Live from UXPA Boston: Boost your Emotional Intelligence to move from good UX to great

Boost your Emotional Intelligence to move from good UX to great, by Priyama Barua

There are a lot of challenges working in UX: How do you create a seat at the table and explain the value of UX?

Emotional intelligence can be even more important than IQ. It has multiple levels.

  • Individual level
    • Self awareness (emotional self-awareness)
    • Self management (emotional self-control, positive outlook, adaptability)
  • Social level
    • Social awareness (empathy, organizational awareness)
    • Relationship management (influence, coach and mentor, conflict management, teamwork)

You don’t need to have one to have another, but they all play into one another. Together they help you grow.

How can you work on emotional intelligence?

There’s a formula for that!

Activating event + Irrational belief = Emotional consequence

Irrational beliefs are our shoulds, oughts, musts, have-tos, and needs. They cause us to be offended or outraged or otherwise fail to communicate.

Then we add D and E:

  • D: Disputation (scrutinizing our Irrational beliefs) – this is really hard to do! Questioning the inner voice controls our emotional reactions.
  • E: A greater Emotional outcome – curious, unfazed, or challenged

Achievement orientation

Challenge yourself to think about change. Things can change, and yet we’re very absolute when we evaluate ourselves. Do you want to change?

This can be emotionally turbulent.


We spend a lot of time in UX figuring out how to get others to see our point of view. Sometimes we forget to learn about our stakeholders. This creates better relationship management.

Conflict management

You can manage conflict, not avoid it. You need to gain peoples’ trust. For example, you can’t enter an organization and immediately make changes. You need to get to know people.

But you can’t just let things slide. You need to address things. Everyone is uncomfortable with change – but it’s needed to make things better. That means you operate on the knife-edge of friction.

Things you can do

First, reflect on your strengths. Or, if you prefer, you can ask others about your strengths. Then you can identify the competencies that you can hone.

Also, learn more about amygdala hijacking. Some of our reactions are due to biology!

Then start tracking outcomes: what do you want to change in your life?

Read, watch, observe, and mimic. All of this helps build empathy and expand emotional intelligence.

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