By Russ Brown, NRP

This is the conclusion of our four-part series detailing the components of emotional intelligence (EQ). In this post we will be discussing the relationship component of EQ and give you some tools to assess your own EQ.

Relationships are a vital part of what we do as medical providers. Being able to communicate effectively and efficiently with our co-workers and our patients is paramount to ensuring our patients are receiving optimal care. Much of this communication consists of not just verbal communication but also nonverbal communication.

How many times have you experienced a miscommunication before a word was even spoken! Often the message that we want conveyed is misinterpreted due to how our non-verbal body language is perceived. These slight misperceptions can arise from many factors, including those that affect our physiology. Have your ever been “hangry” on shift?? Not get enough sleep the night before? Stress and fatigue when coupled with the fast-paced environment of emergency medicine can tighten the muscles around the nose, mouth, and forehead and thus convey emotions that are misinterpreted by others.

The first step to mitigating these misinterpreted messages is to be acutely aware of what triggers stress. Stress can be a good thing but we all recognize that too much stress is bad. Try o set yourself up for success by getting more sleep the night before your shift, eating healthy, and getting more exercise. It goes without saying but this is easier said than done.

I’ll let you in on a secret. It does not have to be an all or nothing approach! Telling yourself that you are going to go the gym everyday for the next year, lose 30 pounds, or eat salads every day is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Instead focus on small actionable goals you can realistically meet. Losing 5 pounds as opposed to 30, going to bed 1 hour earlier or just walking more or taking the stairs instead of the elevator will yield bigger returns and keep you motivated and on track. Using the SMART acronym for goal setting is another way to realistically reach your goals and relive stress.

  • S-Specific: Your goal is direct and meaningful
  • M-Measurable: Your goal is quantifiable to track progress 
  • A-Attainable: Your goal is realistic, and you have the resources to complete it.
  • R-Relevant: Your goal aligns with your mission
  • T-Time based: Your goal has a specific deadline

Using humor to relive stress is another way to improve your relationships with others. It is often said that those of us in emergency medicine, EMS, or critical care use dark humor to help us cope. But the humor does not have to be dark. Just be more cognizant of laughing more and taking the time to play will be a big part in improving your relationships and strengthening your emotional intelligence. Be the Tigger and not the Eeyore on the team.

Don’t let your work define you. While many (most?) of us in this field are Type A and workaholics, take the time to hit the reset button and engage in other non-medical activities. Put down that journal and spend time with your kids. Put the technology up and spend time outdoors. Make time to develop hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with medicine. You will be surprised at how engaged and refreshed you feel when you do return to work and others will notice too.

Learning to manage conflict with others is a vital component of relationship building. Conflict and disagreements are inevitable. Not everyone is going to share the same opinions and viewpoints. Using active listening and mirroring are two ways to help the other person better see your viewpoint. And just being nice!! This is simply one of the most understated things but just being a nice person can soften many a disagreement. And when you’re being nice you are less likely to be stressed!!

Meditation is another powerful tool to help mitigate stress and improve your relationships with others. Just 15-20 minutes a day is all you need to reap the benefits. Try to incorporate these steps into your daily routine.

  • Find a comfortable/quiet place to sit.
  • Focus on your breath. Use the 2-4-2 rule. 2 seconds breathing in. Hold for 4 and exhale for 2.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

It will take awhile before you are able to focus on nothing but your breath but over time you will be able to quiet your mind and just focus on your breathing. The point is not to develop the mediation prowess of a Zen Monk living in the mountains of Tibet but rather to take a small part of your hectic day and give your brain an emotional reset period.

There are a ton of resources out there at your disposal to improve your health and emotional intelligence. Berkeley University has made available a free quiz on Emotional intelligence.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on improving your EQ. EQ is a factor in almost every encounter we face daily. By incorporating these tools and techniques and strengthening our EQ we will not only be better medical providers and educators but better human beings as well.


Dr. Jamie Hope SMART goals:


Zeidner, Moshe, Gerald Matthews, and Richard D. Roberts. What we know about emotional intelligence: How it affects learning, work, relationships, and our mental health. MIT press, 2012.

Lopes, Paulo N., Peter Salovey, and Rebecca Straus. “Emotional intelligence, personality, and the perceived quality of social relationships.” Personality and individual Differences 35.3 (2003): 641-658.