If there is one job skill that is becoming indispensable in the 21st century, it’s emotional intelligence. Several studies also link high emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (IQ/EQ) to personal and career success. In fact, these studies seem to suggest that it’s even more important than IQ and work experience. People who exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence perform better at work.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
But what exactly is emotional intelligence? The term came from professors Peter Salovey of Yale University and John D. Mayer of the University of New Hampshire. They define emotional intelligence as the:
…ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behaviour. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially beneﬁt themselves and others.
Simply put, emotional intelligence is your ability to understand and manage the emotions of others as well as your own. Here are some examples of behaviour that exhibit emotional intelligence:
- When losing a competition, an emotionally intelligent athlete will accept his defeat and allow himself to feel sad about it, but he will not dwell on the failure. He will see it as an opportunity to improve by analyzing what he did wrong.
- When an employee repeatedly commits mistakes at work, an emotionally intelligent manager will not reprimand the employee right away or even question why he is making the same errors again and again. The manager is aware that asking the employee why questions might make the person feel ashamed and inferior. Instead, the manager practices empathy by asking how the person feels about the results of his work. The intention here is always to correct the behaviour instead of judging the person.
- When he does not get what he wants in a particular situation, whether at work or in personal life, an emotionally intelligent person will not play the victim or blame others. He will acknowledge feelings of anger or frustration, but he will practice self-control and express it in a healthy way. He will not express these negative emotions in a passive or aggressive way, but he will identify these emotions and look at the facts that caused him to be angry in an objective way.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?
It’s not surprising why psychologists and career coaching experts find emotional intelligence to be one of the key predictors of success. That’s because people with high EQ can work well under pressure and because they are able to understand other people’s emotions, it is easier for them to get along with others, which makes them a good team player as well as a leader.
People who are emotionally intelligent are also effective communicators as they are able to manage their emotions while responding to others. Their ability to listen well makes them more sensitive to the needs of others. Their open-mindedness and capacity for empathy help them adapt to change—something that is permanent in any business or social setting.
Emotionally intelligent people make great leaders because they are able to make sound decisions based on facts and careful evaluation that also take into consideration the views of others. They are able to connect with others emotionally, which helps build trust in any relationship.
How to Develop Emotional Intelligence
Sometimes, it is not always easy to spot emotional intelligence in a person. That’s because schools don’t really teach skills for EQ. A person is also not born with it. Fortunately, you can choose to develop the skills needed to become emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence is a choice and a set of skills you need to build daily.
Here are the five categories you need to work on to develop your EQ:
Identify your emotions and analyze your reactions. Try to find out what your emotional triggers are. Recognize emotional reactions as soon as it happens. These reactions may manifest physically, such as changes in your breathing rate, a pressure in your chest, or muscle tension.
Part of self-awareness is self-confidence. You need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses so you can be confident in your abilities.
Practice control over your emotions and recognize impulses. While it’s perfectly normal to feel negative emotions like anger or fear, you need to limit the time you allow yourself to feel them. Take a proactive approach to managing your emotions by practising techniques that will reduce or eliminate these emotions. Some common practices advocated by mindset coaches are mediation and deep breathing exercises.
An important aspect of self-regulation is your ability to take responsibility for your own actions. Take ownership of your work and be proactive.
An emotionally intelligent person is capable of motivating himself. Strive to improve yourself by setting concrete goals. You should be able to tell what your desired outcomes are out of these goals. Commit to these goals and take action. Even when you feel negative emotions in times of disappointment or defeat, see things for what they are and look for the good in any situation.
Empathy is more than just putting yourself in the shoes of others. You need to temporarily put your opinions aside and try to see things from another person’s perspective. Practice tolerance and keep an open mind that focuses on building relationships, instead of proving yourself right to get your way.
5. Social skills.
This is perhaps the broadest category of emotional intelligence. Listen before your communicate. Hear the words and the emotions behind what was communicated to you, then respond with honesty and sensitivity. Treat everyone with compassion to build trust.
So what are you doing to build EQ?