Updated: Apr 16
By Erin Lebacqz
We've heard a lot about emotional intelligence in speaking and in relationships. But what about in our writing? Can writing also help us practice reflection, self-management, and purposeful relationship-building? You bet it can.
What does "Writing EQ" mean to you? To me, it'll all about how I "talk" to my reader, and how I represent both of us. To ensure your writing's emotionally intelligent as well as "informationally intelligent," consider the following questions:
How Can I Help or "Host" My Reader?
Show Writing EQ by making things easy and welcoming for your reader. Here's what to keep in mind:
Will your reader be able to find their way around your document or email? Consider adding formatting like headers and bullets to make sure they can. And, start with a preview that lets them know what they'll find or learn in the document/email.
Can your reader easily figure out what they need to do? Clarify your call to action with deadlines, reasons, and active verbs.
Can your reader easily find the info they care about? Order ideas in order of importance to your reader—not to yourself as a writer.
Order ideas in order of importance to your reader—not to yourself as a writer.
How can I respectfully talk to or about my reader?
Show Writing EQ by writing respectfully to your reader. Consider:
Using "you" when the topic's positive and avoiding "you" when it's negative. (You can replace "you" with the topic at hand—for example, instead of "You confused me in your email," we can write "I got confused in the second part of the email.")
Avoiding disempowering the reader by putting them in a "lower" position. Don't take their agency and choice away. For example, instead of saying "Your feedback is required," say "We'd love to hear what you think."
We also want to refer to others as they'd wish. Check your reader's preferred pronouns, and if you'll refer to a group of people, make sure you're referring to them as they'd refer to themselves. If you're not sure how to refer to a demographic group, check out some influencers from that group and find out the best way to refer to them.
What daily realities does my reader face?
Show Writing EQ by considering your reader's daily realities. This might include:
Their schedule that week, what they're dealing with, what deadlines they're facing.
Any constraints faced by your reader: time, money, staffing, etc.
What's important to them each day.
Challenges or biases they may be facing in their own work life.
Am I accidentally putting myself first?
Emotional Intelligence includes managing ourselves to ensure we don't value our own needs over those of our readers. When we're stressed and need things from our readers, it can be easy to fall into writing patterns that privilege ourselves over our readers. To ensure we're not prioritizing ourselves over them, consider:
Starting sentences with "You" or "We" or "Our Team" instead of "I."
Writing more about what your reader wants to know than about what you want to say.
Setting deadlines that consider your reader's real life as well as your own.
When we're stressed and need things from our readers, it can be easy to fall into writing patterns that privilege ourselves over our readers.
What Have You Experienced?
Please share your thoughts about Writing EQ. More and more learners are asking about this concept in my workshops, and that makes sense: We're now living in a time when we rely on our writing to forge relationships for us. That means we need to use Writing EQ when we write. What questions do you have about EQ?