Why journal writing is good for your EQ

When I was growing up, I had a strong feeling — even though I could not put words to it back then — that emotional intelligence (my common sense and intuition) served me much more effectively than the highly regarded cognitive IQ.

As a young child I saw things in my family and my environment that I just knew weren’t right and I spoke out against them.

It didn’t always go down well.

My parents were delighted when I got a sought-after place at a girls grammar school in our local area. But my school, which had a strong focus on academia, only served to stifle my creativity — and at the age of sixteen, I failed most of my GCSEs, even though I loved learning and was a model student.

That was a pivotal moment in my young life. Faced with the option of staying on at school and the reality of being forced down the route of a secretarial course or re-sitting my GCSEss I made a very conscious and clear decision I’ve never regretted.

I set my sights on college, leaving behind five years of solid friendship and a comfort zone of familiarity for unknown territory. I knew in my bones that I needed a new challenge; that staying on at school would not be right for me, even though I was going against the norm of the path girls followed at our school.

At college enrolment, I came head to head with the Head of A-Levels with my mother in tow (parents very rarely turned up for their children to enrol at college).

He took one look at me, told me I could re-sit some of my GCSEs, add in some new ones and start my A-Levels all at the same time.

The combination of a stretch and his clear belief in me was all I needed to extend myself into a new place of growth and development.

Within the space of two years I had five GCSEs under my belt and achieved two A-Levels. Once I had achieved all of those, I left to attend a new college where I added two more A-Levels to my list.

This story is not about the qualifications however, but about my ability to draw on my own self-awareness at a young age; knowing and trusting what was right for me; and what things went against the values I was slowly forming from my life experiences and view of the world. It was the beginning of the roots of the formation of my own emotional intelligence (EI).

Emotional intelligence is a concept made famous in the early 1990s by the then science journalist, now psychologist, Daniel Goleman.

Research around that time indicated that IQ contributed 25 per cent to career success.

But it turned out that IQ on its own was not enough, and emotional intelligence (EQ – Emotional Quotient) had a far greater impact on the realisation of real authentic. IQ was not, in fact, the greatest indicator of personal and leadership success or job performance.

Even though Goleman is the name most strongly associated with the introduction of emotional intelligence to the masses, much of the work around emotional intelligence was previously pioneered by researchers and scientists like Peter Salovey, along with John D. Mayer, Richard Boyatzis, Paul Brown and Gardner’s work on Multiple Intelligences.

Over the years, through my own personal practice, I discovered through the combination of journal writing and reflective writing how both methods — which I use to explore my work and my personal life — can be strong tools for strengthening and cultivating emotional intelligence capabilities.

Both approaches can be used for individuals to personally take responsibility for developing and developing strong foundations in emotional intelligence. The practice of conscious writing and reflection relates strongly to the areas often identified as the key indicators of the formation of emotional intelligence.

Goleman’s four main areas of emotional intelligence are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Awareness of self and others
  • Social skills
  • Self-Management

Here are some of the ways in which I believe journaling and reflective writing connect with the four development areas of emotional intelligence.


Journaling and reflective writing allow you to be aware of your own thoughts and feelings and be in a better position to manage and handle stress.

They provide a safe, self-directed space to express and unravel emotions and help determine when and how to express emotions beyond journaling and reflective writing.

Goleman believes all change start here with self-awareness. Journaling or writing reflectively gives you a higher degree of self-awareness and understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

Ways to connect your journal and reflective writing to self awareness:

  • Write about your feelings in your journal or reflective notes.
  • Are your feelings congruent with your reactions and behaviours?
  • Make a list of your strengths and limitations.
  • How can you build on your strengths?

Awareness of self and others

By journaling and reflecting on your work, how you do things and your relationships with others you are laying them down in writing for examination and exploration.

Your journal and reflective writing notes are a way of you individually taking responsibility for understanding how your emotions and feelings impact others and understanding how others maybe emotionally feeling.

Before making a rash decision or a poor one, you can use your writing to slow you down and listen to your own wise counsel.

This helps to cultivate better decision-making skills and cultivate healthier relationships with others. It’s a healthy way of processing and releasing conflicts, frustrations and the difficult and more complex dynamics of relationships with others.

Ways to connect your journal and reflective writing to awareness of self and others:

  • Make a list of all your different roles at work and in your personal life.
  • How do you feel about each role?
  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • What would you like to change?

Social skills

Social skills are about developing empathy, your understanding of organizational politics and your understanding of the needs of colleagues, staff, clients and customers.

Ways to connect your journal and reflective writing to EQ:

  • Draw up an inventory of your main relationships at home and at work.
  • How well do you listen to each person on your list?
  • How would you rate the quality of your interactions and communication with each person on your list?
  • What is my body language like when you’re communicating with each individual?
  • How would you like to improve or progress your relationship with each person on your list?
  • What would this require for you to do more or to do differently?
  • How willing are you to do this?


Journaling and writing reflective notes is a form of self-organizing on the page. The practice of intentional writing in this way can help you identify what you think, notice what you feel and decide on how you will respond.

It’s also about your response to others, how you work flexibly with others and how you maintain positivity.

  • When was the last time you had an impulsive emotional reaction?
  • What was the impact?
  • If the impact was negative – What would you do differently next time?
  • If the impact was positive – What would you do more of next time?
  • If the impact made a difference – What would stay the same?

Summing up

I have over twenty years of journaling under my belt and a long history of reflective practice. Emotional intelligence is an area of personal and professional development that you can take personal responsibility for — at very little cost, and with potentially huge rewards.

The leaders of the future (in all fields and professions) need to be fit for purpose. It is no longer enough to rely solely on your cognitive expertise and knowledge.

In the 1950s, a study of of 80 Ph.D.s in science took place. Participants underwent a series of personality tests, IQ tests, and interviews whilst they were graduate students at Berkeley.

Forty years later, when they were in their early seventies, they were tracked down and estimates were made of their success based on resumes, evaluations by experts in their own fields, and sources like American Men and Women of Science.

It turned out that social and emotional abilities were four times more important than IQ in determining professional success and prestige.

How can you ensure your IQ is balanced with your EQ and that they work in partnership and collaboration?

Journal and reflective writing can be boosted hugely by investing in other learning modalities to build on your EQ capabilities.

Why not try one of the below free online EQ courses to find out more about your EQ type?

Become curious about your feedback. Ask yourself questions that will support you to build on the findings. It is not the whole truth. Everyone has the potential to grow and shift.

Related content

Below you’ll find webinars about reflective writing / journaling from Catalyst 14 featuring Jackee Holder. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel for more video content from Catalyst 14.

Reflective writing for coaches part 1

YouTube video

Reflective writing for coaches part 2

YouTube video

Reflective writing through endings

YouTube video

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