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Emotional intelligence — are you doing it right? 7 tips to improve your EQ

When you first started out in your career, chances are you heard the sage advice, “Don’t bring your emotional baggage to work.” Being professional was—and for some unfortunate employees still is—synonymous with keeping your emotions in check. But the reality is that keeping your personal concerns out of the office is quite frankly not possible, nor is it productive.

Emotions and performance go hand in hand. Luckily, more and more employers are recognizing that, instead of trying to stamp them out of the workplace, understanding and harnessing emotions is better for business and employee well-being.

So, what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent? And how can you use it to create a more productive and with that more pleasant workplace?

Emotional Intelligence model

Psychologists Peter Salovey, John D. Mayer and David Caruso have conducted significant research in the area of emotional intelligence. They define it 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 behavior.”

Someone who has high emotional intelligence, or EQ (emotional quotient), recognizes, understands, and harnesses emotions to benefit themselves and others through decision making, problem solving and communication. This emotional competency consists of a four-pronged approach.

  1. Perceiving emotions
  2. Reasoning with emotions
  3. Understanding emotions
  4. Managing emotions

How EQ predicts success

Leaders who have a higher EQ lead their teams more effectively because they relate to their team members on an emotional level, both in and outside of the office. An employee’s emotional intelligence determines how well (or how poorly) they interact with their colleagues. In general, EQ affects all working people—from skilled workers, middle-level managers, even up to the C-suite—because we all deal with stress and conflict on the job, along with the inherent pressure of overall performance.

Sure, a range of aptitudes, skills, and talents are obviously still necessary components for leadership and team success, but they must be coupled with strong emotional intelligence. It’s a quality that’s important at every level.

What different levels of EQ look like

As we stated above, a high amount of emotional intelligence translates into better decision making and problem solving, but there’s even more evidence of EQ in the workplace—for both high and low quotients.

Signs of high EQ:

  • Maintains composure under pressure
  • Settles conflicts
  • Has empathy
  • Listens to reflect, not just to reply
  • Responds to constructive criticism through actions, not just words

Signs of low EQ:

  • Plays the victim/doesn’t take responsibility for mistakes
  • Engages in passive-aggressive communication
  • Refuses/avoids team work
  • Overtly criticizes/blames others
  • Dismissive of others’ opinions

How to combat low EQ

If you recognize signs of low emotional intelligence in yourself or your team, don’t worry. Training and practice can raise EQ. Here are a few things anyone can do to help improve their ability to understand and reason with emotions:

  1. Face your feelings

    Instead of ignoring challenging thoughts and emotions, or placing too much value on “staying positive,” confront those unwelcome sentiments willingly. It isn’t until we face our feelings that we can release them.

  2. Become self aware

    How do you respond to unpleasant emotions? Do they affect the decisions you make? Do they affect your interactions with others? By simply asking these questions of yourself, you become more aware of the role emotions play in your life. You can make the decision to react differently once you observe your ineffective responses.

  3. Measure your emotions

    Is there a recurring communication breakdown happening between you and a coworker, or is it a smaller one-time offense, like a missed email? Consider when something is temporary versus continuous. Consider if you’re feeling slightly irritated or intensely frustrated. If you allow yourself to react instantaneously, you may find yourself making rash decisions to both big and small aggravations. Give yourself time, and deal with what doesn’t pass easily in a more constructive way.

  4. Release Stress

    Going for a walk can alleviate workplace stress. If you can’t get outside during office hours, you can still benefit from physical exercise before or after work. That release can help avoid knee-jerk reactions that cause you to add fuel to the fire.

  5. Listen to colleagues

    We alluded to this above, but if your idea of “listening” means waiting for your turn to talk, you’re doing it wrong. Active listening means you’re showing attention, asking questions to gain a deeper understanding, and responding constructively. Doing so improves rapport with colleagues, and it shows that you’re passionate about projects and willing to work with others to reach team-wide goals.

  6. Walk a mile in their shoes

    Empathy is more than recognizing emotions in others. It includes how you respond to them. Even when you think someone is wrong, forcing yourself to see things from their point of view can help you both find a middle ground. Focus your energy on finding solutions, rather than letting disagreements snowball into major conflicts.

  7. Make others feel heard

    Not only should you actively listen to colleagues, you should also pay attention to how you respond to them. Do you acknowledge another’s input, even when you disagree with them? If you’re in a leadership position, do you give everyone the chance to share their ideas before setting the course? When everyone has a chance to contribute, not only do they feel valued, they are often more willing to agree on the best course of action and cooperate to achieve project objectives.

October is Emotional Intelligence month. It gives us an opportunity to take inventory of our employee’s well-being as well as our workplace environment. We hope you take this time to inspire and motivate through improved EQ, using the above lessons.