Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability for a person to be aware of, understand and manage their own emotions. It extends to how a person responds to other people’s emotions towards them. There is a lot of research to suggest that improving your emotional intelligence can help you thrive at work and at home. And while it seems developing emotional intelligence may seem impossible, the good news is that emotional intelligence is something we can all learn and improve upon.
There is now research that shows how EI can improve your productivity – which could be tied to your chances to be promoted. Researchers also show that EI augments positive work attitudes, altruistic behavior and helps people have a better work-life balance.
How do you build up these traits? In this post, we’ll discuss how the various factors that comprise EI affect your work and then we’ll discuss 4 ways to develop your EI.
How emotional intelligence affects your work
If you’ve ever thought that you or someone else could have managed their emotions better to make a work situation better, you’re right. In fact, the key factors that comprise emotional intelligence are traits you want to develop if you are going to thrive in your workplace.
- High self-awareness – A person with high self-awareness is tuned into their own emotions and responses whether they are good or bad. Being able to decipher an emotion is the first step to managing it properly.
- Mood Management – Tied to the first point above, when you’re highly aware of your emotions, you are able to see the situation for what it is and manage your resulting mood. Without the ability to manage a mood, one can only imagine what our modern workplace will look like!
- Self-motivation – This definitely sounds like a “soft skill” you would put on a resume, and for good reason. Any good manager likes to work with people who are self-motivated. A self-motivated person doesn’t need to be told what to do because they are aware of how their work affects everyone else and ultimately the company’s bottom line. A person who is self-motivated also knows how to bounce back from setbacks quickly and they are problem-solvers.
- Interpersonal relationships – An emotionally intelligent person is able to work well with teams, is good at communicating clearly with other team members and they are good at resolving conflict.
- Emotional mentoring – Apart from doing this for themselves, an emotionally intelligent person can mentor others on how to resolve conflict, communicate clearly, and manage their emotions.
It’s obvious how people who possess these traits will become successful at work. So now, let’s talk about how to develop it.
4 ways to develop emotional intelligence
With all these tips, you’ll realize that practice will help you get better every day.
Recognize your own negative emotions. It’s possible for you to take a minute to take stock and recognize any negative emotions you’re feeling. For example, a team member never gets their work done on time, and you have to do it. This has made you angry in the past, but you’ve never discussed it with them. It happened again today, and you’re upset.
It’s important to admit to yourself that you’re upset. This is the first step in managing the emotion well. Once you’ve recognized the fact that you’re upset, you can then talk to the team member about their role and why it’s important for them to complete their share of the project.
Being able to put a finger on your own emotions and managing it so you can communicate clearly is key to making sure conflicts are resolved well.
Choose your words carefully and be a student of body language. Long after you’ve said something and forgotten about it, those words could still be affecting someone else negatively. This can become commonplace at work and create a stressful environment.
You can create a less stressful environment by thinking about the words you use in conversation. While you cannot always predict who might be offended by your words, it’s helpful to watch people’s body language as you speak.
For instance, you’re chatting with someone and then you notice they fold their arms across their chest, take two steps back away from you and they stop smiling. These cues could suggest the person is not enjoying the conversation.
And so you could point that out to them and possibly stop talking about the upsetting subject matter if it is not relevant to work.
Practice empathy. You may not be able to fully understand what someone else is going through, but you can be empathetic.
When you practice empathy, you put yourself in the person’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if you were in that situation. This is not exactly easy for everyone. If you fall into that category, you can think of it logically with “why questions”.
For instance, the lady in the office seems withdrawn after a diagnosis for a loved one.
- Why are they feeling the way they are feeling even though the doctors say everything will be okay?
- What else is she dealing with that makes this situation hard?
- In this situation, you would be more resilient, but it seems she is not. Why?
Asking these questions digs into your own feelings about the situation and could lead to you helping that person work through the difficulty. It could also inform how you treat the person during this time.
Avoid getting defensive. It’s easy to get defensive, especially when you’re given an assessment that doesn’t reflect who you think you are. Instead of getting defensive, ask yourself “what can I learn from this situation?”
In doing this honestly, you may find that there are elements of truth to the assessment or not. Whatever the case may be, it is a learning opportunity for the future.
Emotional intelligence can help you thrive at work and live a more stress-free and healthier life. These tips will help you start building up your EI from today.