Emotional Intelligence has become a popular concept over the last few months, especially in the workplace.
It’s been identified as something important when becoming an effective and inspiring leader, so management coaches and human resources departments are embracing it in a big way.
However, Emotional Intelligence is a skill we can all benefit from. It helps us to empathise with other people, communicate effectively, diffuse conflict, and work co-operatively as a member of a team.
It also allows us to recognise emotions in ourselves. Think about a time you felt angry. Did you feel it building inside you until you wanted to lash out? This would be incredibly harmful whilst at work, where we have to stay professional and not say or do things we might regret.
Emotional Intelligence allows us to recognise those emotions as soon as they occur, acknowledge their existence, and then make a conscious decision not to act on them. We can choose to behave in the way we want to and avoid negativity.
In this article, we’ll look at how to do that.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The term ‘emotional intelligence’ first appeared in the 1960s and was popularised by the psychologist Daniel Goleman when he published Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ in 1995.
Also referred to as EQ, it is the measure of how emotionally in-tune you are with yourself and other people. It’s a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions.
EQ is often compared to the concept of IQ (intelligence quotient). Whereas IQ is a measurement of general intelligence, including problem solving skills, knowledge of the world, working memory and quantitative reasoning, it was believed by psychologists including Goleman that intelligence isn’t always ‘intellectual’.
They believe that a person’s ability to connect with others and show empathy is just as important, especially in the workplace and in leadership roles.
A person’s IQ tends to peak at around 17 years of age. EQ on the other hand can be continually learned through life, as experience is invaluable for developing not only empathy, but self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and social skills.
Why is Emotional Intelligence important?
IQ alone can only get you so far. You could be highly intelligent in a traditional sense, but at the same time be completely unable to get your point across or articulate the ideas you have. Life, after all, is a social construct and soft skills are very important. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “no-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
At work, it’s estimated that people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This could be because they possess greater EQ, and can connect with people more easily. The workplace is often a microcosm of society; it’s somewhere you come into contact with people from many different backgrounds. If you’re able to build good relationships quickly, and then maintain them, you’ll have an advantage.
It’s also worth mentioning the link between EQ and physical health. It may seem that EQ is exclusive to mental health, but anger, depression, and anxiety can precipitate the onset and progression of hypertension, heart problems, and diabetes. Being able to regulate emotions and enjoy positive relationships helps us avoid these conditions.
The five areas of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence begins with self-awareness. It’s the ability to manage your own negative or disruptive emotions, and to adapt to changes in circumstance. Those who are self-aware are able to manage conflict, adapt well to change and take more responsibility, which leads to self-regulation.
The ability to self-motivate allows someone with Emotional Intelligence to pursue projects with no need for external gratification or reward. People with this trait are more committed, determined and able to meet goals.
Empathy is the ability to recognise and understand how others are feeling, and being able to relate to those emotions. It allows someone to consider others’ feelings before responding in a social situation, with knowledge of the dynamics that influence relationships.
In turn, this mean that individuals with high Emotional Intelligence have strong social skills. They can build rapport and connect using skills such as active listening and non-verbal communication.
How do you build Emotional Intelligence?
It’s possible to learn and develop your skills in these five areas. With practice, anyone can become more emotionally intelligent. It just requires taking the time to consider your emotions, the emotions of others, and how we should react to them. It should soon start to become second nature.
It’s only human to act on impulse, follow our emotions and deal with the consequences later. However, it doesn’t need to be like this. We have the ability to recognise how we feel, and act in a way we won’t come to regret later.
Think about how you react to people and how you feel when speaking to others. Aim to recognise and acknowledge it at the time. Put yourself in the other person’s position – what are their concerns and need? Afterward, be honest with yourself and analyse how well you reacted to them.
Are you reacting in the same way whenever a stressful or challenging event happens? Do you become upset every time there’s a delay or something doesn’t happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even when it’s not their fault?
If there’s a recurring pattern to how you react, then you can then take steps to change it. Make a mental note to think about how you’re feeling when something doesn’t go your way. When you recognise it, make a conscious decision not to repeat harmful behaviour.
We may not always like what’s happening around us. However, one way we can calm down and gather our thoughts is by accepting our emotions. Once we recognise and accept how we’re feeling, even if it’s a negative emotion such as fear or worry, then we can engage the reasoning part of our brain and choose what to do next.
Act on them in a way you choose
As we say on our Emotional Intelligence eLearning course: “Emotional Intelligence allows us to have an intelligent reaction to the emotions we feel on a daily basis. Although our emotions may not always be positive – or even what we expect – we can choose to react to them in a way we decide.”
Always remember that you are responsible for your own feelings, your own behaviours, and always have choices about how to respond to situations, events and people.
It can help to follow the ‘traffic light system’. Originally developed to help children cope with outbursts, the simple three-part process can help people of any age keep calm and take stock of a situation.
Red: Stop, and calm down. Do you feel overwhelmed? If so, you need to pause and think about what is happening.
Amber: Think and reflect on how you’re feeling. What are the consequences of the situation? What could you do differently that leads to a more favourable outcome?
Green: Act, and resolve the situation. Give yourself positive reinforcement; you’ve prevented a bad situation from getting worse.
The Emotional Intelligence course from BounceBack provides more information and specific techniques for building EQ. The course also contains the EQ-i self-assessment tool, so you can see exactly where and how to improve.
To find out more, visit https://www.bounce-back.com/emotional-intelligence-elearning/.