According to the psychologist Daniel Goleman there are five components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Emotional intelligence is often seen as the new hot topic in areas of leadership, negotiations and communication in general. It is even being claimed that one’s EQ can often be more of an influence than IQ in terms of how successful someone is in their life and their career. Yet its actual application to the training environment hasn’t been discussed in great depth. Here is a brief synopsis of each of the components and some examples of how it might be applied to the training environment in the VET sector. 

1. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is essentially the degree to which we are consciously aware of the feelings, beliefs and attitudes that we might have. Whether this is sadness, joy, excitement, or any other emotion that we might experience, the more we are aware of our emotions the more we are able to regulate them and see past them when interacting with people. True self-awareness involves identifying your emotions in the moment and understanding the effect those emotions are having on the people around you. In that regard, self-awareness is a precursor to demonstrating true empathy for learners and those that you might be training. The more a trainer is aware of how they are ‘showing up’ as a trainer, the more there is the possibility to enhance their performance. 

During a training session or facilitating a workshop, silently labelling your own negative emotions as they come up can give you some space to recenter yourself. If you’re aware of your emotions, it becomes easier to understand how you might appear to your audience and adjust your communication style accordingly. 

2. Self-Regulation

As a trainer developing ‘Self Awareness’ is the first step, but once we have done this we then need to develop the skills to self-regulate so that that we can adjust our behaviour where required. Certainly in a workshop or training session there can be times of great joy, fun and excitement and also on the flip side, frustrating moments for trainers as well. A trainer’s ability to self-regulate their emotions when things come up is critically important. This means consciously controlling your emotions, resisting emotionally driven impulses and reactions, and frequently redirecting your attention to focus on how to achieve the learning goals of the session. Resisting the urge to get upset when a learner is late, or they are being disruptive or creating a less than favourable learning environment. One simple tip to develop your ability to Self-Regulate is to stay curious and ask yourself questions that lead to non-judgemental responses. 


  • “What could be causing this person to behave like this?” 
  • “Did I miss interpret something, if so, what might it have been?” 
  • “What further support can I provide to this person?”

3. Internal Motivation

Internal motivation relates to how driven is the trainer or facilitator to make a difference in the lives of others and has a clear ‘reason for being there’ type presence in the training room. 

Although delivering training is often aimed at achieving learning outcomes, becoming a more effective trainer or facilitator begins with internal motivation and the ability to regulate it. When a trainer is first starting out they need to be able to keep themselves motivated regardless of the ups and downs and difficulties that arise when running sessions. Difficult learner cohorts, technical issues or difficulties with the learning materials can all test the internal motivation of a trainer. This is the same for even the experienced trainer as they are faced with repetitive tasks that may challenge their internal motivation levels and may cause burn out. 

What’s the solution? Well internally motivated trainers tend to view failures or difficulties  in a training session as learning opportunities and make an effort to build upon what they learnt in each experience. They are also tapped into a larger vision for their training and have a strong purpose tied around what they deliver in a learning environment to their audiences. 

4. Empathy

Empathy is one of the cornerstones of EQ. It refers to the ability to understand another person’s perspective and emotions and respond in a way that demonstrates that understanding. This demonstration of understanding is the basis of effective communication and the foundation for trust, connection, and likeability with learners. All great trainers are able to effectively demonstrate and show empathy towards a learner regardless of where they are on on the learning journey. 

If a trainer can accurately affirm the learner’s reality and support them on the journey then the more willing a learner will be to continue on the journey. In a training room showing empathy can be demonstrated by using phrases like- 

  • “It seems like you have had a long way to travel to get here.”  (Showing empathy if someone was late or worked hard to get to the location) 
  • “It looks like this topic will be especially helpful when you do xyz”  (Affirming where and how something could be applied back in the workplace) 
  • “It sounds like you are going through a lot at the moment.” (Might be used if a student is struggling to keep up due to personal issues at home) 

When you pair empathy with self-awareness and self-regulation, you have the ingredients for conducting trust based influence as a trainer and that leads to lasting success in the learning environment. 

5. Social Skills

The ability to interact and communicate with students relies heavily on the other elements in this list. To communicate adeptly in learning situations, you need to understand learner’s emotions and points of view and use that information to monitor your own emotions and behaviour. That said, social skills are also informed by culture and context—a broader awareness of how learners culture influences their perceptions and actions is also critically important. In a training session, effective social skills can help you establish rapport with learners, draw insights from your learning environment, ease tension, pick up on other nonverbal cues, and add humor. For developing social skills one of the best things you can do is model what others do successfully. This might mean noticing what others do well and then making an action plan. Things such as being deliberate about remembering people’s names, carefully choosing topics of conversation for between breaks, creating moments of memorable connection between the trainer and the audience and even more importantly facilitating moments of connection between the learners themselves will all heighten your social skills.

Emotional intelligence is a critical component of becoming a successful trainer over the long term and truly empowering an audience requires a commitment to long term mastery of each of the five components of Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.