Emotional intelligence, sometimes known as EQ, is a person’s ability to recognise, use, understand, manage and handle emotions.
According to psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, this is both emotions in ourselves and others. Beyond perceiving emotions, emotional intelligence is then all about using the understanding to make decisions, solve problems, and communicate with others.
There are four different levels of emotional intelligence:
- Perceiving emotions
- Reasoning with emotions
- Understanding emotions
- Managing emotions
And those with a high EQ are good at:
- Decision making and problem-solving
- Working well under pressure
- Resolve conflicts
- Showing empathy
- Listening, reflecting, and responding to constructive criticism
Why is EQ so important for your career?
Having a high EQ can do wonders for your career, with 71% of employers valuing EQ over IQ.
The popularity of EQ came to the fore in 1995 with Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. In it, he argued that EQ was critical for predicting success in life, and this included in the workplace.
More recently, EQ is linked to the 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, problem-solving and leadership that we need in the workplace as defined by the OECD.
And with rapid changes in technology making it hard to predict how job descriptions will change, one way to future-proof your career is to choose one that’s people-centred. That’s right, once again, EQ is at the heart of staying relevant in whatever industry you choose.
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Now that you’re convinced that EQ is vital for your career prospects, how can you go about improving yours?
1. Actively listen
When someone is speaking to you, give them your undivided attention. You’ll be able to get a better understanding of what they are saying based on their body language and tone of voice.
You should also defer judgement until they have finished speaking. Firstly, it is just respectful, but it also means that they’ll be fewer misunderstandings and if offers those that might not have that big, bold and loud personality to get their point across.
Over time, actively listening can create healthy, amicable relationships with others based on the ability to clearly communicate thoughts, influence others with your words and successfully work in a team.
2. Practise self-awareness
Self-awareness is the ability to identify your own emotions and emotional triggers.
To start your self-awareness journey, keep a note of the times when you experience pleasure, sadness, anger or any other strong emotion.
What were you doing?
Who were you with?
What was creating that emotion for you?
Once you have a better understanding you can start to see your emotional triggers.
You want to avoid certain triggers so you don’t display emotions and behaviours that your colleagues might find awkward, and at least know how you be better prepared when something unavoidable comes your way.
Over time you’ll be an expert at picking up on your own body language and those around you to enhance your communication.
3. Know when your negative attitude kicks in and do something about it
Once you have a better understanding of your emotions and your emotional triggers, you can start to adjust your emotions to create a positive vibe around you.
This is because a negative vibe can sometimes have a strong and undesired effect on other people.
For example, if you are stressed at being unable to complete a task in a timely manner, you might come across as unfriendly to a colleague and snap at them. It’s not them that’s the problem, it’s you, but they might not see it that way and the negative vibe can escalate.
Therefore, it’s important to keep a positive frame of mind as much as possible, as it leads, once again, to better teamwork, problem solving and communication.
But how do you maintain that positive attitude?
Is there something that you can do which will naturally bring your back to a positive frame of mind?
For example, catching some fresh air, grabbing a cup of tea or writing down what’s bothering you?
4. Practise social awareness
Lastly, now that you have the ability to assess your own feelings, and in turn behaviour, in yourself, it’s now time to look at your colleagues’.
Understanding the emotional needs of your colleagues and being able to change your message to meet others where they are is a great way to connect, inspire and influence behaviour.
To do this you need to get a better understanding of how others will react to a situation and what you can do about it.
In the same way as self-awareness, spend time seeing how people at work react to different situations. Once again, you’ll start to see some trends which can help you better empathise with their feelings.
When have you been in the same boat as them and felt frustrated?
When do you last remember feeling overlooked?
Acknowledge your colleagues' feelings, however positive or negative they are and remember that some people may not be vocal about what they are feeling.
Over time you’ll develop empathy, which will lead to mutual respect and understanding between you and other people under different situations even if you have different opinions.
Over time, this will stand you in good stead when it comes to how you handle your workplace relationships, and in turn, the trust that people put in you will lead you to progression in your career.