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Improve your Excel skills with Emotional Intelligence


Written by Fiona Doran-Smith

You may be surprised to even see Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Excel used in the same sentence. You might be wondering what on earth one has to do with the other. Well, read on and discover how using your EI can help you to be more effective in Excel.

As described by the originators of the theory, Jack Mayer and Peter Salovey, EI is “the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth”. The part that’s particularly helpful for us in the context of Excel is the second part; integrating emotion to facilitate thought, sometimes referred to as Using Emotion.

This second area of the psychological theory refers to the fact that emotion affects thinking. Many studies in Psychology and Neuroscience have confirmed this. Contrary to popular belief that doesn’t mean that they inhibit it, it’s quite the opposite – emotions can help us to be more effective. More effective in creating an Excel spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation or a mind-map in Visio. In short, emotions help us make better decisions and if we use them effectively they make us more effective in anything we do.


So how can this help you to improve your Excel skills? Firstly you need to know that certain moods are suitable for certain tasks. It’s called Mood Task Match. Research shows that positive moods are useful for creative thinking. It’s helpful to feel happy when doing things where you need to think big picture and come up with ideas. For example brainstorming new product ideas. On the other hand negative moods, also called avoid moods, are useful for more analytical thinking. One such study showed that doctors reading x-rays were more accurate when they were in a negative mood. When they were in a positive mood they missed things. So, negative mood such as mild annoyance or anxiety will help you to focus on detail, be more analytical and notice errors. For example – checking an Excel database of customer details.

So next time you’re about to open up Excel aim to be proactive with Mood Task Match. Ask yourself “What mood am I in?” And “Is it useful for the task that I’m about to do? You then have 2 choices; change the mood or change the task. Some people are better at switching moods than others. If you don’t find it so easy to switch moods you can either choose a more suitable task or consciously change your mood.

Useful ways to generate a positive mood are:

  1. Put some headphones in and listen to your favourite piece of music for a few minutes.
  2. Go for a short walk. Just a 10 minute stroll around the block can improve your mood immensely

Useful ways to generate a negative mood are:

  1. It may be that you find just the though of completing an excel spreadsheet is enough to make you feel in a bad mood! If so, just get started and if you’re undistracted you should be able to get the focus you require
  2. You don’t want to feel too negative (on a scale of 1-10, no more than 5 should do it) but you could briefly note down 1 to 3 challenges you’re having at the moment

So there you have it, emotional intelligence can help you to be more effective with Excel!
You can receive access to more free resources such as our E-Guide series on how emotional intelligence can help you overcome other everyday challenges like difficulty saying no and procrastination. Use code BGT1 and sign up here:

Fiona Doran-Smith is an ILM Level 7 Executive Coach, an Emotional Intelligence (EI) specialist qualified to administer and interpret the MSCEIT (EI test) and a qualified Trainer and Facilitator. She’s specialised in the field of personal development for over 12 years and has substantial experience helping organisations to develop their people. For more information, you can visit the Rise website here:

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