

3. Go Suck a Lemon: Strategies for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

by Michael Cornwall

Cornwall’s distinctive writing style may not appeal to all readers, but I appreciate his somewhat no-holds-barred approach. The book contains a large number of strategies, each of which explores an element of emotional functioning. Examples of therapist/client conversations are included as a way to drill into topics, providing some reality around the examples and grounding the strategies.

4. The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights

by Daniel Goleman

I initially hesitated to include two books by the same author in this list, but this electronic-only publication by Goleman brings his clear, succinct writing style to bear on the more neurological aspects of emotional intelligence. It’s a quick read at a correspondingly low cost, and while the New Insights tag may no longer be applicable (it was published in 2011), this resource offers some interesting information and cited research that provides helpful background for readers.

5. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence 

by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis

Few books delve so specifically into the subject of emotional intelligence and leadership. The discussion of mood contagion and its importance in effective leadership is worth the cover price.

6. The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence

by Drew Bird

This book is a distillation of the concepts and approaches that I have been using with more than 1,000 leaders in sessions, courses, workshops, and seminars. As well as breaking down emotional intelligence as a concept, it describes the behaviors and characteristics of an emotionally effective leader. The book includes both a process and practical suggestions for developing EQ, along with an associated web page with tools, resources, and worksheets.

7. HBR’s 10 Must-Reads on Emotional Intelligence

If you plan to read just one book on EQ this year, check out this one. You won’t find a more concise discussion of such a broad range of EQ topics anywhere.

There are so many new e-books coming out these days that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. If you have a favorite, let me know so I can add it to my 2022 reading list.

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Drew Bird, MSc, MA, and author of "The Leader’s Guide To Emotional Intelligence," is a coach, trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is founder of The EQ Development Group. Over 20 years in the IT industry has helped Drew understand first-hand the opportunities and challenges senior leaders face in this complex field.