By Rosemary Plorin
Emotional Intelligence. The term has been bandied about since Daniel Goleman published his groundbreaking book of the same name in 1995. Goleman’s work was based on research of the leadership and workplace environment of nearly 200 global organizations. Emotional intelligence quickly became a hot topic, with the Harvard Business Review calling it “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea.”
Still, more emphasis was placed on academic achievement and “smarts” than emotions. It’s difficult to change years of tradition. That trend is evolving, however. Why? Because study after study has supported Goleman’s findings. In fact, emotional intelligence, also referred to as emotional quotient, or EQ, is just as important if not more important than IQ in the workplace.
What is EQ?
A person’s emotional quotient is considered to be the sum of three parts. The first is your ability to be aware of and manage your own emotions. The second is your ability to be aware of and understand another person’s emotions. The third is your ability to relate to others in a personal, professional and effective way.
In other words, you know how you feel, you perceive how others feel and you have the ability to work efficiently with others based on that knowledge. Think about it — a team with highly intelligent members that compete, snipe and argue with each other is dysfunctional.
A team with members who work well together, understand each other, support one another and get along is much more productive. Developing a workplace atmosphere with a high EQ can mean the difference between average and excellent performance.
The Signs of Low EQ
What happens when you have leaders and employees with low EQs? Here are some of the signs there may be a problem:
- -Individuals blame others.
- -People shift or shirk responsibility. “He didn’t get the information to me in time.”
- -Differing opinions are not valued or encouraged.
- -People work in silos and lack a shared commitment to “get things done.”
- -Aggressive, passive or nonexistent communication patterns are the norm.
- -Leaders and managers lose touch with those they lead.
Improving Your Own Workplace EQ
Is there a way to increase EQ and create a more productive workplace? The answer begins with you. Some people are born with a high EQ but others have to work on one or more aspect. Here are five suggestions to help you improve your EQ.
Improve your self-awareness. Work hard to understand what drives you, what upsets you, what your weaknesses are and define your strengths. True self-awareness is a realistic view of who you are and how you react. Recognize your feelings throughout the day and think about how they impact your interactions with clients, colleagues and co-workers. Learn to regulate your emotions and avoid sarcasm and knee-jerk reactions.
Accept the fact you will experience disappointment and frustration at work. Don’t let feelings of failure take over; learn to think optimistically. Some people are born optimists, others have to work at it. If you don’t feel it at first, fake it. Optimism becomes second nature over time.
Increase your capacity for empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings and viewpoints. It doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the way they feel, but you understand where they are coming from. Empathy is crucial in conflict situations. It requires listening to the other person’s viewpoint, validating their feelings and valuing their opinions. Empathetic communication is respectful and comprehensive, even if you don’t agree with the other person’s conclusions.
Actively listen. Challenge yourself to say less and listen more in your next meeting. If you find it frustrating to hold your tongue, you may need to work on your listening skills. Be sure to maintain eye contact while listening and be responsive with your gestures or expressions. Ask questions to clarify and confirm what you are hearing and show appreciation for the other person’s perspective. Listening actively to others helps boost your EQ as it requires you to understand both your own feelings as well as those with whom your are speaking.
Understand people’s differences. Improving your capacity for empathy and actively listening both require refining your social skills to better manage work relationships. Realize that people have different personalities and come from diverse cultures. And sometimes, people just have a bad day. There is no one correct method to communicate with all people all the time. Interact with people based on their individual personalities and the relevant issues at hand.
Decision makers increasingly see a high EQ as an asset when looking for new talent. Leaders, managers and team members with emotional intelligence are more committed, happier, engaged and productive. A high EQ doesn’t mean that intelligence and education are less important, it simply means that effective communication involves both the brain and the heart.